Your book’s promise is what fulfills your commitment to the reader.
When we are talking about a book’s promise, here’s what we mean: let’s say you were sitting with one of your readers telling them what your book was about (the premise). And then you say, “I promise that after you finish reading my book you will …”
One of the most critical mistakes a book can make is breaking its promise to the reader. So much of the success of a book is tied to its promise. Without a great promise, there’s nothing for the reader to pass on or look back at. Oftentimes the reason why you forgot about a book is that its promise went unfulfilled. Broken promises are a huge factor in determining its success.
Think about a couple of recent bestsellers that deliver on their promise: Greg McKeown’s, "Essentialism," promises to help the reader identify their highest contribution, and does; Jennie Allen’s book, "Get Out of Your Head" promises to help readers to stop letting toxic thoughts from holding us captive, and does. A big contributing factor to the success of these books is fulfilling these promises.
So what makes a great promise of your book?
To really nail that promise, it’s important to keep it simple. The best promises aren’t complicated. If you feel like your promise is becoming complicated or difficult to explain - it should roll off the tongue - that’s a good sign it isn’t working.
What you have to do is put yourself in the position of your reader -- what's in it for them? What are they going to get/gain/learn/encounter/feel/experience from my book? What am I offering them? And don’t just be general about that.
Here are a few questions to think through as you consider your book’s promise:
“A book’s promise should roll off the tongue.”
If you are offering the reader hope, ask yourself, “Hope in what?” How are you offering hope? Maybe it’s hope in their journey with fostering children or hope in navigating adoption. If it’s a story, it’s not enough to say it’s a good story. Then it’s about you, not them. Why should they care about your story? One of the most important questions you can ask yourself about the book you are writing is, “What’s in it for the reader?”
When you say things like, “I’m offering the reader tools to better develop their business, practice work habits, and achieve their goals,” that changes the whole dynamic of your book project because you are making a strong promise. Here’s another one: I’m offering the reader laughter and escape -- a collection of funny essays to help them take life less seriously. Or, I’m offering the reader a new perspective -- so they can see the world through a new lens.
Don’t just say what you are offering, but HOW you are offering it. Give your book promise a practical level and you’ll be on a much stronger path for finding and gaining readers.
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