Motivational powerhouse and speaker, Les Brown, once said in a speech that there are three questions audience members ask themselves anytime they see a speaker walk onstage: Who are you? What do you know? Why should I care? That's pretty tough stuff, considering that it's hard enough for most people to speak before an audience. Knowing that your audience is already somewhat skeptical and waiting for you to prove yourself ups the ante quite a bit for the brave soul with a message to share. So what about authors?
Most likely, the audience for your book – other than the loyal friends and family who purchased your book simply because you told them to – is asking the very same questions. If you, the author, cannot intelligently answer those three questions, you're in big trouble. Okay, maybe not trouble, but you certainly face an identity crisis to be addressed, not ignored. In particular, if you've written a self-help, tips, how-to or instructional book, readers want to know that they're getting valid, accurate, timely information from someone who has been there, done that and got the T-shirt. Honestly, the same is true if you're a memoirist. No one wants to buy the book in hopes of learning from someone who, herself, hasn't learned the lessons, lived the dream, made the mistakes or the millions, gone the extra mile, fallen and gotten back up, gone from rags to riches or risked it all and come out better for it on the other side.
Those three questions should haunt you the entire time you're writing your book. This is what inquiring readers want to know, and it's what you'd better be willing to bear (as in your soul) through the pages of your book. Consider your favorite non-fiction book. Did the author expose a little piece of himself to let you know that you were reading the words of "The Real McCoy?" Were the examples, case studies and recollections of the author so true to life that you absolutely knew she had learned everything you always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask? Yes, that's the reaction you want your readers to have from your book. So how do you get there?
Ask and honestly answer these three questions:
Who are you? As a non-fiction author, you have to be transparent. People want to know your story, where you came from, what your background is, where and how you started and what obstacles you've overcome.
What do you know? Do your readers a favor and tell them of your expertise. You had better know something if you're going to write a book to teach others. You have to value your knowledge, experiences and expertise in order to instruct someone else. If you don't see yourself as the expert that someone is seeking, your message will likely become lost. Even worse – or perhaps better, in this case – you won't even bother to write the book because you know good and well that what you have to share isn't worth a hill of beans. But really, that isn't true. Of course you know stuff. Get clear on what you know before penning your book. Your expertise is valuable to others who want to be where you are, know what you know and do better in their own lives.
Why should I (your readers) care? Your book needs to clearly describe what readers are expected to get out of the content. So what if you climbed Mount Kilamanjaro ... why should I care? What did you learn about yourself, about life, about taking risks, about failing and succeeding against the odds? So what if you've started five successful businesses ... why should I care? What about the 20 businesses that you started and failed? What have you learned along the way from which I can benefit? So what if you're a phenomenal speaker ... why should I care? How can I learn from your awesomeness? How can I command the attention of large audiences and demand a big, fat paycheck for standing up there knowing full well that everyone in the audience is asking ... who are you, what do you know and why should I care?
Do you get my point? To be effective as a non-fiction author you, in essence, have to spill your guts on the pages of your book. You've got to tell it all and teach it in a way that allows readers to feel your pain and celebrate your victories. You must tell your story in a way that makes readers believe they can do it now ... whatever it is you're teaching. They can only learn that from an author who has answered those three crucial questions.
So ... who are you, what do you know and why should I care?
Anita Paul, known as The Author's Midwife, coaches aspiring authors to write a phenomenal book and helps current authors use their existing books to leverage their business. She is the author of Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and the Book You've Been Wanting to Write, and is the creator of the Write Your Life program, through which she has created a dynamic system to Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less. She has owned The Write Image for 15 years, and has had her freelance articles featured in over 25 publications in the U.S. and Canada. Anita is also the host of "Book Your Success".