What’s the Ideal Format for Your Message?

One of the questions I ask prospective authors is, “Tell me why this message should be a book?” I think it’s a fair question. I don’t know about you, but I’ve read books before where my impression was that they had three chapters of decent content to share and then had 12 more chapters of fluff where they simply rehashed the central idea or veered off onto a variety of rabbit trails. Just because you can write 50,000 words on a subject doesn’t mean that you should.

When I was involved in developing direct mail campaigns, people would always ask, “Should I write a four-page letter or a two-page letter? I hear 4-page letters out pull shorter letters.” Yes, it’s true that while most people say they hate getting long 4-6 page “junk mail” letters, the statistics typically bear out that longer letters do indeed out pull shorter letters. However, this skips over a fundamental question. How many pages does it take to compellingly make your case for whatever it is that you are selling? If you can say what needs to be said in two pages, stretching it out to six pages probably won’t help your response rate. Conversely, if you can more thoroughly “sell” your product, mission, or service in six pages than in two, then, by all means, take six pages to do it.

You see, not all messages warrant being shared in a book. Some messages are so rich or profound that you are better off breaking them up into a trilogy of books. Other messages are better shared as a blog, booklet, or some other shorter form of delivery. Maybe what you have to say needs the benefit of video and interaction with others in order for its full impact to be received. In that case, a personal empowerment course or a group study resource may be a much stronger format to present your message than a book.

Another factor to consider is your audience. How do they like to process information? If you are writing to teens who are used to communicating in 200 characters on a screen, then giving them 200 pages of paper may not be the best way to reach them. If you want to reach me, send an e-mail. If you want to reach my son Jason, better say what you have to say on Facebook. Oh sure, I’ll check my Facebook account, and Jason checks his e-mail. It’s just that we do it in reverse frequency and priority.

Maybe you have a killer speech that audiences love. But it may be that your message will fall flat when presented in book form without the benefit of the emotion of your personal presentation. Or maybe what you share in a 20-minute sermon, which, when expanded into a book that takes six hours to read from cover to cover, loses all its impact.

So, when considering writing a book, ask yourself, “What is the ideal medium to use in presenting this message to the target audience who most wants or needs to hear it?”


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