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Liz Smith Alexander

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What Sherlock Holmes Can Teach Authors About Uniqueness
By Liz Smith Alexander
Friday, July 29, 2011

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Watching the BBC’s brilliant TV series Sherlock (set in contemporary London for a change) has caused me to reflect on the many advantages of being Sherlock Holmes.

 Watching the BBC’s brilliant TV series Sherlock (set in contemporary London for a change) has caused me to reflect on the many advantages of being Sherlock Holmes.

Having someone you can count on, like Watson.

That prestigious London address.

Being the world’s first consulting detective.

How many of us can be the world’s first anything these days? I’d thought about calling myself the world’s first consulting book doula…what do you think? Could I get away with that?

Even if we, as authors, can’t always be unique, we do need to be able to communicate what is special about our books. This is useful if planning to attract an agent. Your nonfiction book proposal is really a marketing document arguing for why publishing professionals should invest time, effort, and money in your work.

If you plan to self-publish, it helps enormously with your marketing and promotion efforts if you can clearly articulate what’s so special about your book that it warrants the reader spending money on your work and not some other title.

Here’s one way to identify your unique take on your book’s topic.

In Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries From The Rest Of UsErik Calonius talks about how visionary individuals are able to awaken to a higher level of thinking. He uses the example of the 1960s ads for Lady Clairol to illustrate this.

When you think simply about what Clairol is, chances are you’d respond “hair dye.” Not much uniqueness there.

When you consider what the product does, you might say, “it lightens hair.” But, then, so does all its competitors.

The “higher thought” that the Lady Clairol advertising team came up with back in the 60s–which is no different to what they try to do today–required eliciting an emotional reaction from potential purchasers. Hence the slogan: “Is it true that blondes have more fun?”

By raising their thinking to the next level, the advertisers were able to articulate the emotional hook that enticed women away from all those other brands that were marketing themselves as “hair dyes”.

I used a similar technique recently when I wanted to come up with a more emotionally relevant tagline.

I began by stating, as simply as possible what it is I do: to provide book coaching and consulting to aspiring authors. But then there’s all the other expertise I offer around helping authors discover who their reader is, as well as how to effectively market and promote (i.e., sell) their books.

Which means what? In order to answer that I had to think more clearly about my clientele. In my case, it’s people who want to share their subject matter expertise with a wider audience, by writing a book. I help them with that.

And what does that mean? I help connect thought leaders to their readers.

That certainly has a more emotional pull, doesn’t it?

Now, I agree that this isn’t as spectacular as saying I’m the world’s first consulting detective, but it narrows the field quite a bit. It means I’ve differentiated myself from book coaches who work with any kind of writer. And, indeed, it was this process that gave me an idea for my 12th book!

Why don’t you try this three step process for yourself? Either in relation to your book, or yourself as the author:

1. You do/your book is about what?

2. Which means what?

3And finally, moving more in the realm of emotions: what does that mean?

I’d be interested to know where that thinking leads you.

During the month of June I’m offering a one-hour consulting session at the discounted rate of $100 if you want me to help you establish what’s unique about you and your book. Contact me today for your appointment.

Oh, and do check out Sherlock on DVD…it’s bloody marvelous television as only the BBC can do!

       Web Site: The Book Doula

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