Not every reader is the same. Some want to digest every word slowly. Others approach books as a utility to deliver mature ideas to solve practical problems. Neither reader type is better than the other. 

Most people scan nonfiction content. I don’t think this is a new development, nor do I think it represents the dumbing down of society due to digital publishing. As book publishing becomes an increasingly competitive space, publishers are now building books based on the reader’s native consumption habits rather than traditional literary guidelines.

Personally, I welcome this shift. As communicators and people who love to create and share ideas, we should have a relentless commitment to packaging those ideas in ways that intersect with people and create a shift—however big or small.

Adapting Your Writing Habits Isn’t Giving In and Selling Out

Every writer should write to be read. Just like a speaker molds his or her presentation to the audience, so should an author. This becomes even more important as brands adopt the habits of a publisher to engage and connect with their audience to drive revenue.

You can accomplish this without compromising the integrity of the book. And you can accomplish this without feeling like you’re “selling out” to commercial whims.

Common tactics to include in your next manuscript are:

  • Write shorter sentences. Simple sentences are best. Compound sentences can easily be separated into two shorter sentences.

  • Write shorter paragraphs. Two to three sentences are often long enough to form a short paragraph. If your paragraphs are too long, it can be intimidating to the reader.

  • Identify pull quotes to be set apart from the standard body copy by the designer.Readers like sound bytes. Use them to your advantage.

  • Utilize subheads. The longer the chapter, the more subheads you need to keep the reader moving through your text.

  • Include a summary of key ideas at the end of each chapter. This is a great exercise to ensure you have covered all your key ideas during the manuscript editing process.

  • Include discussion questions—especially if it’s nonfiction. This makes it easy to incorporate the book in a group setting. Depending on your audience, this can transform your book into a development resource.

If no one reads your book because it appears to be unapproachable, then your blood, sweat, and tears are wasted. If creating change is your goal, then you should be open to whatever adaptations to your writing are necessary so you can be sure to disrupt, engage, and inspire your readers to connect, collaborate, and create change.

What other characteristics or tactics can you adapt to ensure every type of reader can benefit from your book?

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