If I read your book, what's in it for me? Granted, a lot of authors aren't thinking about what benefits their book(s) offer readers, but how many copies can they sell? The reality is slightly more complicated - while authors do want to sell books, we also need to be thinking about the benefits readers get from reading our work, whether it's non-fiction or fiction.
Admittedly, demonstrating the benefits your book offers readers is easier in the non-fiction genre. Certain categories such as parenting, self-help topics, employment, computers, education, pregnancy, health and exercise, weight loss, etc. have the potential for huge target audiences. But more importantly, non-fiction books offer many opportunities for authors to provide their readers with benefits. Some examples:
Resources relating to the topic
Exercises to hone your skills and study habits
Instructions on how-to-do something
Developing an action plan
Where to find Support Groups
The list of benefits an author of a non-fiction book can give their readers is practically endless. But benefits for readers also exist in works of fiction; you may just have to look for them a little harder. Right off the bat there's one benefit that most non-fiction books aren't known for - entertaining your reader. And for some fiction books, that one benefit is enough. For others, start focusing on the themes or sub-plots, just as you would cover a specific topic or theme in a non-fiction book.
In my novel, the main themes were the bonds of family, the existence of evil within ordinary lives, and the idea that even the most morally grounded individual can be pushed to do things they would never otherwise consider.
On the surface those themes don't appear very tangible but take another look. Two of the sub-plots that affect the family are alcoholism and the existence of evil. With those two themes I've written blog posts and articles on both, and in the area of alcoholism provided resources where readers can get help. In essence I'm doing exactly the same thing authors of non-fiction books do. At the same time I'm also offering a more general benefit of increased knowledge.
For a work of fiction, I would suggest an author sit down and brainstorm a list of possible topics or subplots within your book. Take that list and see how many of these could be used to offer the reader something of value gained through reading your book. Here's a sampling of my topics list culled from my novel:
Divorce Rights/Custody Issues
Once you've pared down your list of reader benefits, get the research process underway. You might begin with a Google search on each perspective benefit, which can give you a sense of the information available on your benefit topics, but that's certainly not your only option. There's good old fashioned library research, personal interviews with experts on your benefit areas, archives, and museums just to name a few.
Just as with a non-fiction work, information on these topics can expand your readers' knowledge base. With each of these topics I've also written articles and blog posts, provided resources which are constantly evolving, and developed discussion questions relating to the book on the first Squidoo page for my book.
Whether your work is non-fiction or fiction, put yourself in the place of your reader and ask yourself: What's in it for me? Then start developing your list of reader benefits.
Catherine Johnson is the author of the novel, Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace. Visit her web site at http://www.catherinejohnsonnovels.com/ or contact her via e-mail at: email@example.com.