Every one of us has a story to tell. But not to sell. Selling your story requires a few additional considerations, aside from simply wanting to tell it. Selling your story means finding that message, meaning, or lesson that can be drawn from it to inform, inspire, and educate others, often causing them to respond to a particular call to action.
When you find the message and meaning in your story, you can write a powerful book about it, even build a business around it. That’s what we help clients do every day at RootSky Books. In fact, those are the only books we ghostwrite. If a client isn’t interested in writing a book that touches the lives of others in some way, we don’t take on the project. It’s not that we are snooty or are being difficult. We’re just business-minded. We know that the marketability of a memoir or life story, especially by someone who is not a celebrity, is heavily dependent upon what the author wants the reader to get from it. If the author is only concerned with telling his or her story, and not concerned with why the reader will invest time in reading it, then it’ll be hard for that book to be successful.
So if you are considering turning your life story into a book that earns your business money, here are few questions to ask before moving forward.
Is My Life Story Ready To Become A Book?
1. Am I writing this book for the reader? If you’re writing only to tell your story or for your personal enjoyment, don’t invest the time, money, and effort into having it professionally produced. Save the time and just write a diary, or a small project where you print just a couple of copies. But if you are writing the book because you want to educate, entertain, or inspire others through your story, then you may have something there. Remember, even though it’s your story, it’s about the reader. Nobody really cares about your drama, as traumatic as it may have been for you to endure or as compelling as you think it is. They only care about how what you went through may help them deal with what they are going through. So that means having something interesting, helpful, and real to say.
This also means the book can’t just be page after page of getting back at somebody, feeling sorry for yourself, or going from one calamity to the other. What did you learn from this? How did you cope with it? How can someone else apply your experience to his or her life?
2. Am I willing to invest money in this project? If you don’t want to spend any money on professional editorial services (possibly including ghostwriting, but definitely including editing and design), then save yourself the time. Even though self-publishing (especially digital publishing in the case of ebooks), can enable you to publish a book without spending a dime, you must ask yourself, “Is this the best representation of me?” If you are writing a book that you want others to spend their money on, it needs to meet certain standards. That means, even though you can technically publish a book for free, you really shouldn’t do so.
And forget asking your cousin across town to be your editor or your neighbor to be your designer — unless they are professionals. Publishing a book is for professionals. So hire professional service providers. Writer’s Living is a blog for writers, so I would assume you have a decent grasp of writing, but even so, editing oneself can be difficult. So you still need to consider hiring a professional editor, even if you are a pretty decent writer yourself. If the answer to this question is that you don’t want to spend a dime, then publishing a book may not be the best investment of your effort at this time.
3. Am I open to feedback or advice? If you are writing a book and think you have all the answers, think again. If you are unwilling to receive the advice of others, including your editor, then you’re probably not going to produce the best book you can, especially if you want it to be a book the earns your business money. Book publishing is a collaborative process. You work with editors, designers, and others to help you produce something you can be proud of when you write your life story. While it is your story, don’t go into it with the attitude that you know best or you are the only one with answers. Often, professionals can guide you or share a perspective beyond your experience. This insight can often help make your self-published book that much better.
4. Do I have at least one other avenue where I share my authority? If you are writing your life story in a book that you want to be a part of your business, the book can’t be your only offering with this information, perspective, or insight. You need to have at least one other offering — speaking, coaching, consulting, blog, etc. You need some other place where people who are really interested in what you have to say can go and get more of you. Ideally, that will be something they can purchase, such as your services or another product. But if you aren’t offering any other fee-based products or services just yet, at least offer a blog. The point here is that your book can’t be the only way your readers can get your info. When your book engages a reader to the point where he or she wants to take that engagement to the next level, be ready to offer that next level. Otherwise, the book is a missed opportunity.
That brings us to …
5. Will I craft a product that encourages readers to engage with me further? If you are writing this book to build or fit into your business, it needs to be crafted with a call to action or other directives that guide the reader to a natural conclusion that includes you. When you craft your life story into a book that fits into or builds your business, you will write it in a way that presents you as someone who can help the reader address his or her own issue in a positive way. So think about the call to action or directive you want to give your reader. What should he or she do as a next step?
If you answer yes to each of these questions, there is a good chance you are on the way to producing a book that doesn’t just serve your ego, but serves your readers in a way that grows your business. If you answered no to one or more questions, think through why you said no and consider whether that no can be a yes. Writing a life story for the right reasons and under the right circumstances can be the difference between a book that just collects dust and one that sells and makes an impact.
I help clients determine if theirs is a book idea that can be a part of a business, or if it’s just a hobby or whimsical notion, and these questions can do the same for you. If you find that your idea is worth pursuing and that it can be a part of your business, then get to work! Decide if you will write the manuscript yourself and then hire an editor or if you should find a ghostwriter to write the story for you. While there are thousands of self-published books that go on the market each year, only your story can share your message, in the way you need, to reach your particular audience, in your particular way.
Let your story connect with your reader and offer something of value.
Each of us has a story. Those of us who craft those stories in a way that helps others, can also have a book and business related to that story.