Have you written a clear and catchy subtitle? Excellent! You’re one step closer to writing a focused and engaging book that will resonate with readers. This week, I’m going to share another crucial step that, while it won’t actually appear in your book, will significantly shape it and crystallize its concepts in your mind.
Before I go on, I will say that by completing the forthcoming step, you’re actually going to kill two birds with one stone. Most agents and publishers who accept non-fiction submissions will request a little something (actually, it’s quite a sizable something!) called a proposal. This document (usually 10-20 pages) is what will convince the agent or editor whether or not your ideas are salable.
Generally, agencies and publishers have very specific proposal guidelines, so it’s important that you do your research by visiting their websites and finding out exactly what they require. From my experience, however, today’s step is featured in just about every proposal form I’ve seen. Answering this question before you begin writing will ensure you know your stuff and are confident it can change readers’ lives.
Question I: What Makes It Unique?
A few weeks ago, I encouraged any prospective non-fiction authors to ask themselves this question: “What’s my topic, and why would anyone care about it?” If you’re reading now, then I assume you came up with some compelling reasons describing the value and relevancy of your idea. Now it’s time to flesh those reasons out a bit.
For my Christian fitness books, I was fairly positive I had a unique idea simply based on the confused blinks and puppy-like head tilts I received whenever I talked about writing such things. How can Christianity and exercise go together? What the heck do squats and cruciferous vegetables have to do with loving Jesus?
It was an intriguing thought, yes, but I also had to have substance to back it up, that is, personal experience, ample research, a fresh and original outlook, and a working knowledge of health and wellness that could be easily understood and consumed by readers. Giving physical fitness a spiritual focus was an innovative angle that I knew could stand out among the heaps of diet-and-exercise books that are full of short-lived fads and quick fixes.
Ask yourself why you are the person to write this book. It isn’t enough that you know a lot about gardening, stamp collecting, or nanotechnology. There are plenty of people with green thumbs and big brains just as qualified to write about their niche topic as you are.
Why is gardening such a beloved hobby of yours? Did it comfort you after you lost a loved one? Do you comfort others with the healing brews, oils, and creams you concoct from it?
What have you done in the last few years to rekindle Americans’ love for philately now that the Internet has largely rendered it obsolete? Are you an expert in one particular area of stamp collecting, such as maximum cards or Penny Blacks?
How did your upbringing shape you to be an interesting voice on the subject of nanoscience? Are you related to Richard Feynman? Have you done extensive research on nanotoxicology and believe the public must be warned against the use of nanomaterials?
You get the idea. You must distinguish yourself from the thousands of other writers who have an idea and a passion just like yours.
After you’re absolutely one hundred percent positive you’re the only person in the Milky Way who can write this book (or at least the only person in your county…), it’s time to write down the reasons why. Believe me, agents and publishers will want to see them! What makes you unique is what will make your book unique.
Here are a few questions to get the juices flowing:
- What trials or setbacks taught me invaluable lessons from which others can learn?
- What were those invaluable lessons?
- What interesting stories can I include that will illustrate the lessons I learned or convey memorable principles?
- Why are those particular stories so effective?
- What practical takeaways do those stories offer for readers?
I hope you’ve found this post helpful! I’ll be back next week with Step #3! In the meantime, tweet me any questions or just say hello at @dandersontyler!