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Give Your How-To Or Self-Help Book Blurb A Personal Touch

book blurb

When trying to “sell” your idea for a nonfiction self-help or how-to book to a literary agent, it’s important to cover the basic elements in your query letter book blurb. But aside from offering the “facts” of what your book is about, consider this strategy: Make it personal.

What does “make it personal” mean?

In an age when social media dominates, self-help and how-to book authors are often expected to become celebrities in their fields. So your personal story—who you are and what your experiences have been—matters. It’s a must-have part of your author platform.

Consider the various American Idol and Dancing With The Stars genres of television shows. Producers could have simply featured the dancers or singers in side-by-side comparisons with no backstory. Instead, they show not only the singing or dancing, but also small vignettes about the performers’ families, hopes, fears, and struggles. It’s the personal element—the likability factor—that can give a contestant a competitive edge.

The same goes for self-help and how-to books. If you have a compelling personal backstory, show it off in your query letter. Why are you writing this particular book? What unique life experiences do you bring to the table?

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Make An Emotional Appeal To Your Audience

True stories of hope and inspiration capture our emotions. These personal backstories tug at our heartstrings and make us laugh, cry, and hope right along with the storyteller. Your book pitch can do the same thing for literary agents. What can you do to encourage a strong emotional response to your book’s premise? How can you use your book summary to connect with the reader? To make them feel a spark of hope for the solution to their problems? To make them sympathize with you?

Examples of Emotional and Unemotional Book Blurbs

Unemotional. Just the facts: 
My book THE LIMA BEAN DIET offers readers an alternative to traditional diet books, which tend to be convoluted, complex, overly detailed, and confusing. Readers will enjoy learning an easier way to lose weight.

Emotional. Make it personal:
I’m a food scientist by trade, having spent fifteen years working for a major ice-cream manufacturer. In the last decade, I gained 100 pounds. Like so many others who are unhealthily overweight, I felt frustrated, tired, and confused by the excessive numbers of convoluted diet fads out there.

That’s why I created the Lima Bean Diet. It’s an easy, wholesome diet that cuts through the complexities and gets results. It’s based on my years of scientific, professional research. As a person who knows what it’s like to eat nothing but ice cream all day long, I believe that the Lima Bean Diet is the breath of fresh air that dieters have been waiting for.

Unemotional. Just the facts: 
My book HOW TO THINK LIKE YOUR DOG offers readers a glimpse into the minds of their dogs. Often, the problem with most human-canine relationships is a language barrier; humans don’t speak dog, and vice versa. The result is a dysfunctional relationship that doesn’t make anybody happy.

My book teaches readers to interpret their dog’s body language to better understand what they’re thinking. The result? Better human-dog relationships.

Emotional. Make it personal:
As a professional dog-trainer of forty years with countless publications under my belt, I’ve seen just about every kind of human-canine “language barrier” issue out there. So when my friend Lew told me he was having problems with his couch-chewing, leash-pulling spaniel, I decided to give him an early copy of my manuscript HOW TO THINK LIKE YOUR DOG. The result? Lew’s pup no longer chews the couch, messes on the floor, or barks excessively. He’s not the first client to get results from my groundbreaking method, but he’s the first to get results simply from reading my book!

I was bitten by a neighbor’s dog when I was just ten years old—and I realized even back then that the problem wasn’t the dog—it was the owner. I’ve dedicated my life to dog psychology, and HOW TO THINK LIKE YOUR DOG is the culmination of my life’s work.

Will an emotional/personal appeal ALWAYS work? Is it always necessary?

Every book is unique. Some books—especially those of a more academic or scholarly bent—simply might not lend themselves to a strong emotional appeal. And trying to force an emotional or personal element when there simply isn’t one could (and probably would) backfire.

Trust your instincts to present the best possible description of your nonfiction how-to or self-help book in your query letter. Always let your enthusiasm for your subject lead the way!

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: Do you like to hear about an author’s journey when you read self-help or how-to? Or would you rather authors talked less about themselves?

One Response to Give Your How-To Or Self-Help Book Blurb A Personal Touch

  1. This is good advice here. Making memoir personal helps to sell your book. It’s your story, your journey, and you hope it helps others. But it isn’t ONLY about the writer’s journey. It needs to be more universal, and therein lies the difficulty with memoir.

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