What Makes Readers Finish, and LOVE, Your Book?

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend who said that, although she usually pushes through to finish every book she starts, she had to give up on the latest inspirational book she was reading. 

Of course, I immediately needed to know who, what, and why. Part of how I serve my clients is learning what works for readers and what doesn't! In this case, I'm keeping the who and the what secret, because I think everyone should form their own opinions about the books they read, but the why she shared was the inspiration for this post. 

My friend put down this particular book for two reasons: because parts of it felt overtly "salesy," and because although the title was catchy, the book itself was totally uninspiring. 

I understood immediately. Uninspiring content and overt sales pitches are two BIG reasons why someone might ditch a book mid-read. Other things, like poor editing and disorganized content, can likewise make readers throw up their hands in frustration. 

Okay, all of that makes sense, but you want a book that's more than just good enough to keep someone slogging through to the end. You want your readers to love your book. You want them to rave about it. You want your brand, your expertise, and your knowledge to be elevated in their eyes, because your book was so friggin' awesome.

So, how do you create a book that is un-put-downable, unforgettable, and totally rave-worthy? You take the most common traits of unfinishable books, and turn them on their heads! 


Problem #1: Disorganized Content

Disorganization is, unfortunately, a common problem in many self-help and inspirational books. Information isn't presented in order of relevance. References are made to content or events that haven't happened yet. Narratives spiral around a topic without ever actually addressing it. And readers are left to wonder, "Will I ever get to the point of this book?" or worse, "What IS the point of this book?"

The Solution: The myraid problems caused by disorganized content can all be prevented by one simple step: creating a comprehensive and logical outline. When you work from a strong outline, you are much less likely to branch off into tangential narratives, or miss sharing important information with your readers. 


Problem #2: Too much "Salesy"Content

If every other sentence in your book reads like a plug for your business, or if every question you ask in your narrative can only be answered by working with you in an "upleveled" way, your readers will feel cheated. Reading a self-help or personal development book is supposed to be an educational experience; there must be an actionable takeaway for the reader. If a reader is thirty pages into your book and hasn't received a single "A-ha!" she won't be inspired to continue. 

The Solution: If you intend to use your book as a lead magnet, that's totally fine. However, you can avoid blindsiding readers with your sales pitch by doing two things. One, state clearly in your introduction or first chapter that this book is a summary of your methods, and that you intend to share with readers how working with you can improve their lives. This prepares them to receive the sales pitches you will include. Second, be sure that every chapter or section includes not only the what and why of the problem you're addressing, but also a piece of the how. That way, readers can take action immediately on the issues you've addressed. When they see the results your method can help them create, they will be more likely to trust and work with you on a higher level.


Problem #3: Uninspiring Content

This is perhaps the hardest error to address, because what inspires one person may fall flat for another. But there is one way to make sure that your content feels inspiring to the readers that matter, and that's to make sure that it comes straight from your heart. 

It's (almost) true that there is nothing new under the sun. It's also true that even a well-worn subject can be made unique and interesting with a healthy dose of your personal passion, perspective, and personality. When you're excited about your content, and share that excitement from your unique place of genius, other people will get excited, too. 

The book that my friend put down yesterday fell flat because "she'd heard it all before." There was no new sparkle added to the mixture, no vibrant dose of the author's personal pizzazz. It was simply ... regurgitation. (Are you yawning yet?)

The Solution: The most important ingredient in your book is YOU! When writing about a subject that's been explored by others before you, make sure that you address it from your own perspective, and explore not only the what and how of the material, but the why as well. Why is this subject important to you, and why do you think it's important to your readers? What is new and fresh about your perspective, and how will this new perspective influence and assist your readers? Let your passion come through onto the page, and watch readers flock to your book like moths to a flame. 



One - or even ten - minor mistakes in a 250-page manuscript is human error. Mistakes on every other page is simply negligence. 

Typos, grammatical fails, misused words, and other editing issues are deadly to your book's credibility in two ways. One, when readers are distracted by the errors in your work, they won't absorb the content, no matter how powerful. Second, a book full of errors just looks unprofessional and sloppy. Readers to whom proper English is important - and there are many of them - will wonder if you exhibit the same lack of attention to detail in the rest of your work.

It's an unfair perception, I know, especially if you're not a writer by trade. But when readers have only your book to go on, they will make assumptions about you based on what you've put on your pages. 

The Solution: If you are planning to self-publish your book, it's vital to hire a competent editor and proofreader. You don't know what you don't know - but your editor does. The money you invest in editing will be the most important money you spend on your book. Period.


Thanks for reading, HeartWriter! I want to know: What makes a book really stand out to you? Add your stories and ideas to the comments section below! 

Bryna René Haynes is the founder and President of The Heart of Writing, the chief editor for Inspired Living Publishing, and the best-selling author of The Art of Inspiration: An Editor's Guide to Writing Powerful, Effective Inspirational and Personal Development Books. In over a decade as a writer, editor, ghostwriter, designer, and publishing consultant, she has helped hundreds of authors find their authentic voices and create powerful, memorable, successful works. She lives outside of Providence, RI, with her husband, Matthew, and their little Moonbeam, Áine.