When people contact me about possibly working together, they usually want to tell me what their book is about. Now, that’s invariably interesting, because the people I talk to are generally bright and they’ve thought a lot about this book that they want to write, but telling me what the book is about is not the most helpful thing.
The reason that thinking of what your book is about doesn’t work is that it doesn’t concentrate your thinking in a productive place. For that, you need two specific questions.
Who am I writing this book for?
When I ask that question, the answer I’m looking for is not a demographic description like “a man who is between 35 and 45 years old and employed by a large American industrial company.” Instead, I want the name of an actual person who is an example of your ideal reader.
People don’t read a book in groups. Demographic descriptions don’t buy books or read them. Answer the question, “Who will read your book?” by describing a single person, a real person. When you know that you can figure out the most important things to put in your book and the language to use.
Why will that person buy and read your book?
People read business books for two reasons. They want to solve a problem or answer a question. The question or the problem must be important. Perhaps they’ll be to act or live more intelligently. Maybe they’ll be able to solve a problem and solving the problem will make their life better.
Your reader may discover a new way of doing things that’s better than the way they’re doing things now, even if the way they’re doing things now works just fine. Or, maybe they have a large or important pain point that will go away after they’ve read your book.
Distrust the aggregate and the abstract.
Be specific about who you intend to read your book. That way you can write to a single person and write the way that you would talk to that person. Stay away from any description that involves more than a single person.
Distrust the abstract, too. When you describe why someone will read the book, don’t just say that after they read the book they will be able to “do things better.” Describe the specific question you will answer, the specific problem you will solve, and the specific way that their life will be better after they read your book.