The Promise Your Book is Making

What’s the biggest thing your book is missing?

Have you ever read a book and when you described it you said, “It didn’t deliver?” That thing it didn’t deliver, that piece that was missing, is the promise. Every book makes its reader a promise. If you don’t deliver on that promise, it’s doomed. That’s why it is so important to define your book’s promise. Let’s unpack how to create a promise so this doesn’t happen to your book. 

The 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, they deliver on their promise. Greg McKeown’s Essentialism, promises to help the reader identify their highest contribution, and it does; Jennie Allen’s book Get Out of Your Head promises to help readers stop letting toxic thoughts from holding us captive, and does. A big contributing factor to the success of these books is fulfilling the promises they made to readers. 

So what makes a great promise for 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 for you to explain - it should roll off the tongue - that’s a good sign isn’t working. 


What you have to do is put yourself in the position of your reader -- what is 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: 

  • What are you promising your reader they will gain from reading your book? 
  • What are you promising your reader they will receive or learn? 
  • What are you promising your reader they will feel or experience?
  • What new tools or skills or understanding are you promising to provide them with? 


“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 at a practical level and you’ll be on a much stronger path to finding and gaining readers.   

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