By Jennie Nash
The number one thing a writer can do to give their book a fighting chance in the marketplace is something so obvious and simple that it’s easy to overlook. It’s this: before you leap into writing 300 pages that go nowhere, stop and think about what you are doing, why you are doing it, and who you are doing it for.
Stopping to think first turns out to be the exact same advice that works for writers who are stuck in the middle of their projects, stalled out, or full of doubt about whether or not they should even bother to finish.
I’m a book coach who helps writers at every stage of the writing process and I developed a simple tool to help you take a 360-degree snapshot of your project. It helps you pinpoint weaknesses so you can shore them up, stay on track as you write, and envision your book out in the real world – which is a powerful motivator for every writer. It looks like this:
In this post, I am going to walk you through each of the seven sections, so you can fill out your One Page Book Planner and really see your book, even though you may only be writing Chapter 1. You can take tape it up by your computer to be a constant reminder of where you are headed as you write.
- Download the One Page Book Planner HERE.
- I’ve also included a video that gives you even more guidance on filling it out. You can access that HERE.
- Just for readers of the KWL blog, I am offering a special $45 price on a professional editorial review of your One Page Book Planner and the first pages of your book. See details at the bottom of the post.
First , Catch Our Attention – Your Book Title
A book title needs to grab your reader like a hook catches a fish. It’s not an accident that some of the most popular books have some of the most catchy titles — The Hunger Games, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The 4-Hour Workweek, A Brief History of Time. These titles draw you in and – even more important — make you want to know more. What could the Hunger Games possible be – it certainly doesn’t sound good. Why does the girl have a dragon tattoo and what is its significance? Wait what? – a four hour workweek? Wait what? – how can a history of time be brief?
Brainstorm a book title that gives us a feeling for your story or topic and something that piques our curiosity. Make it memorable and easy to say. Rank your list, ask friends to vote on it, and then check the winning titles against existing book titles to make sure your book title is unique.
What’s Your Point? – Book Summary
Writing a great description of your book is one of the smartest things you can do at any stage of the writing process. A great description does not just summarize what happens in a story or the steps you are teaching your reader in a how-to book; it also gives them the point of the book. It lets them glimpse the big picture. What will they feel when they are finished reading your book? How will their lives be changed?
Make no mistake – your reader wants to be changed. Books let us slip into other people’s skin and try out other ways of being. They are portals for dreaming and imagining. Describe where you will be taking us – and then use that description to guide you as you write.
How Will Your Book Be Bought and Sold? — Genre
Book are bought and sold by genre. Readers looking for a book on how to start a business are going to go to the business section of the bookstore. Readers looking for a young adult dystopian novel are going to go to the YA section. You need to know your genre and what the conventions of that genre are. And if you’re going to break those conventions? Fine! Just make sure you know them first.
To learn about genre, try looking at the genre information on Goodreads.com. If you click on an individual genre from the list, you get detailed information about that genre. I clicked on “Romance” from the list, below, and landed on a page with the following description and a gallery of recent releases in that genre.
Detail on the Romance genre from the Goodreads.com page:
What Do You Bring to the Table? – Author Superpowers
Why are you the best person to write this book? The first person you need to convince of that is you – and convincing yourself is critically important. Authors need to have authority, which begins by having confidence in your powers.
If you are a mom writing about potty training, the fact that you have 5 kids is a superpower. If you are a veterinarian writing a novel that features dragons, the fact that you regularly handle reptiles is a superpower.
I just read a gorgeous and moving memoir called When Breath Becomes Air. It was written by a man who was on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He wrote his book as he was dying. Paul Kalanithi has some serious authority about life and death, and his book is selling extremely well because readers are understandably eager to get inside his mind. Kalanithi invited us in through his generosity of spirit.
When you work on this section of the Planner, pretend you are making an argument for why anyone should listen to you – and no fair saying, “Well, maybe they shouldn’t.” They should, and they will – if you believe in that authority yourself.
The Universe of Your Book – Competitive Titles
Describing the books that are similar to yours helps put your book in context. Imagine what other books your ideal reader has on her bookshelf, and then think about what your book would add to the mix. Pretend the books are having a conversation. Would your book speak first or last? Would it argue or defend what the others are saying? No book is an island and it helps to map out the territory.
Who is Your Ideal Reader? — Target Audience
One of the most powerful things an author can do is to understand their audience in a very specific way. You want to sketch out an avatar – a stand-in for your ideal reader. You want to know where she lives, how old she is, and what keeps her up at night.
Imagine her spending hours alone reading your book. Where is she? Why has she selected your book? What will she say to her friends about your book when she is finished? Nothing sells books like word of mouth, so let’s hear what those words might be.
Keep your ideal reader at the top of your mind while you write. Write for her. She will thank you one day.
How Will You Connect With Your Ideal Reader? – Marketing Plan
When agents and editors talk about author platform and marketing plans, they are simply talking about how you are going to connect with your target audience. There is no correct way to do this. It doesn’t have to be that you have a massive Facebook following or that you’ve blogged for ten years. It just has to be something that you authentically enjoy and something that effectively draws readers in. It could be workshops, events, a contest, a speaking tour or an Instagram feed.
Whatever it is, you’ve got to do something to connect to your future readers. It is part of the work of being a writer in the modern age — and in this section, you’re going to choose it and commit to it.
The Care and Feeding of Your Dream — Writing Goals
Writers are derailed every day by having fuzzy and vague goals, or no goals at all. Writing a book is big, complex undertaking. You can’t get to where you want to go without some kind of a plan that works in your real life – a life that is no doubt filled with other tasks and responsibilities.
Make a realistic plan for completing the book and then commit to it. Get the support your need to meet your goals. And keep your eye on the prize – the day when your book is a living, breathing thing that inspires the real readers you one day only imagined.
Details on special KWL blog reader offer:
- For the next three weeks, Jennie Nash and Accelerator are offering a special reduced rate of $45 for a professional editorial review of your One Page Book Planner and the first 5 pages* of your book.
- Click HERE to purchase the special.
- You’ll receive instructions for sending us your completed One Page Book Planner and the first 5 pages* of your book. Make sure those 5 pages are in standard manuscript formatting – double-spaced, 1 inch margins, 12 point Times Roman font.
- We will get back to you within 72 hours with details editorial notes.
Jennie Nash is an author, book coach, and the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Author Accelerator, which offers affordable online book coaching for writers who want to finish their books – and finish strong. Visit her at jennienash.com or authoraccelerator.com
What a down to earth post on planning and writing. I really like that you bring up: “..what are you offering the reader”.
Great points to consider
Thank you for this inspiring article. Definitely has me thinking about the simplicity of planning! Will definitely be trying this out.
This is an awesome resource that can help keep an author on track. You can always go back and revise it, but it’s a good starting off point.