Do Readers Consume Your Book?
You can write what many people would consider to be a good book yet have it fall short of being considered a great book simply because it wasn’t as consumable as it could be.
Information products about your content, including books, are all about consumption and if your book isn’t optimized for maximum readability then you won’t have the level of success you could otherwise.
Bryan and I both love to go into bookstores and browse the shelves, especially the books in the marketing and business sections. I’ll scan the covers and spines that are visible and, if a title sounds interesting enough, pick the book up and thumb through to the first chapter.
If I look at that first chapter and see that it is twenty or more pages in length in all likelihood I’ll put the book back on the shelf and won’t buy it. Why? Because it looks like it’s too much work to read.
You want people to feel a sense of progress as they read your book, and if your chapters are so long that they discourage reading on, you’re making a big mistake.
Similarly, many people like to do a little reading before they go to bed. And most people like to consume a book a chapter at a time. If I pick up a book and glance at the next chapter and see it’s very long, chances are I’ll decide not to read any further that night. So I’m not consuming your book as quickly as you would want me to.
A book like this suffers from what I call “consumption obstruction.” You’re far better off having three chapters that are each around seven pages long than a single chapter that is twenty or more pages.
As strange as it may sound, people are far more likely to read three or four, seven page chapters than a single 20+ page chapter.
Remember, if you can’t even get them to consume your book the chances of them coming back to you to buy your next book or some other product or service that you have to offer drops dramatically. It really is all about consumption.
So what are some of the other things you need to consider to make your book more readable, and therefore, more consumable?
Who Is Your Audience?
One thing you certainly need to take into account is the demographics of the audience you want to reach. Let’s say you’re writing a book aimed at, for example, the baby boomer market. Then you’re marketing to a crowd that is largely dealing with bifocals or trifocals and gradually deteriorating eyesight.
So if your book interior layout person selects a font size of anything less than 11 point you’re creating readability issues for some of your potential audience.
According to Wikipedia, here are the “Keep Out of Trouble Rules” regarding font usage in a book:
- Use 11-point Palatino for text.
- Use 14-point Helvetica for chapter titles and 12-point Helvetica for section headings.
- Use unusual fonts only for short items, e.g., the title and author’s name on the cover, or for chapter titles.
- Don’t use too many fonts. Three should be enough for almost any book.
- Check books you like the look of, and see which fonts they use. Half an hour in a bookstore looking at fonts can be very useful and enlightening.
Keep Paragraphs Short
During the layout of your book you’ll need to determine how you want to break your paragraphs apart for better readability.
“Here’s a paragraph where sentence after sentence has been packed together and the paragraph seems to run on forever. Run on paragraphs such as this can make it extremely difficult for your readers to consume the content you want to share with them. And when you’re trying to build your platform as an author, speaker or information marketer if you do anything that makes it more of a challenge to consume your information the more challenges you are putting in front of yourself to achieve success. Don’t make it any hard than it needs to be there are plenty of other things you’re going to have to deal with that are challenging enough. Run on paragraphs are easily dealt with simply by breaking your paragraphs into two or more paragraphs. Our opinion is a paragraph should be no longer than three or four sentences before you start a new paragraph.”
Now compare that to this:
“Here’s that same basic paragraph broken into separate paragraphs. The sentences don’t run on and the paragraph doesn’t seem to run on forever. Don’t make it difficult for your readers to consume the information you want to share with them. When you’re trying to share your content if you do anything that makes it more of a challenge to consume your content you’re hurting yourself.
Don’t make it any hard than it needs to be, there are plenty of other things you’re going to have to deal with that are challenging enough. Run on paragraphs are easily dealt with simply by breaking your paragraphs into two or more paragraphs.
Our opinion is a paragraph should be no longer than three or four sentences before you start a new paragraph.”
Which seems more readable? This split paragraphs obviously. So it’s simply a matter of laying out your book slightly differently in order to make it more consumable for your reader.