How to Answer the Question Most New Authors Dread: “What’s Your Book About?”

by Feb 10, 2022Author Resources, Big Ideas

“What’s your book about?” Why do these four little words strike dread into the heart of most new authors?

Fair question, right? After all, you should know what your book is about—you’re the one who’s writing it! But the truth is, many authors struggle to give a complete and succinct answer to this basic question. They either launch into a long, meandering synopsis, or they drop a few vague words that mean next to nothing. Why? Because they don’t know their book inside and out.

From the minute you announce to the world that you’re writing a book, you’re going to be asked this question. A lot. And you want to have a great answer ready. Here’s how to articulate your book concept in a way that gets its heart, soul, and unique personality across: Peel back the layers.

Just like a great autumn outfit, your book’s concept has many layers to it.

  1. Subject Area. At the core of your concept is the subject category your book falls into, such as parenting, business, or fitness.
  2. Topic. This second layer is the specific topic your book will engage with. For example, a parenting book might focus on the topic of helping kids navigate grief and loss.
  3. Niche. The third layer to consider is your unique take on the topic. Following on our previous example, this could be “mindfulness practices for parents to help their kids navigate grief and loss,” or “an illustrated children’s book to facilitate conversations about grief and loss.”
  4. Differentiation. This is the visible outer layer that everyone sees, which needs to draw readers in by answering the question, “What’s special about this book?” This often comes from your personal or professional journey. For example, the author of a book on grief and loss in children might be a parent whose own child suffered a bereavement, or a therapist who worked with survivors of a disaster. Your book might be centered around a gripping story, or a methodology that you developed. Both of these are good differentiators.
  5. Your point of view as its author. This is your tone and approach to the content of your book. A book that is “practical and actionable” delivers a different experience from one that is “warm and supportive,” and both have their place. This is the emotional or intellectual heart of your book that drives its connection to your readers.

All together, now!

“My book is a warm and supportive guide for parents to help their children navigate grief and loss, providing dozens of unique mindfulness exercises developed in my 20 years as a family therapist and bereavement counselor.”

Once you’ve deconstructed these elements, it’s easy to describe your book in a clear, memorable way that paints a vivid picture in the mind of the listener and excites their interest in reading it.

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