7 Habits of the Successfully Published, Part 7: Inspiration

authors cornerCareer DevelopmentPersonal Branding

Successfully published nonfiction authors do more than share information; they inspire their readers to take action.

Their writing has a contagious enthusiasm and momentum that builds the reader’s confidence and compels them to take immediate action.

Telephone books and dictionaries are full of information, but they hardly inspire!

Books that only provide information often die a quick death. Books written with enthusiasm that inspire their readers tend to be “evergreen” best-sellers that build the author’s personal brand while continuing to sell year-after-year.

Approaching 40 years of continued success

Let’s just take one example, Richard Bolles’ What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Career Changers and Job Hunters.

Over 10 million copies of Parachute have been sold. Each year, a new version appears, and each version becomes a best-seller both in terms of its category (Job Hunting) and very healthy overall sales rank.

Needless to say, it has created a bullet-proof personal brand for its author, one that–from the start–allowed him to live the life he wanted while helping others.

Why did this book make such a big impression on me over 30 years ago?

Like many others, I first read Parachute when I was at a low point. I was trapped in a family-owned business in a field that did not offer many opportunities for upward mobility. I saw the future as a never-ending stream of weekly meetings, newspaper deadlines,  and quibbling over budgets.

From the moment I opened Parachute, however, I felt recognized, empowered, and inspired:

  • Recognized. It was like the author knew me and was writing just for me. He understood where I was coming from and the symptoms of my malaise.
  • Empowered. I immediately felt empowered because the process he was describing was logical and simple. It was based on thought-provoking exercises and questions that could be completed as a series of short tasks.
  • Inspired. The combination of the author’s humorous, irreverent, and conversational style, and the logic of the process he was describing, I immediately felt a) I wasn’t the only one stuck in an existential pit, and b) I could dig my way out, by myself, and build the life I wanted.

Writing a brand-building book

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of writing is its power to inspire both author and readers.

  • Freedom. When writing an inspiring, personal brand building book like What Color Is Your Parachute, authors are free to write what they want without second-guessing by bosses or committees. Increasingly, with the Internet, authors can take their message directly to their readers, without needing interviews or proficiency tests to prove their qualifications to write a book. Indeed, their book becomes their qualifications.

You don’t have to be “qualified” to write a book; your book becomes your qualifications!

  • Win-Win situation. Writing creates win-win situations for both authors and readers. Authors become inspired by not only observing the results that their readers are enjoying, but they become inspired by the increasing page-count of their manuscript as they write it.

Suggestions for writing an inspiring book

Here are some suggestions to help you convert the information that’s already between your ears into the inspiration that your market is waiting for:

  • Style. Store your impersonal, “academic” voice in the closet. Substitute the voice you would use sharing your ideas at the corner pub with your family and friends. A conversation is more fun than speeches or a graduate-level thesis.
  • Restraint. Avoid telling everything you know about your topic. Include only the most important ideas needed by the majority of your readers to start solving their problems or achieving their goals. (Consider placing details and exceptions in an appendix where they can be accessed when needed.)

You’re goal isn’t to write an encyclopaedia, it’s to write a “cheat sheet” that inspires your readers to take action

  • Engagement. Engage your readers by providing tools for them to immediately get involved; ask questions, offer exercises, and include checklists, and worksheets. Create a feeling of partnership and progress that begins in the Introduction and extends past the appendix.
  • Story. Use anecdotes, case studies, and stories that readers can identify with to personalize and reinforce your ideas. Create “composites” of different types of readers and illustrate their progress as they followed your advice.

Writing, control, and predictability

In an uncertain world, there are no absolutes or “perfect formulas” for success. There’s no guarantee that your book will build your personal brand or help every one of your readers solve their problems and achieve their goals.

However, failure to take action on a book that can simultaneously enhance your personal brand while helping your readers represents a definite lack of control.

When you don’t act on your book idea, you’re delegating responsibility for your income and lifestyle to your boss, the economy, the government, or the stars.

By taking steps to write and publish a brand-building book, you’re gaining control and, at minimum, increasing the likelihood that both you and your readers will enjoy a better tomorrow.