Answer The Obvious Questions
At every stage of the book purchasing process, readers come with some basic questions. Are you answering them? If you have a book proposal or a book manuscript, you are attempting to catch the attention of a literary agent or an editor. Or when the book has been contracted and you are finalizing the text to turn in your manuscript, have you answered the obvious questions of the reader?
Often as writers, we are focused on crafting an excellent story or an excellent nonfiction book. At some point in the process, we need to return to the reader and make sure we've answered the obvious. Steve Weinberg raised this issue in his recent Soapbox column, "Another Eisenhower Biography?" in Publishers Weekly. I know Steve because we are members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Steve was reviewing a forthcoming biography on President Dwight Eisenhower from Michael Korda. In this 800–page book, Korda praises another biographer of Eisenhower but doesn't tell the reader why he is adding to the literature on the former President.
Weinberg explains the reason for his question, "I'm also assuming the role of consumer advocate. I think of my mother, an avid, 83-year-old reader who is unlikely to consume more than one biography of Abe or Marilyn or John or Jesus, given her philosophy of so little time, so many more books to devour. My mother wants to know why the new one is ostensibly the best choice for her."
Ultimately the reader wants to make the best possible choice for their limited reading time--and it's up to the writer to make sure the convincing answers are somewhere in the text of the book.