When you first conceived the idea for your book, you might have believed writing it fulfilled a sense of personal purpose. Or maybe you thought your book had its own purpose to fulfill. That purpose could have been an extension of your personal purpose as well. In fact, every book should have a purpose. This gives it a reason to exist.
Do you feel strongly that you must tell your story? Is there a reason for telling it that involves impacting readers in some way? Or are you on a “mission” of some sort and believe that providing the information in your book will fulfill it? Does your personal sense of purpose dovetail with the purpose of your book? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you and your book each have a purpose or share one.
You may have an “agenda,” something you want to accomplish:
- as a writer
- through your writing with the writing of a specific book or books
Each one of these can be called a “purpose.” Your personal sense of purpose can overlap with your purpose as a writer or with the purpose of your book. For example, with The Author’s Training Manual I hope to help aspiring authors become not only published authors but successful ones; that’s why I wrote it. I have a larger, overriding personal purpose, though. It is to motivate writers (and non-writers) to create publishable and published products and careers as authors as well as to help people achieve their goals and fulfill their purposes; all my books possess a purpose that parallels this greater personal purpose.
Finding Benefit in Purpose Statements
Included in every book’s purpose lie the benefits it will provide. For example, on the back of Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen’s New York Times bestseller, The One Minute Millionaire, you can find a list of items you will learn from reading their book. Among these are “the power of one great idea, how to develop multiple streams of income, six forms of leverage, and the essentials of marketing success.” These constitute three of seven benefits promised to the reader. The back cover copy of The One Minute Millionaire also says,
“In every city, often behind the scenes, there are thousands of enlightened millionaires who acquire their wealth in innovative and honorable ways—and then give back to their communities. This book will show you how to become one of them…more quickly than you ever imagined.”
The promise of the book—its purpose—is that readers will quickly learn to become enlightened millionaires who can give back to their communities. This is the outcome the authors promise.
The idea of “purpose” speaks to why you think people must read your book. Your reasons have to resonate with them. If you strike a chord, they will hear it. You need only read the first pages of Brené Brown’s bestseller, Daring Greatly, to find yourself feeling what she has felt. Who likes to feel vulnerable? No one. Yet her book’s purpose lies in showing us how we can succeed in all areas of our life by learning that vulnerability makes us stronger and more capable. That’s the benefit it promises to give us.
When a book has a purpose, readers finish the last page and feel the author has fulfilled his or her promises. For example, Eckhart Tolle’s bestseller A New Earth claims it will show “how transcending our ego-based state of consciousness is not only essential to personal happiness, but also the key to ending conflict and suffering throughout the world.” Additionally, it is a “manifesto for a better way of life—and for building a better world.” That’s a strong purpose statement.
Malcom Gladwell’s bestseller, The Tipping Point, promises to explore and illuminate “the tipping point phenomenon” changing the way people “think about selling products and disseminating ideas.” The purpose of the book, found in the introduction, is to answer two questions: “Why is it that some ideas or behavior or products start epidemics and other don’t? And what can we do to deliberately start and control positive epidemics of our own?” This is also the benefit it promises to deliver to readers.
Most novels won’t make such clear promises because they don’t have as strong purpose statement, but you might find something similar if you search. On the back cover of John Irving’s The Fourth Hand, for instance, I discovered this:
While reporting a story from India, New York journalist Patrick Wallingford inadvertently becomes his own headline when his left hand is eaten by a lion. In Boston, a renowned surgeon awaits the opportunity to perform the nations first hand transplant.
But what if the donor’s widow demands visitation rights with the hand? In answering this unexpected question, John Irving has written a novel that is by turns brilliantly comic and emotionally moving, offering a penetrating look at the power of second chances and the will to change.
Answering the question “What if the donor’s widow demands visitation rights with the hand?” represents the purpose of the novel. The fact that the book takes “a penetrating look at the power of second chances and the will to change” also serves as the author’s promise to readers and serves as a “WIIFM statement.” Readers of the novel benefit by looking at these themes.
I found a statement of purpose on the back cover Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment:
In this greatest psychological novel of all time, Dostoevsky illuminates the irreconcilable dualism of mankind, the conflict of a soul possessed by good and evil.
The themes the author sets out to “illuminate” via his story represent promises of added value for the reader.
Create a Statement of Purpose for Yourself and Your Book
When you create clearly definable goals you increase your chances of achieving them. Your book’s purpose is a goal. It’s what you and your book set out to accomplish, such as to:
- Inspire change
- Inform readers
- Examine a particular theme or issue
- Provide new information
When you can clearly define this purpose, you will have an easier time fulfilling it while writing your book. When you complete your manuscript, you will have kept your promises to your readers. It’s important, therefore, to write a statement of purpose for yourself and for your book. Determine why you feel the need to write your book. What will you accomplish by doing so (beyond writing a book)? Examine the goal you want readers to achieve, why you think it’s important for them to do so. What are the benefits you want them to take away from reading your book?
Once you’ve written this statement of purpose, keep it handy. Ready it often–especially before each writing period. Make sure it becomes part of your book’s business plan as well. Purpose and benefit equate to the promises you make to readers, and you want to be sure you writea book that keeps those promises.
Learn how to create a successful book—one that sells to publishers and to readers—by developing an AUTHOR ATTITUDE and writing a BUSINESS PLAN for a MARKETABLE BOOK. Register for the AUTHOR TRAINING 101 Home-Study Course, and go from aspiring to successful published author! This course is based on The Author Training Manual. If you like what you’ve read here, you’ll love the course.
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