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Confession: Everyone Does Not Want to Read Your Book!

Anna Leinberger Posted by Anna Leinberger, Editorial Manager, Acqusitions, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Anna is a writer and editor for Berrett-Koehler in Oakland, CA. More on killer book proposals and writing can be found on her BK Blog.

Welcome to Confessions of an Editorial Assistant, where I talk about the book proposals I dread to get and the ones I love to get.

Welcome to Confessions of an Editorial Assistant, where I talk about the book proposals I dread to get and the ones I love to get. This week's topic is the dreaded "Really, everyone will want to read my book!”


This is, without a doubt, best way to get me to throw up my hands, roll my eyes and internally shout “REALLY???!?”


There are a few things I can say on this topic.


Most importantly: Everyone does not want to read your book. Seriously. There is not a book on this planet that everyone wants to read. Even Harry Potter still has its holdouts. That being said, thinking about the question like that is actually a primrose path of lies, deception, and deceit. This question is actually a marketing question in disguise.




1. We really do want you to think deeply about who might be interested in your book. Take note- I did not say “to whose life will your book be relevant?” There is a very important distinction there. You as the author clearly think that your topic is of extreme importance to the world. This very well might be true! However, while you can make the argument that your book is relevant to all people, that has nothing to do with whether or not everyone will agree with you and buy your book. We want to know who is likely to buy the book, not to whom the book will be beneficial.


2. The answer also tells us how you understand your target audience. If your answer is “everyone!” that is a dead giveaway that you do not know your audience, and frankly, it also tells us you probably do not have an audience. A proposal with several clear, specific, targeted groups listed as the audience will get my attention much more quickly. I can then evaluate the audience to decide if it matches our company mission and demographic, and I can evaluate whether you would be an effective ambassador for your own book.




Ultimately, when you write a book, you are writing it for the reader. As we are fond of saying in the office these days “your book is not for you!” Your book is for your readers, so when you write, you want to be trying to look at the content through your reader’s eyes. In order to do this, you have to know who your readers are.


Books that scream, "This book is for me!" One of my favorites (and the first BK book I read!) is Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Devora Zack. The title pretty much says it all- it tells you exactly who should read the book and what you are going to get out of the book. It also limits the audience- extroverts who love meeting people and schmoozing are totally cut out from the very beginning. However, this book has done extremely well. There is a big enough target audience that looks at that title and thinks “That book was written for ME! I should buy it right away!”


The irony here is that if you target your book to everyone, no one will actually think your book is for them. If your message tries too hard to be relevant to everyone, no one will relate because you have confused and diluted the power of the message.


We know you have a great message to share- if we did not, we would not be in this business ourselves. The honest truth of the matter is, however, that you have a much better chance of getting your message into the world if you DO have a specific target audience in mind. Once you know your audience, you will know where to find them, and once you can find them you can reach out to them with your message and with your book.