Understand and Write for Your Self-Help, How-To or Business Book Readers


Many promising nonfiction books fail to connect with an audience, even with a large publishing house behind them and an extensive marketing effort because the writer didn’t understand their audience and failed to deliver. Not understanding potential readers’ habits and expectations can lead to disaster. By knowing your reader, you can formulate a manuscript that will be well received by buyers and write a book that speaks directly to your reader.

As you begin to organize and plan your book, visualize the potential reader. Who will read the book? Why will they read the book? Understand your reader’s skills, what they already know about the subject, and what they expect.

Here are 6 questions to consider so you can understand and write for your reader:

  1. What is the audience’s language-skill and educational level? Will the “general public” comprehend or be familiar with the words you use? Most often, if you are unsure, the best choice is to write in easy-to-understand “layman’s” terms.
  1. What is the audience’s technical-skill level? If you are including technical terminology and are writing for the “general public”, you should assume some of the readers will need definitions of technical terms. You may need to include a glossary to explain complex terminology.
  1. What are the reader’s expectations? Do they expect to learn a new skill by reading a how-to manual? When someone purchases Auto Repair for Dummies, they expect to learn how to fix their car. The book needs to deliver on the reader’s expectations.
  1. What does the audience want to achieve? Is the reader a first-time mother desiring information about pregnancy or a corporate executive needing advice on transitioning into a new position? It is imperative you understand what the reader wants in order to effectively provide it.
  1. What does the audience already know? By understanding what the audience already knows about the subject, you can focus the content on what they don’t know, creating valuable material and a worthwhile reading experience.
  1. How will the material be received? Are you preaching to the choir or trying to persuade skeptics of your philosophy? Do you need to overcome reader’s objections or simply convey information to loyal supporters? Understanding how the material will be received will help you determine the tone and the expanse of the content. Perhaps you will write in a causal, friendly, one-to-one chat-style or perhaps you will find you need a more formal language.

(To help you understand and write for your reader, you can also use the “Target Audience Worksheet” included in the Expert Author Workbook.)



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