Write the Kind of Book YOU Want to Read

I recently listened to Marie Forleo's epic interview with Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek and Tribe of Mentors. In it, he talks about how he found the perfect tone to approach The 4-Hour Workweek. 

Believe it or not, he threw out the first 2 drafts of his initial chapters. The first, because it sounded "too Princetonian," and the second because it sounded "too 'Three Stooges' slapstick." 

"I was trying to write a book for a lot of people, in both of those cases," he says. "And then I sat down, had [some] wine, opened up my word processor, and started writing an e-mail to two of my close friends." (Want to listen in Tim's own words? Start at 1:11:00 in the interview!)

That e-mail became the preamble, and then the first chapters, of the book that would put him on the map.  

Now, Tim Ferriss is obviously a tremendously smart and capable guy, as well as a gifted writer. So why didn't those first two drafts work? 

Two reasons: First, he wasn't writing to his ideal readers—in this case, his good friends who were trapped in draining job situations. Second, because he wasn't writing authentically, in his own natural voice. He was trying to put a shine on his communication style to appeal to more people, and it backfired. 

And, although he doesn't address this in the interview, I would hazard a guess that he wasn't writing the kind of book that he would want to read if he was still in his ideal readers' situation. 

Your ideal readers are similar to you in many ways. They're struggling in many of the same ways that you once struggled. They share many of your likes and dislikes. They appreciate your brand of humor. And if you're not totally excited about what you're writing and how you're writing it, they won't be either. 

What are you reading?

What are you reading?

So how do you make sure that you're creating the right tone, and really speaking to your niche? 

You write the kind of book YOU'd want to read. 

When you browse the bookstore shelves, what kinds of books do you pick up? Are they introspective and emotionally-driven, or are they light and snarky? Do they read like a swift kick in the ass, or a gentle hand to hold? Do they light up your brain, your heart, or both? 

Now, think about the book you're writing (or thinking about writing). Does it mesh with your own tastes, or does it feel like it's coming from out in left field somewhere? 

Now, I'm not suggesting that you rip off your favorite authors, or funnel yourself into a little box to try to line up with your favorite niche. What I AM suggesting is that you look closely at what you like to read—within your genre and outside of it—and then bring those qualities into your own work so you can create a book that you and your ideal readers will love to read again and again. 

For example, I write mostly in the self-help, personal development, and inspirational field for both myself and my clients. But I also love to read mystery and fantasy. I bring those elements into my work and my teaching strategies by making copious use of metaphor and using questions as a teaching tool. I don't need to make my online course into a Clue! game to take advantage of those qualities—I just need to be aware that they're interesting to me—and, as such, are probably interesting to my ideal readers and clients.  

So, if humor is huge for you, don't strip it out of your book just because some readers might not get it. If you're naturally dramatic and emotional, and love to read celebrity memoir, bring some of those bigger-than-life qualities and plot twists into your own book. Not only will your book feel more authentic to you, you'll be writing a book you actually find interesting—and if you're interested,  chances are your ideal readers will be, too! 

How will you write the kind of book you want to read? Share in the comments below!


Bryna Haynes is a word alchemist, book strategist, and the founder and President of The Heart of Writing. She's also the chief editor for Inspired Living Publishing and the best-selling author of the multiple-award-winning book, The Art of Inspiration: An Editor's Guide to Writing Powerful, Effective Inspirational and Personal Development Books. In over a decade as a book coach, editor, ghostwriter, 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, their Moonbeam, Áine, and their Little Star, Aelyn. 

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