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?)

 

 

energize your writing book power

 

 

Ghostwriters don’t often get attention. Being invisible is pretty much baked into our job description! However, I was just recognized by Feedspot for having one of the top 40 ghostwriter blogs on the Internet, and I’ll wear that as a badge of honor even though I can’t officially admit to ghostwriting anything. You will have to trust me on my ghostwriting experience. Shhhhh! Best ghostwriter blog . . . well, my blog IS for people seeking a ghostwriter, and I know some ghostwriters have learned from me by reading it. I’ll take the badge!

best ghostwriter blog top 40

My blog and NancyPeske.com was honored as one of the top 40 ghostwriter blogs by Feedspot. Yay!

 

How do I work as a ghostwriter? The partnership between my clients and me varies wildly from client to client, book to book, and even chapter to chapter. Quite often, I don’t even ghostwrite. Instead, I do developmental editing, consulting, and coaching. I commonly help a client stay true to her brand by going over a manuscript she has drafted and making specific suggestions about voice, tone, and content as well as structure and approach. We talk about title, message, audience, and platform, and what this book is meant to be.

 

New clients sometimes have trouble understanding this “big picture” approach to editorial development. I think that’s because many people mistakenly assume they know what editors do and what editing is. It’s more complicated than merely “fixing” text. You may want to hire me as a ghostwriter, which is a big commitment on your part and mine, but we may end up working together differently—with me serving as more of a developmental editor, book writing coach, and book publishing consultant. So while on some projects, I will ghostwrite—interview the client, write all the drafts, and go over them with the client, who then makes changes in the document or suggests them over the phone—very often, what I’m doing is less writing and more developmental editing, strategizing, shaping, and branding.

 

Want to get started? Here are the options:

 

Are you solidly committed to spending five figures on a ghostwriter? Fill out my contact form. That way, I can help you determine whether I might be the best ghostwriter for you, let you know whether I’m available, and steer you toward a highly talented colleague if need be.

 

Are you unsure of whether you want to make a big financial commitment to ghostwriting, but certain you want to get your book written and published? Fill out my contact form and tell me more.

 

Give me some details and it will be much easier for me to help you.

 

Your book idea CAN go from vision to reality!

 

And if you want to access the insights of a bestselling ghostwriter, developmental editor, book writing coach, and book publishing consultant, be sure to sign up for my newsletter on my home page, which will deliver my blog to your in box (plus you’ll get a copy of my eBook 7 Great Tips for Finding the Perfect Publisher). Thanks!

Nancy Peske hire a ghostwriter developmental editor

I’m not an actual ghost, just a ghostwriter…and developmental editor…and book writing coach…and book publishing consultant.

If you have no author platform whatsoever but want to write a book, you face two big challenges. The first is that you will have no feedback from actual fans of your work and ideas as you start to create a book to serve their needs. A book is as much about your audience as you. Get to know who they are by beginning to build an author platform from scratch. And your second challenge? Gathering email addresses of people who are interested in what you have to say and who are likely to buy your book, and even likely to promote it to others online using social media, email, and other means, without you having to pay them. Yes, your fans can help you sell your book. So meet challenge number one and challenge number two and start building an author platform and following now.

 

Many authors begin to set up their public presence with a website and a social media page based on their name. If your name is a common one, this might require some creativity. You have to search the Internet and Amazon.com or BN.com to see if another author or expert has a similar name. You might brand yourself as Dr. Myfirstname (if you actually hold a doctorate), use a middle initial, or use your full name with Author after it—such as www.SallySmithAuthor.com Reserve the URL (website address) and basic hosting services, and work with a website design software you find easy to use or a website designer.

 

Designing Your Site

What design platform should you use for your site? Many designers seem to like WordPress because you can customize it easily, but I find it cumbersome as someone who doesn’t want to build a career in website design. Weebly and Squarespace are other options. Personally, I like Wix, which is very user friendly, but some say it has some issues that affect search engine optimization—that is, how easy it is to find your site using a search engine such as Google. Whatever design platform you use, you will want to set up a website with a homepage, an About page, a blog, and probably at least one more page (Services if you do coaching or speaking engagements, Books for the books you’ll be writing).

Let’s say you go with Sharon McCorcoran dot com and you aren’t yet sure what your book’s title will be. You can always buy the domain name for your book title and have it redirect to your website. In fact, your hosting service might throw in a second URL for free and redirect it to your main site for you. Since you don’t have a firm book title yet, on your Books page you can note that your book is forthcoming and that anyone signing up for email announcements will be informed of its publication (more on email subscribers in a minute). You can do a mock-up jacket if you like, try out a title, or simply say you will be writing a book on your work. Or you can skip the book page for now. If you provide services or do speaking engagements, put some information about all of that on your Services or Speaking page. Many templates allow you to add some endorsements from people who have something positive to say about your coaching, consulting, or workshops, and this social proof can be extremely helpful for building credibility and gaining new clients. If you have no book or service page, then your website is simply an enhanced blog which is okay if you’re just beginning to build your author platform.

Your Website Pages

Next, on your About page, put up a good headshot photograph of yourself, and maybe some other photos that help people understand more about your work, along with the story of who you are and why you do the work you do. On your Blog, write up at least two blog pieces that show how you write and what you want to write about. Make them 600 to 1000 words and give them interesting titles that nevertheless give readers a clear idea of what’s in your blog piece. Use tags and categories: Tags are like keywords and categories are bigger concepts. For instance, on my site, you will find more than one article on Author Platform, so clicking on that category can help the visitor find lots of valuable information on this topic. A blog is very important because if you want to convey to people who you are and what your work and writing is about, visitors will check your biography on your About page, but then they will want to see what valuable information you have to offer them. Your blog could be inspirational, funny, insightful, informative, or all of those things. But if you want to sell a book to people who do not know you, you must convey what you’re all about with a website that has some basic pages and a blog. Be sure your blog allows for comments, and respond to people who post messages and comments to you. By talking to you, they are giving you valuable feedback on your work that can help you conceptualize and shape your book. Set up your blog so you can monitor your comments before they post. You’ll want to disapprove/trash any that are clearly just created by digital programs designed to embed backlinks to a junk site selling fake Gucci watches and the like.

 

build an author platform online website blog

Start to build your author platform online with a website.

 

Your Website’s Look

What should your website look like? Find websites for authors in your genre that appeal to you. How are they set up? How do they use the real estate? When you scroll down to view them on your phone (the most common way to look at websites), what’s that experience like? Is there a sense of movement, through how the background pictures and the text interact as you scroll, or through videos in the background? Do you see a book jacket and if so, is it flat or angled? Where do you find a short summary of what their work is all about? Look at websites on a desktop or tablet, too. How is the experience different? What’s the first message you get? What impression does the site make? Now, using your website design software, work with both types of layouts—desktop and vertically held mobile phone—to make the website showcase what you most want to say. Where does your message and brand meet your visitor’s needs? If I go to Sue’s website, do I immediately see her in casual, natural color clothing hugging a dog, some nature images (such as clouds or water), and the message “Natural Healing for Fur Babies”? Really take your time with this process and ask visually gifted friends to help you, and verbally gifted friends, too. (I would tend to see problems with wording, and typos, because I’m more verbal than visual. My visually gifted friends would more quickly notice that the background color doesn’t work very well with the colors of the images.)

 

Social Media Links

Next, you’re going to want to put on your website icons (symbols) for any social media accounts you have that tie in to your work. These would not necessarily be the accounts you use to share photos of your kids with Grandpa or your in-laws, but social media accounts where you know you’ll want to focus on getting strangers to appreciate your work and message. I like Facebook and YouTube for building community, and Facebook is very easy to set up right away if you want to just post photos and words and some rough videos made on your phone. You can start building a following with the ideas in my eBook 25 Powerful Ways to Get Engagement on Facebook. Social media followers who give you feedback can help you conceptualize and shape your work just like your blog followers can, so treat them like gold and always respond to them. Also, consider adding social media icons to your blog make it super easy for visitors to share your blog pieces on social media.

 

Email Subscription Box for a Newsletter and Announcements

Finally, you will want to set up an email subscription option so you can begin capturing emails of your followers. You’ll want to do a newsletter to them that will help them know about new content from you, such as blog pieces, and learn about your services, your book (when it becomes available), any other books or services or online courses you recommend, and more. Newsletters should be a mix of quality content and advertising for what you are selling or giving away (such as a free teleseminar or free eBook or audio). It is easy to set up an email subscription option with services like Constant Contact or Mailchimp. I know Wix makes it very easy and can answer all your questions for free. Typically, you can get up to 2,000 subscribers you can send newsletters to more than once a month, without paying for each newsletter blast. Be sure that when you connect your website to an email service, you set up an autoresponder email that says, “Thank you for subscribing.” I personally like having an email subscriber box on the right-hand side on a desktop view because it catches the eye. Also, I generally favor red boxes, which research shows can be much more effective at getting people to click on them. And if you use a pop up box, you should set it up to only show after people have been on your site for several minutes, or are about to leave your site. Otherwise, they’ll just close it right away so they can read what they want to read, and leave, having forgotten all about that pop up.

Want to know more about building your audience and conceptualizing and writing your book? I have many useful articles on my website and blog at www.NancyPeske.com. Or, just book a 30-min. call with me and I’ll give you custom advice (write me at info@nancypeske.com)

Questions? Comments? Talk to me!

 

If you want to be seen as an expert on the topic of your book, you need to start thinking about how you will build your author platform with speaking engagements that help brand you even as you’re working out your ideas publicly and getting known.

 

Which came first, the speaking engagement or the book? Either, depending on what your expertise is. What are you an expert on, and how would you pitch yourself to someone who books speakers at a local public library, your community’s recreation department, a wellness center, a church, a school, a store, a YMCA or similar community center, or elsewhere? You might speak about how to effectively parent middle schoolers—maybe you are a therapist who specializes in treating kids of this age. You might speak about being a survivor of a particular type of trauma and what helped you to move past that experience. Begin to tell your story or give your presentation locally, and ask a good friend or two to attend and give you feedback. Criticism can be very tough when you’re starting out, so be sure to ask your friend to offer you three positive observations, even if it’s just comments like, “I liked the outfit you wore” or “Your PowerPoint presentation had some nice slides” or “You clearly are passionate about your topic.” Then ask for one piece of constructive criticism—and after that, be brave and ask for one more! Keep working at building your presentation skills and soliciting feedback. You can also ask your attendees to voluntarily fill out a form telling you what two things they found most enjoyable, valuable, or beneficial and one or two pieces of advice that might help you in the future. John Gray, author of the mega-bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, said that when he spoke about his topic (men and women’s different behaviors and perceptions within relationships), he paid attention to his audience members’ body language. If they leaned forward with interest, he knew that what he was saying was intriguing them and resonating for them. If they crossed their arms or sat back or frowned, something wasn’t working. All that valuable feedback helped him work out his ideas that ended up in his book.

 

Put yourself in the shoes of someone in your audience.  What would make them take time out of their busy lives to see you speak—and what title for your speech would make them think, “Oh, I should check that out!”? Think about what urgent problem they might have that you could help solve (middle schoolers and their moodiness, for example!). Think about how you can inspire them with practical ideas for what allowed you to overcome trauma and create a better life for yourself.

Next, imagine you could speak on three specific topics related to your expertise. What would they be? How would you describe them in a paragraph? For example, I can speaking on Parenting with Sensory Smarts, Sensory Smarts at School, and Practical Tips for Helping Kids with Sensory Issues at Home, at School, and Away. The first and third topics are appropriate for an audience of parents, while the second would appeal to parents, educators, and school administrators. If I wanted to speak to parents, I would start looking for where parents gather and listen to lectures or attend short workshops. Is there a series through a Y or a church, for example?

Identifying what you can speak about, writing your speech, and planning to present it to an audience at a specific venue can help you start identifying your core areas of expertise that you want to get across in the book you will write. Then aim to book a speaking engagement, just one, to get started. And be sure to get out the word about your speaking engagement using social media.

 

Questions? Comments? Let me know, because I hope my advice helps you to build your author platform and brand yourself with a book.

 

 

book speaking engagements branding

Build your author platform with speaking engagements.

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