One of the greatest perks of becoming an author is the magic that happens when you forge a powerful connection with your readers. You want your readers to eagerly anticipate your next sentence, and later, wait in line for your next book. So how do you write a book readers will love?
Write a Book Readers Will Love: The 4 Things Your Book Needs
Commanding the attention of your readers the full length of a book seems like a tall order. While there’s no formula that guarantees a book will connect with your readers, we think we’ve come pretty close…with four things your book must have to make your readers fall in love:
1. A Hook
Why is it called a hook? Because certain ideas hook readers and won’t let them go. To grab your readers, you’ll need a hook: that first page (or few pages) that quickens the pulse and raises some serious curiosity about what comes next.
A good writer can make a how-to manual a page turner, whereas a boring author can make a story about war and tragedy completely bloodless. So it’s not what you’re writing about that makes the book (or the hook), it’s how you write it. The goal here is to craft your story in a way that grabs your readers from the first page and makes them hold on for the ride. You want your readers to feel as though they must have more of your writing and your story.
That’s not to say your writing should be gimmicky. The goal is not to change your writing style or your essential message. Your tone and words should feel like you, not like you’re trying to be someone you’re not. Otherwise, keeping up that façade will quickly become tiresome, which will make writing your book (and reading it!) a terrible chore.
For both fiction and non-fiction authors, it’s important to begin your book at a pivotal moment in the action. Don’t try to explain the “who, what, when, where, why” right away. Rather, let your readers wonder what’s going to happen next. When you begin your book with an intriguing situation, readers will feel compelled to turn the pages. There’s always time to explain everything later.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Write what you know.” The reason it’s so popular is because it’s great advice. We’d like to extend that advice to read: Write what you know AND love!
What will your readers like? That’s impossible to know. You’re not a mind reader. So it’s best to write what YOU love—and what you’re passionate about—so you can attract the right readers for YOU. What keeps one reader way up past bedtime with the light on would lull another reader right to sleep. The simple truth is this: There’s no single blanket subject or genre that will make all readers stand up and pay attention. You’d be remiss to try to appeal to everyone with your book. So instead, appeal to yourself first, and expect like-minded readers to follow.
To make whatever topic you’re writing about compelling and engaging, show a passion for and a knowledge of your subject. If you’re not sure what you’re passionate about, there’s another way to look at it. You’re a pro at something—what is it? If you’re knowledgeable about something, your story about it will flow. You’ll know the right vocabulary and turns of phrase. Moreover, your overall tone will naturally convey a richness of experience that someone less well-versed in that subject matter can’t.
Write about your “pro” topics. Your story, experience, and familiarity will make your writing naturally engaging. Bonus for you as a writer: When you’re a pro, you’re at ease with the material.
We just discussed how important it is to write what you know, but what if you hit a spot in your draft where you’re at a loss? Don’t let this derail you! You don’t want excessive research to become an excuse to procrastinate on the actual writing. Instead, research just enough so you have a working knowledge of topics that aren’t immediately familiar to you.
You connect with readers when you demonstrate that you’re human and vulnerable. You don’t have to write a gut-wrenching memoir to be vulnerable on paper. No matter what you’re writing about, you can express vulnerability by showing your human side. Your story and opinion on this specific topic is yours alone, so share it. The connection readers will feel for you is powerful, and most readers will respond favorably.
Connect with the reader by showing how your personal experience impacted you. Tell how it made you feel, act, changed you, and influenced you. Make yourself part of the story to really connect with and engage your readers. Showing your human side allows readers to feel personally vested in you and your success.
But what if being vulnerable makes you feel…well…vulnerable? Remember when you’re writing that you no longer have to try to impress either your parents or the middle school popular crowd. You won’t get grounded or ejected from the cool kids’ lunch table if someone doesn’t like what you have to say! And not everyone will. But the flip side of that is—when you reveal who you really are—then the people who would feel a connection with you and your story will be able to find you when you put yourself out there, warts and all.
There’s a natural tendency as we write to want readers to like us. It’s our own inclination to want to gloss over the bumps and bruises and present a polished image. That’s just part of human nature. Be careful, though, that you don’t fall into the trap of trying to paint a flawless picture of yourself in your draft. Trying to gild yourself into someone superhuman rings false.
A word of caution: don’t reveal what you feel is destructive or humiliating; you need to protect yourself and maintain a feeling of safety. We don’t suggest spilling your guts to a damaging degree in order to earn your creative street cred badge. But you should be honest about leaving some of your real self on the page. Readers will pick up on your authenticity, and respond to it. We’re all flawed. That’s what makes us unique and interesting.
While people aren’t perfect, you should strive to make your finished book as perfect as possible. One simple way to engage readers is with a flawless book. That’s not to say a flawless story or image (we just covered that!), but you should strive for perfect editing and formatting.
You don’t want your readers to be jarred out of the story of how you saved your nephew from a “shake” attack in Bora Bora because you misspelled the word “shark.” Nothing pulls a reader out of an immersive reading experience quite like a blatant typo. Editing is key. Make sure your book’s editing is thorough and professional so your readers can focus on the story.
Writing a book readers love is simply making a connection and forming a relationship with the reader. Keep our tips in mind as you write to create an engaging work that your readers can’t wait to get their hands on and pass along to their friends!