Your nonfiction “how to,” book may contain the best compilation of advice available. But unless your book presents a reader-friendly image, it will never achieve the recognition and sales it deserves.
Reader friendly books are easy to read because the information is easy to locate. The pages of reader-unfriendly books, however, are filled with paragraphs of text which make information harder to locate must be read and interpreted before readers can put the ideas to work.
Reader friendly books, however, encourage action by highlighting the steps which must be taken, emphasizing the actions which must be taken in the right order.
Last week, I ran across one of the best examples of reader friendly design in our local library. The book is Long Illness: A Practical Guide to Surviving, Healing, and Thriving by doctors Meghan Jobson and Juliet Morgan (2023, Hachette Publishing.)
Best of all, by using one or more of ideas found in Long Illness, you can increase he engagement power of your next book without major investments of time or money!
- Start with a story.
The Long Illness begins with a story that sets the stage for the information that follows. The Introduction is just five pages, but you’ll learn everything you need to know to decide whether you should buy the book or look elsewhere. You’ll learn:
- What does the Long Illness refer to?
- What are the causes and symptoms of the Long Illness?
- What role did Covid play in the book’s development?
- How does the author’s Integrative Approach differ from conventional approaches?
- How will readers benefit from reading Long Illness and using the book’s examples?
- What are the lessons taught by Long Illness survival stories?
- Describe the author’s qualifications.
How does the author’s backgrounds qualify them to write the book? Was there a precipitating event that lead to the book? In your case for example, your lifelong interest in restoring wooden sailboats could be a result of your childhood cruises with your mother or father.
Your answer to these, and the previous questions, shares important information that personalizes the book, increasing your reading speed and comprehension.
- Begin each chapter with a list of topics covered in it.
Adding a list of topics covered in each chapter can be thought of as “advertising” the contents of each chapter. The list of chapter topics provides a roadmap to the contents. Readers in a hurry can easily begin their reading by referring to the contents they’re most interested.
- Organize chapters into logical parts or sections.
A list of 23 chapters—as found in Long Illness—might discourage readers by its length. A long list of chapter titles fails to provide a context. Organizing chapters by sequence or task, simplifies the list and paints a better picture of the way each chapter relates to the previous and next chapter. Use subheads to organize your chapter list.
- Include questions and answers in each chapter.
A list of 23 chapters—as found in Long Illness—might discourage readers by it’s length. A long list of undifferentiated chapters fails to provide a context. In addition, if the readers knew which topic A long list of chapters would weaken the chapters; it would be difficult to follow the author’s any and prevent readers from
- Share Include questions and answers in each chapter.
Begin each chapter with an “orientation list” of the benefits readers will discover. This is yet another way that you can draw readers to the specific chapters with the contents they’re looking for. All you need is a orientation subhead, such as “What You Will Learn in This Chapter.”
- Use exercises to encourage readers to turn chapters into action.
Exercises can be as simple as questions for readers to answer or suggested practices like using a journal to record your daily experiences. Reading a book, by itself, is rarely enough. Best results occur when readers take action for the book’s advice before leaving the chapter.
- Use words like “you” and “we” as frequently as possible.
Have you ever noticed that when you encounter a title, headline, or subhead containing words like “you” and “we” your reading speed increases and you pay more attention to the paragraphs that follow? That’s because you and we are words that involves you. They put you in the action, sparking your imagination.
- Use tables to compare approaches, resources, and symptoms.
A table containing the pros and cons of different courses of action might take two or more paragraphs to explain, but the pros and cons can be simplified by a graphic that occupies less space and clearly communicates the relationship between ideas and tools at a glance. Other Words become graphics when they appear in lists and tables.
- Use graphics and text to highlight resources, tips, or exercises.
Words can turn into graphics when they are formatted as reversed text. Most of the words on your pages are printed with black ink against a white background. But when reversed –referring to while text against a black background, such as departmental headings like Tips or Exercise.
Another way that text formatting communicates a message is when Long Illness switches from a serif typeface to a sans serif typeface when quoting long passages of spoken words. Changing the typeface when quoting words draws attention to the quote more efficiently than just adding beginning and closing quotation marks. To succeed, of course, the serif and non-serif text must be obviously difference. If they’re similar, the difference between spoken words and an author’s comments will not be obvious.
- Include a list of books and videos by other authors.
You can increase your book’s reader friendliness by including a list of relevant articles, books, blog posts, and videos created by other authors and researchers in your field. In many cases, the more references you include, the more you and your book are perceived as an informed expert in your field.
- Use one or more Appendixes to Relate recommended resources to the chapters where they first appear.
Footnotes often appear at the bottom of the page where they relate to the text. An alternative approach is to group footnotes at the last page of the chapter. Both options are compromises because they add visual clutter to the page. The ideal solution is to group footnotes in a separate Footnotes Appendix, organized by chapters. This avoids the clutter when footnotes appear at the bottom of the page.
Relationship building for the future
As a courtesy to both authors and readers, share the author’s website, blog, and social media presence like Facebook and LinkedIn. If appropriate, share how readers may sign-up for the author’s newsletter or contact the author. Both authors and readers will pave the way for book sales and online events in the future.
Visit your local library and track reader friendly and unfriendly.
When analyzing the reader friendless or unfriendliness, don’t limit your research to just books that relate to your field. Take the time to rate the friendliness of how to books in other fields, i.e., woodworking, marketing, home auto repairs, them in the future.
Most important, before starting your next book, select the reader-friendly techniques you plan to use throughout your book. As you finish each chapter, review your use of the reader-friendly techniques listed above. Look for additional places where the techniques described above can enhance your next book. (If your book is already at the printers, look for ways you can use the above techniques in your blog or other social media.0
What do you think of reader friendly design; when you encounter it in a book, does reader friendly design enhance, or confuse, the book’s contents. What are some examples of reader friendly design found elsewhere.
Note that Long Illness isn’t alone in its use of the reader friendly techniques just described. But, it is rare to find so many examples of tastefully applied reader friendly ideas in a single book.
Let Roger C. Parker help you create a content-driven nonfiction book and book marketing plan that will set you and your ideas apart. Roger’s first book was Looking Good in Print: A Guide to Basic Design for Desktop Publishing. It was an international bestseller that played an important role in the explosive growth of desktop publishing around the world. Roger’s later books include The One-Minute Designer, The Streetwise Guide to Relationship Marketing on the Internet, and Book Title Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Article, Book, and Event Titles. Call 603-866-6046 or email Rcpcom@aol.com for the inside story behind these, and other books.