Book Writing

Everyone Has a Story to Tell … But Do You Have a Story to Sell?


Sure, we all have stories. Stories of highs and lows, drama and the mundane. And we’d all like to think each of us has a story to sell.

But it’s not true.

I know. I am an editor and a ghostwriter. I’ve worked on clients’ stories that needed just a bit of fine-tuning to make them shine. And I’ve come across some pretty bad ones that had no hope of selling. At least not in their current states. Clients have sent me their messy, sometimes unintelligible, awful writings. And I’ve been able to turn those into something beautiful, or at least something that doesn’t smell up the place. Turning the story you tell into the story you sell takes a bit of honesty, hard work, and creativity.

Yes, each of us has a story to tell. But it doesn’t become a story to sell until we get rid of the junk, polish it so it shines, and look beyond ourselves.

You see, having a story to tell is great. But having a story to sell is even better. And if you make the mistake of publishing the story you tell before you’ve made it ready to sell, you’ll end up with a bunch of books on your hands and no buyers. You’ll miss an opportunity to gain an audience, touch lives, and create meaning.

Here is how to turn your story into one that sells:

1. Get rid of the bad writing.

Most people think they can write. Because we all have access to computers — or at least pen and paper — we fancy ourselves writers. But just because I have access to a light switch doesn’t make me an electrician. Having the tools doesn’t mean ability to use the tools. So be honest with yourself. Can you use the tools? If you can’t use the tools, all is not lost. It’s time to hire a good editor or even a ghostwriter. Give that person your story and let her or him help you tell it. This person can chisel away the bad and leave you with something good.

We recently edited and designed a book for a client who — like many — had written a novel loosely based on her life. She told an interesting story, but the writing was a mess. Every line had a mistake, it seemed, and I rewrote and rearranged passages to make them flow better and make sense to the reader. When she got the heavily edited manuscript back for review, her confidence was shaken. She wasn’t sure what to do with the manuscript, whether she should abandon it and start over with the book. But I calmed her. I let her know that I had taken care of the problems with the manuscript and she didn’t have to start over with this one, because I took the brunt of work and did it for her. But I advised her to read through the edits so she could understand why the changes were made so this information could help with her next project. She now realizes that selling a story is about more than typing out words.

2. Make sure it’s not all about you.

Sure, it may be your story, but if you want other people to buy it, it needs to relate to them. It’s not enough to tell the reader every detail of your life for 100 or 200 pages. You must somehow turn that focus to your reader. The reader  has enough of her own drama going on; she’s not interested in drowning in yours for chapter after chapter. But she may be interested if you can relate your story to something going on in her life. So sure, tell your story, but invite your reader in, too.

We just finished editing and designing a book for a client who wrote about her family’s journey with Alzheimer’s. The manuscript was very narrowly focused when I received it, and would likely only be of interest to family and friends. But we edited it to have a bit of a broader focus, while allowing her to tell her family’s story. So now her book can actually be relevant to and of interest to a reader who wants to know more about that topic, but isn’t a member of the family. Her story now has more marketability.

3. Don’t overwrite.

It’s easy to think we have to use the longest words, the most complex sentence constructions, and the most “intellectual” similes or metaphors when we write. But resist the urge. Of course your tone will depend on the genre or type of writing you are doing, but in general, go for more conversational and less formal. If you are writing to entertain or to inform, most readers don’t want to have to think too hard, so don’t try to come up with obtuse and obscure references. Those will only confuse and most likely fall flat. Same for word choice. Don’t use big, five-syllable words when a shorter one will do. This doesn’t mean you want to stick to short, choppy sentences, but it just means that you don’t need to pull out your dictionary or thesaurus to write your blog post or magazine piece. Simple is better, in most cases. Simple doesn’t mean the writing will be easy, but hopefully it ensures that the reading will be.

4. Look for the silver lining.

If you are writing a memoir or life story, whatever you share must still have some positive resolution at the end. It’s easy to think that just because you have gone through some serious drama in your life, that people would be interested in that. But sharing page after page after page of hurt, pain, and heartache is exhausting for your reader.

So even in a life story of grief and pain, offer your reader some lighter moments, as well. And remember to leave your reader something good at the end. This doesn’t mean you have to wrap everything up all nice and sweet and sprinkle candy all over it, but it does mean you need to reward the reader for sticking with you through it all. You need to come out of the book experience with some lesson, insight, coping strategy, or some other point of growth or positivity to share with your reader. If you can’t find that in your story, then you don’t have a story to sell. Not yet. Do some more soul-searching.

5. Consider the benefit.

Every story must have a benefit to the reader. Will the reader be entertained? Will the reader be informed? Will the reader be compelled to act? As you tell your story, examine what you want the reader to get from that story. This will influence how you write it. And if you can’t figure that out, then a good editor or ghostwriter can help.

I’ve seen lots of stories come across my desk. And those that have had the best chance of reaching others are those that have been revised with these five pointers in mind. Whether you run a writing business or you are only interested in writing and selling your story, you can write a story that becomes one that sells when you think beyond what the story means to you and consider what it will mean to your reader. This is true whether you are turning your story into a novel, sharing it in a memoir, including it as the foundation for a self-help project, or something else altogether. Use these pointers whether you are an individual with a story, a company telling a story, or a church or organization using a story to paint a picture.

I’ve helped individuals turn their stories into books that have brought awareness about social issues, raised money for cancer, built brand awareness, been the foundation for a business, and showcased a legacy. Your story is a powerful tool. Use it properly.

You truly can turn the story you tell into one you sell.


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3 Responses to “Everyone Has a Story to Tell … But Do You Have a Story to Sell?”

  1. Hi,
    My name is Jerry and my wife & I are basically held hostage in my home over my Computer Repair Shop.
    We got married 04/28/1999 and still waiting to have our honeymoon. Me on the other-hand have been held hostage here since my dad died in 1990.
    If we leave, my brother & sister can & will break in and change the locks on the door and keep me out all because of greed.
    We all own 1/3 but I was born and raised here & mom and dad set me up in business when I was 18 years old.
    Nobody believed me when I told them I suspected my brother & sister were trying to put me out of business so I set up some hidden video cameras and caught some exciting stuff.
    My wife & I won every court case because I am the victim.
    This story and many others I have will bring in a lot of money if done right the first time.
    I was going to post it on youtube, Hollywood Ca. Craigs, HBO, Life Time Just to list a few. I found you on Google Search So Your Next If you want the Stories of a lifetime all caught on tape for Accuracy and precision.
    I watermarked my sample video for my protection catered to Rhett & link because they said send them secret tapes and karen kline also gave me the idea that the Public eats this stuff up.
    If you are interested With my tapes and your experience the possibilities are endless. This can be an ongoing series an run in the millions. This is bran new and never been done or seen before.
    I am willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen (google “Goth Boy” by rhett & link).
    They made a children story come to life imagine a real story all caught on tape, Wow!
    I have much more to offer than my movie.
    I am an Pa. State Certified Electronic Tech Specializing Windows Computer Repair. I Invented A disc that Restores your computer to better than off the shelf new condition in 10 minutes or less. Win XP is red hot right now and people are throwing them out because they think they are doing the right thing. It’s like throwing away a rechargeable battery. I will make you a video of me restoring a computer headed to the landfill to new condition, I will show you how my restore disc works and you never need antivirus software.
    I can also show you how to avoid doctors, hospitals, pills, caffeine, and never get sick, except for a accident like a broken bone of coarse. The list goes on & on.
    I was Told by my wife’s sister when someone discovers me we will make billions, I said maybe millions.
    I am looking for an honest person or team to work with, There is no room for bullshit. Everything I have is a educational experience.
    On 08-08-2011 2 of my surveillance cameras caught a few UFO’S. My wife an I saw only one leaving the ground & 2 of my cameras pickup up a few more. I recorded the 9-11 phone call and ran to the police when they got here and they claim they didn’t see me because they were looking up in the air, twice.
    I have all of this recorded and unplugged the recorders that caught them, imagane the price they will sell for on-ebay when all this comes out, especially when my wife & I are the Top members on our Duryea Crime watch.
    In fact Our Mayor Keith Moss & I grew up Together.
    Remember when Duryea Pa. got flooded, it made national news.
    Vice President Biden visited Duryea and he took off his Jacket and put it around the old lady on camera, That was the Yanchack Sisters, They were my customers for years. My friend & I Donated & delevered a new, old Rca floor model TV to them to replace the flood damaged one they had for free. I am a super nice guy like that. I you need a computer, just give me your old one and I will give you a replacement half the speed for free and it will be faster and have educational programs in it with a life of the machine warranty against viruses, spyware or if you just screw it up while learning how to use it.
    There is much, much more so lets get something going fast because I cannot wait any longer for an ok.
    Everything I said is 100% true and I have rock solid evidence on tape or dvd. Every one on our Duryea Boro Console all love me for my experience, expertise & old school Personally, In fact Our Boro President, Audrey Marcinko Calls me her son son she never had.
    Sorry for the long winded unprofessional letter, I have a lot to offer and I need to get this huge project done at any expense because I have too much and It will pay off.
    Oh one more thing,last month I fell out of my routine and got dehydrated, fell into depression & didn’t eat in one solid week. When I drank some spring water I threw it up. I was at deaths door and my wife drove me to the hospital for intravenous, after 2.5 bags i was fine and wanted to go home. The salesman or doctor said the tests are off the charts and I am scheduled for dieallis in the morning or I will be dead in 7 days, that was 30 days ago. he said I have 250 patients on dieallis and I said you are not going to have 251. I have my neighbors little puppy after he bled to death on the floor when his shunt fell out from returning back from dieallis.
    My wife herd it over the police scanner that 197 foote avenue a man in his wheel chair tipped over on the floor in a puddle of blood, I ran over and saw it with my own eyes and I have all that too on tape, the 911 scanner & me running over and removing him in the stretcher from his house.
    I told the doctor I want to mee every one of your patients and find out what kind of racket you have going on telling people that you will did if you don’t listen to him.
    Someone has to speak up, this stuff will go viral over and over.
    Wait til you what my first cousin did to me, better yet I will show you…, how about my sister in law,
    She got property for free from my dad, I kept it from a sheriff sale but I had to give her $30,000.00 if I wanted to own it, It was apraised for $7,000.00. This too I got on tape. I cant even use it because the neighbors from hell’s swimming pool in 3 feet over my property line. wait you see those videos.

    You can call me at (570) 457-6610
    Or (570) 457-6432 ASAP if Interested in Juat One Thing Or everything I got. I am a fair guy and not greedy. I am willing to split all the moneys up 50/50 because from my near death experance I found out you can’t take it with you. That alone will go viral.
    Iforgot to mention I take a bath just about every night in water temp 100 deg. to 105 deg Fahrenheit and drink 1 or more gallons of spring or filtered water. That night i forgot my water so I drank some disgusting tap not replacing what I sweated out. I got depressed from all the frigging ass-holes around me and didn’t know what to do until I made myself sick and when i kept throwing up, I knew I was at deaths door and everything around me meant nothing at all.
    I felt i did so much in my life and it was all wasted, nothing was completed. It gave me time to think so I am rethinking everything and right now I am focused on all the stuff I have on tape that would of been thrown in a dumpster if I had Died.
    Nobody has seen anything yet so this is all fresh & different just like the music industry is always looking for the new beat.
    I forgot to mention The lot I bought is right in front of comcast communications company. People who pay thier internet and cable bill stop at the stop sign to turn left or right, my lot is directly in front of them. Perfect place for a huge sign, “unbreakable computers for sale” $500.00 each, money back guarantee, try before you buy.
    Or convert yours for $250.00
    look it up in google maps 193 foote avenue, duryea. or google earth and go back in time with the history slider button.
    Plus Ringling Bros Circus Train derailed in the early 1900′s. legend has it the monkeys escaped and were found on my lot in the trees, from then on it was called monkey hill.
    That will go viral.
    I ordered bran new garage doors, 3 of them for 9,000.00 dollars, top of the line. Rowe Doors on Foote Avenue, right down the road from me. I said the cinder block is perfect but the framing nailed to the cinder block is original from the 1950′s, It’s old, rotted, cracked, patched, nicked, broken, layers of paint from being a car mechanics garage, plus the floor is perfect because it’s the old concrete not like today’s garbage that cracks the moment you drive your truck on it.
    I said I want new frames on first after you take down the old doors and before you install the new doors. common seance right?
    Oh we don’t do that, we just order doors and install them, you have to hire a separate carpenter and have him meet us on the job site, I said what about the concrete under the door, It needs to be Jack hammered and shoveled out and replaced with new as well. He said i need a third person to do that first.
    I said are you kidding me. I said forget about it give me back my 2,000.00 deposit and forget the whole thing, oh no he said, all deposits are non refundable.
    I’m speechless for the moment, you can’t get away with this, I am glad I got this all on tape but he don’t know it of coarse.
    What does he do?, a contractor walkes into his place off the street and orders garage doors and Alex, Rowe Doors sends this contractor guy to me to do this concrete job. He said I’m sent from Rowe Doors and you have to pay me separately he said he wants $400.00 up front, $400.00 when the cement truck gets here and the keys to my dump truck when he is finished.
    Like a stupid dummy I said ok, I can’t loose $2,000,00 down payment.
    He has a kid break up my cement and blacktop with a sledge hammer and wheel barrel it to my $30,000.00 empty lot. takes my $800.00 cash and skips town, The kin ends up in jail for robberies around town & Jim shows up at my door next month to pick up my truck, My wife chased him away. What is this world cumming to?

    This is just a small sample of the stuff I have.

    You are only the third person I wrote to, my next step will be La Hollywood Craigs List, than You Tube.

    Let me know if interested and if you think I have a story.
    Remember Karen Klein got 3/4 of a million fo a 10 minute video & I am willing to go as high as 50% of all the money’s collected. You can’t take it with you. and remember goth boy. By you getting half, the incentive will be there for a better job, a better job means more money, plus this is also for educational purposes, do no make the same mistakes I did.
    Here is the link to my sample rough video, it’s very hard to understand but you know I am serious on this project. Rember it’s watermarked for my protection catered to Rhett & Link but I don’t think it got past patar, Rhett & link’s Manager.
    Thank You very much.
    Jerry Shock
    193 Foote avenue
    Duryea, Pa. 18642
    (570) 457-6610
    (570) 457-6432

    Posted by JERRY SHOCK | June 4, 2013, 6:49 pm
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  3. All articles are currently written by in-house writers, but we do plan to have guest writers in the future. When we do start accepting guest writers, we will announce it to all our newsletter subscribers; and on select websites. Go ahead and subscribe to the newsletter from this link (or simply visit the home page): Thanks for asking!

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