Nancy Peske 2017 December
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December 2017


 

Seeking a book deal? Definitely self-publishing? Either way, you need to know how to create a comparative books list. Believe me, as an in-house acquisitions editor at G. P. Putnam’s Sons/Perigee Books and HarperCollins Publishers, I relied on a strong comparative books list to make my case to my colleagues that the book project I was enthusiastic about would be a good investment for the company. When I work with clients to create a vision plan for their book, I find they often get stuck on this crucial piece of their publishing plan. That’s why I wanted to offer some advice here on 4 ways to distinguish your book from comparative books.

 

1. Offer a definitive, big picture view. Maybe the other books out there just don’t give the broader, comprehensive view many readers seek. For example, my book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child, coauthored with Lindsey Biel, is (as the subtitle promises) “The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues.” As the parent of a child with sensory processing disorder, I didn’t want to buy a dozen books to get the information I needed. I wanted one definitive handbook or “bible.” I’m proud to say that several parents who reviewed it called it their “sensory processing disorder bible.”

 

2. Offer a more focused view. Sometimes, your best bet is to go in the opposite direction of a comprehensive guide—to focus instead on just one specific topic. Many books grow out of a chapter in a previous book or an idea that the previous book inspired. Cinematherapy Goes to the Oscars, which I coauthored with Beverly West, looked specifically at Academy-Award-winning movies and appealed not just to Cinematherapy fans but to fans of the Academy Awards. You might expand on a topic introduced in your previous book or on a topic that came up when doing publicity and marketing for the book. Every year, Bev and I did an annual Cinematherapy Awards press release to tie in with the Academy Awards nominations, and realized that this annual event provided a great way to talk about movies—and in our case, to talk about them in a different way.

 

3. Offer a brand no one can resist. The words you use to convey your message can set your book apart in the marketplace, not just because the words are appealing but because the voice in your writing matches that branding. The bestseller You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life had an emotional appeal that made it sound like more than just a self-help book on gaining confidence so that you could improve your life. No, it’s a book about being a badass living an awesome life someone who has greatness ought to be living! The edgy word “badass” is key to the brand. Books can serve as credibility cards for your work as an expert, so choose your wording and graphic look carefully as you create or refresh your brand.

 

4. Offer an updated approach. Even books on so-called “evergreen” topics, like how to become more assertive or how to become more effective at finding a soulmate, need to be updated as society changes and technology alters how we interact with each other and find, share, and save information. Maybe all the books out there on dating don’t cover the complexities of dating when the reader is gender-nonconforming, or they don’t incorporate information on how to use the latest dating apps. Although technology changes, general ways of using tech can remain the same for several years before you need to update. Think “what’s the strategy” not “what’s the specific technology people are using today.”

Sensory Books sensory diet

A comprehensive approach might be the key to making your book stand out among comparative books.

 

I hope these tips make it easier for you to set yourself apart from comparative books. If you’re still struggling with your brand, and would like to work with me on branding, contact me at info@nancypeske.com and tell me are with your brand so we can set up some coaching sessions.

Writing a memoir or nonfiction book but afraid you’re not a “real” writer with a broad enough vocabulary and an ability to create elegant metaphors? Banish that fear. I can offer you three ways to energize your writing to bring it up to the next level so that your book is compelling and your ideas and anecdotes come alive for your readers.

1. Pick strong verbs.

Avoid variations on the verb “to be” where you can because “to be” and its forms are weak, wimpy verbs. Also, turn nouns into strong verbs that make your writing and storytelling more energetic and compelling.

 

Weak: Summer is my favorite season.

“Is” is a form of the verb “to be.”

Strong: I favor summer over all the other seasons.

“Favor” is a strong verb compared to “is.”

 

Weak: My partner made an assumption that I was not ready for change.

“Was” is weak.

Strong: My partner assumed that change would overwhelm me.

“Assumed” is stronger than “made an assumption” and it’s less wordy. “Was” is weak. Also, when you begin choosing verbs that could go into that clause, you start getting more precise with your words, which gives your writing more oomph. Here, turning the noun “assumption” into a strong verb helps tighten the writing, making it more energetic.

2. Use a thesaurus to find variations on words.

Look for the overuse of certain words in your writing. Did you use “creative” in the first sentence of a paragraph, “creativity” in the second sentence, and “create” in another paragraph on the same page? Even if your book is on creativity, you want to use a variety of words to get across the concept of creativity. A thesaurus can lead you to words such as innovative, resourceful, imaginative, originality, inventive, and more. Bonus tip: If it’s hard to find a synonym you haven’t already used, maybe you need to tighten the writing so it’s less repetitive.

3. Use figurative language and wordplay.

If you keep using the same words over and over, you’re in the company of the great writer J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, who said she became frustrated trying to find new ways of saying “corridor” or “hall” when describing the movement of characters. When it seems there’s no way to avoid overusing a word that’s key to your story, work, and message, consider using figurative language and wordplay.

Weak: I created my 40-day program for people who think they’re not creative to help them develop their creativity.

We get it! But using variations on “to create” over and over will bore your reader.

Strong: I developed my 40-day program for people who think they’re not “the creative type” to help them discover their inner playground child, the self that sees the world as a playground filled with possibilities for doing something different and innovative.

Here, the writer actually is using figurative language to energize her writing and help brand herself at the same time. As a developmental editor or ghostwriter who also does book publishing consultations, I would say, “Terrific! Now Google ‘inner playground child’ to see if anyone else is using it, and consider buying the dot com URL (www.PlaygroundChild.com) to reserve it—and setting up an Inner Playground Child professional page on Facebook to help secure your brand and a clever turn-of-phrase to go with it.” Branding is key for setting your book and your work apart from others’ in the marketplace, so I would help steer you toward words, phrases, and clauses that would be unique to you.

 

Need help with writing, strategizing, branding, and envisioning your nonfiction mind/body/spirit book? Contact me today and let me know where you are with your plan for your book and what kind of help you need. (Perhaps a Vision Plan is your next step?)

 

 

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