“This Book Changed My Life” (A How-To Guide)

There are two ways to get this response to your work.

The first way is to find an audience that’s already organized around a common need or desire. Children’s literature and self-help are great examples: they have clearly established conventions and expectant audiences.

In cases like these, you don’t actually need to care about your audience or your topic. If you skillfully play by the rules, many of your readers will sincerely believe that your book was written for them. It will move them and inspire them. It will change their life.

For the record, there are plenty of children’s literature and self-help authors who deeply care about their topics and their audience. Many of them did not (consciously) follow the formula. They took the second option.

Which is to write a book that changes your life.

This is a long and difficult process, which is why most writers don’t do it. It begins with finding a problem within yourself and then writing the book that will help you solve it.

It’s not therapeutic writing because it goes even deeper than that. It’s writing that turns you into a different person by the time you’re finished.

When you write a book like this (or a story, or a play) and you share it, there’s no guarantee at all that other people will appreciate it. However, if someone happens to find your book while they are dealing with a similar problem, it will change their life.

That’s it. There’s no third option.

You can’t get halfway through a book that’s as revealing as open-heart surgery and then get coy because you’re worried about offending someone. Likewise, you can’t get halfway through following the formula and decide you want to make a leap.

If you do, you’ll end up with a muddled book, one that is neither exciting nor reassuring.

Both methods work. Both methods can make you money and bring you the career of your dreams. Both methods can (and frequently do) produce classics.

Whichever you choose, the most important part is to recognize the choice you’ve made and stick to it.