With the exception of novelists who learn about their characters and the storyline as they unfold in draft stage, most writers have a well-developed concept for their book before you sit down to write. At this stage you’re at least partially aware of the messages you want to convey. In other words, the benefits for your readers.
Writers write because you want to communicate something to your audience. Writing is all about sharing hope, enjoyment, comfort, encouragement, inspiration, information, and personal passion. Writers of nonfiction genres have an advantage because benefits to the reader are an integral focus of the content. It isn’t as straightforward for novelists, who are necessarily absorbed with applying craft as you develop your page-turning story, at the same time communicating a message to your readers through your voice and your characters. Translated into your proposal, these takeaways become the reader benefits.
I recall one of my clients, who wrote a narrative nonfiction book. She had chosen to weave the reader takeaways throughout the proposal because she thought it would provide a continual reminder to editors of the numerous reader takeaways from her story. However, an editor contacted me. She knew her busy team wouldn’t have time to read the complete manuscript before the editorial meeting. Yet she wanted them to have full understanding of my client’s inspiring story, so she asked that my client compile a list of the reader benefits she could forward to her team before the meeting. Makes good sense; it’s where passion and practicality intersect.
Since then I have encouraged writers to insert a Reader Benefits section in their proposals. A good place to position the Reader Benefits section is near the beginning of your proposal, before or after the synopsis or overview. Provide succinct responses to these questions:
- How is your book going to change the life of the reader and benefit him or her spiritually? For example, explain the ways your novel will influence the reader to think differently about a group of people, a different generation, or about God. Or, show how the information in your Christian Living book will influence readers to make practical adjustments in their lifestyle to live a God focused life.
- How will your novel help a reader who is struggling in he same ways as your protagonist? This should be easy to describe from the emotional arc. But condense it to one concise statement for the purpose of this list.
- How will your nonfiction book help readers who are struggling in the area of your topic? For example, name the beneficial points your book covers that other books on the same topic don’t.
- Why should readers seek out your book? Give some thought to this. A compelling statement here may be enough to convince the agent or editor to continue reading the entire proposal.
When you finished your book and read it in its entirety, hopefully aloud, did you notice additional benefits for your readers, perhaps woven subtly through your voice or a character’s perspective? Add those to your bulleted list.
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List the reader benefits of your book prominently in your proposal. Click to Tweet.
Editors want to know ways your book will uniquely benefit readers. List them in your proposal. Click to Tweet.