I first came across the concept of the ‘everything’ book when I went to an event hosted by Raymond Aaron in London in 2012. It struck a nerve because I could see how easy – and unwelcome – it would be for any new writer to make the very easy mistake of writing the ‘everything’ book.
Fundamentally, the ‘everything’ book is a book that lacks any real focus or that has a topic that is too broad. It presents too much information to the reader in a way that lacks any clear focus or purpose.
Imagine meeting someone at a networking event and telling them everything you know when they ask you what your business is about. It isn’t an appealing idea, is it? In fact, you are more likely to drive people away with too much than draw them in with selected information. It’s the same with a book. When you have too much content you drive readers away.
The ‘everything’ book is a trap that many new writers fall into. They end up writing ‘everything’ they know about their subject because they have not identified a specific question they are answering or problem they are resolving.
A key problem of the ‘everything’ books is that it never get published or even finished because most are simply too overwhelming to complete. The writer gets sucked into the ‘everything’ nature of what she has burdened herself with creating and, just as she is finishing, she thinks of something else she need to to add.
The ‘everything’ book writer also always feels that there is something he has forgotten to say or left out in error. It’s makes publishing terrifying because he feels as naked as the emperor with his new clothes – he worries that even though he thinks he has covered ALL the bases and got everything in, there is something really, really obvious he has missed out.
How to avoid the ‘everything’ book
The book title is the where the ‘everything’ book start to germinate. For example, if you are a marketing expert, one ‘everything’ book you might be tempted to write could have the title: ‘Online Marketing for Small Businesses’. You can probably see how this title would lead to a book that has endless content. In fact, I would wager that each chapter could easily make a book in itself.
TIP: If you find it difficult to limit the amount of content you can come up with when you start mapping out your key headings it is worth checking that you haven’t created a monster with your book concept and title.
One of the easiest way to avoid the ‘everything’ book is to make sure you focus on a much narrower topic – what Milana Leshinsky calls a ‘niche-slice’. In this case, you might adapt your ‘everything’ title to ‘Facebook Marketing for Start-ups’.
What you will find is that when you get specific, your book not only becomes more relevant (because it answers a problem being experienced by your reader), but it is also becomes easier to write (because its scope becomes more limited). Being limited is good in this context.
Add a good sub-title
The other way to keep the topic of your book tightly focused is to write a sub-title that further narrows its scope. Continuing with the previous example, your original title ‘Facebook Marketing for Start-ups’ could be enhanced with a sub-title like: ‘How Coaches can Get More Clients by Starting Conversations Online’.
From this, you can see how a smaller topic and a clarifying sub-title can defeat ‘everything’-book-syndrome and ensure you write a shorter, more readable and more marketable book. I think that’s they call a win-win-win situation!
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