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Books are bridges in disguise

If you’ve visited my website or my Teachable course page, you may have noticed a recurring theme in the images I choose. Bridges. Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Bixby Bridge on the Big Sur coast, unidentified wooden bridges in lush forests. So sue me. I like bridges. Partly because I like the lakes, rivers, and bays they cross, but also because they remind me that books make a connection between authors and readers. I’d go so far as to say that even if you are writing a memoir about your life, that book isn’t truly (or only) about you. It’s about all of the things you hold in common with your readers. Tragedy, hubris, pride, stubbornness, loyalty, compassion, love, redemption. “A book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us.” ― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind When I work on a book proposal, I take what I describe as a “reader-centric” approach. I have found agents and editors think this way, too. We are looking for answers to questions such as:

  • What will this book do for its readers?

  • What promise does it offer? Does it fulfill that promise?

  • How does this author already know their readers—through conversations on social media, the people who come to their workshops, the students they teach?

  • How does the author know what interests their readers? Have they blogged, published articles, run courses?

Without that perspective, your book will be little more than an exercise in ego. “Vanity publishing” is a term for a publishing model in which authors pay to have their books published. I’d argue that any book—no matter who pays to produce it—can be an act of vanity if it isn’t intended to serve its readers. Think of it this way. At the most basic level, do you want anyone to read your book? Even if you set out to create a book that your five grandchildren will read, you are writing for an audience. You want those five people to be engaged enough to read from page one to the end. Or maybe the true purpose of your book is to satisfy your urge to write it. That’s valid, too. But there is no need to go through the publishing process if you just want to scratch that itch. Build a bridge to your readers with your book. Find out where they are at and where they want to go, and then you’ll be well placed to build a bridge they are eager to cross. If you want to know more about connecting with your readers, check out my new online course Build Your Author Platform. It launches this month, so stay tuned for more details! Photo: Felipe Giacometti for Unsplash


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