Thursday, January 07, 2016

MY NONFICTION BOOK IS ABOUT...Its Mission Statement

Bookshelves
Can you state what your book is about in one zinger sentence? If not, you may not have a clear purpose or theme for your project and you run the risk of writing a book without a point to it. Worse yet, it won't stand out in its sub-category.

Completing the following sentence is not as easy as it sounds: “My book is about....” Unpublished authors take several tries to boil down their theme to a phrase and usually seek assistance from other writers. Once you have achieved this task, type up the sentence in bold letters, and stick it on top of your computer screen. It will act as an ongoing guide and a baseline against which you can measure everything you include in your book. Ask yourself: Does this section contribute to the topic or not? What does this paragraph add to my overriding purpose?

     Books’ mission statements develop from this single sentence and are used in many ways, such as:
  • Discovering your book’s angle on the subject;
  • Writing query letters to agents or editors;
  • Speaking to agents/editors at writers’ conferences;
  • Preparing your book proposal and overview;
  • Writing catalogue blurbs;
  • Writing promotional material for media releases, flyers, etc; and,
  • Giving media interviews.
       Your book’s mission statement should run about 150 words and must
generate excitement, clearly describe the subject and scope of the book, demonstrate its uniqueness, show its benefits and the features that deliver them (sidebars, templates, illustrations, etc.), identify the audience and, lastly, reveal the author’s credentials. “All that in 150 words,” I hear you wailing! Yes! It takes a lot of work and much rewriting but it is worth the effort. Many aspiring authors say it clarifies their thoughts and helps them create a more marketable product.

Reflecting on and answering the following questions will help you develop your mission statement:
  1. What main problem will your NF book solve for its readers? (One only, in one sentence.)
  2. Describe your typical reader in 2-3 words. (eg. Canadian writers, fainthearted kayakers)
  3. What is the subject of your book? (One simple phrase)
  4. What makes your book unique?
  5. What makes your book better or different than others on the same subject?
  6. Why is it a good time to have a book like yours available?
  7. List the benefits of your NF book to its readers.
  8. List the features that deliver the benefits.
  9. Describe yourself in two to three words. (eg. author and speaker)
Good luck and, if need be, get some help from your writers’ group or individuals who know your work-in-progress.

Read Book Magic: Turning Writers into Published Authors, 3rd ed. for more guidance and examples. Click here.