One shining path to clarity is creating a mission for your nonfiction book. This is especially true if you want readers to change their behavior and produce new results in their lives. For maximum benefit, keep your mission statement short enough to recite from memory—8 words or less.
A mission statement answers one question: Why this book? Writing without an answer to this question—or a vague, fluffy one—can doom your project.
On the other hand, truly understanding the mission of your book can help you focus and tighten your manuscript. Reducing the word-count also helps you create a memorable mission statement—one that can excite you and your readers.
Examples from philanthropy
My inspiration comes from Tactical Philanthropy Advisors, a group that works with individual and family philanthropists who donate at least $100,000 annually. Tactical Philanthropy Advisors helps these people figure what they want to accomplish by giving away money. That means looking for nonprofit organizations with a clear mission statement.
“Most mission statements don’t help that much,” notes the author of an article published on the Tactical Philanthropy Advisors blog. “We re-formulate the mission in a phrase of ~8 words or less that includes 1) a target population (or setting), 2) a verb, and 3) an ultimate outcome that implies something to measure—like this:
- “getting African one-acre farmers out of poverty
- “preventing HIV infection in Brazil”
Eight words for your book
The same format can work for your book’s mission statement as well. Just complete this sentence: The mission of my book is to…. See if you can do this with 8 words or less. For example:
- help college students reduce education-related debt
- help retired people reduce health care costs
- help people over age 60 enjoy passionate sex
If you express the essence of your mission in 8 words or less, then you truly understand what you’re writing about. You’ll be able to talk about your project in a way that editors, sales reps, and readers can remember.