Despite publishing becoming an increasingly important field, the Authors Guild’s 2018 Annual Income Survey revealed that incomes of American authors fell to historic lows, declining 42% from 2009. And with the rise in other forms of entertainment, such as YouTube and social media platforms, authors are often hesitant to publish their work.
But central to the fear of publishing is the idea that even if an author publishes his or her work, it might not have a meaningful impact on their audience. Kimberly Calabrese, author of What Do I Do?, was definitely no exception. Writing the book after she lost her six-month old daughter Paris, Calabrese was at a point of uncertainty and didn’t previously have a background in publishing.
But she had a compelling story to tell; she wanted to help people better interact with those dealing with tragedy. She hoped to help others going through loss and grief similar to hers through her book. And from the writing and book promotion process, Calabrese learned what it takes to truly leverage a book to make a genuine impact. I’ve summarized her ideas into four points that any author can implement to make an impact with his or her book.
The 4 Most Important Principles You Should Leverage as an Author | Stephanie Burns
Leverage personal experience sharing your personal experiences helps your audience connect with your narrative on a far more personal level. More specifically, if your audience understands that your advice is in alignment with what you have already experienced, your credibility will become clear and readers are much more likely to resonate with your points.
For instance, Calabrese believes that on a societal level, people don’t really understand how to interact with others going through family tragedy. Her personal experiences lend credence to that idea; she said when she lost her daughter, her mother was no support for her. She told me via email: “Although my friends and family did the best they could to support, no one knew what to do, and I did not know how to ask for what I needed.”
Whether you’re writing about self help, business, or otherwise, if you have personal anecdotes to exemplify your points, you’ll be making a far more compelling argument.
Use interviews to exemplifySimilar to writing about personal experiences, incorporating interviews from different people allows for even more advice for your readers. The more people you interview, the more people your book will be applicable to. And additionally, having perspectives from others will allow your narrative to be less biased, which gives readers a more objective outlook on the points you’re touching on.
Calabrese said she interviewed hundreds of people who had lost their children for her novel. Among the individuals she met, she encountered children who had lost their siblings. Young children, especially, may not understand the concept of death. “Teachers also need to be educated on how to welcome the sibling back to school or if there is not a child returning to school,” Calabrese said. “Again, this was hundreds of interviews on the best way to welcome children back to school.”
From interviewing others, Calabrese proved that the problem she hoped to tackle through her book was universal, that any and everyone had something to take away from it.
Provide practical takeaways for readersPracticality is crucial in making your book meaningful. Many readers want to read a book that leaves them with something to think about. Simply put, make your book worth their time, not just a way for you to tell your own story. Remember: your readers have picked up your book because they’re hoping to get something out of it themselves.
Calabrese said giving practical advice can help your audience improve immediately. Her book is essentially a guide, which helps her readers take her words and apply them to their own lives. She told me: “I truly feel people want to help — they just don’t know how to, and that is why I am dedicating my life to go out there and speak and provide you with a step-by-step guide to make a difference on who we become.”
When readers have practical (often numbered) takeaways, they are far more likely to stay engaged over the course of reading your book because the value-add is clear.
Build a community around the bookToo many authors publish their books, promote it, do interviews, and stop there. If you go one step further to build a community out of the book, your audience will be far more likely to be engaged and you’ll make a bigger impact. For instance, if your book is about animals, bring together a group of readers who love animals. If your book is about mental health, create a community for people who want to talk about it.
Calabrese said she noticed men joining the groups of parents who have lost children, even those who had lost their child many years ago. “They can only hold it in for so long,” Calabrese said. “They are hurting and need our support; they are not okay even if they say they are. They need a friend (who) realizes this and never gives up on them knowing they are not okay.”
Building a community based on your book can help readers realize that you genuinely care about them. Your writing has the power to influence people in many ways; you are not limited to the pages of your book.