books

Unlike a Speech, the Opening Paragraph of Your Book is Critical

career - photo by John LeeI love going to free public speaking seminars: if the material isn’t good, I usually walk away with at least a good story. At one such event a few years ago, the leader let me deliver a five minute speech. His feedback was that my introduction had needed more oomph – he told me that I only had six seconds to capture the audience’s attention. I told him that advice was nonsense as people seated will take at times a few minutes to warm up to.  I know it’s important to have a good opening to your speech and that’s a topic in itself. But this isn’t about speeches, it’s about writing and that’s a different beast.

Why Most Self-Help Books are Garbage

I try to read at least one book per week. It doesn’t always happen, but I try. While I love sci-fi and other fiction, I always find myself drawn to non-fiction so the majority of these books are from the self-help category. I don’t know what it is that draws me in – perhaps the quick fix, answer to all my prayers, one missing ingredient that’s keeping me from my dreams – but I find them fascinating. I also find these books to be fun – sort of like a treasure hunt – as I search for those useful morsels that I can apply to my own situation.

But with more and more of these books hitting the stores each week, the quality of the books (and their material) has dropped significantly. I’m finding it more difficult to not only find useful information, but actually getting through the book. I’ve noticed that many of these books use a similar format – a breakdown of the content of their book into a few distinct categories. As you read along, you’ll probably notice that many of the recent books you’ve read use this very same formula. So without further ado, here’s the breakdown of major parts of today’s self-help books:

Can You Really Write a Book in Three Hours?

magic bookThere’s a piece of advice that I’ve seen floating around the internet that claims that you can create a marketable book in three hours or less. While the claim doesn’t explicitly say that the quality of such a book would get it on the New York Times’ bestseller list, it implies that the book might actually sell. While yes, it is technically possible to create a book in three hours or less, I question the value of such a product and in the three hours spent creating it.

So how does one write a book in three hours? Well all you need to do is speak into a microphone for three hours. That microphone can be attached to a recording device (including a computer with a recording program) so that you can ship off a tape, CD or MP3 file to a transcription service that will provide you with the text of what you have spoken. Or you could use a speech recognition product such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking
(I did an internship at Dragon years ago) that will do the transcription for you.

Review: Personal Development for Smart People

My friend Steve Pavlina recently published a personal development book which I recently had an opportunity to read. If you’re not familiar with Steve, he’s a video game creator turned personal development blogger who has made quite a name for himself. Steve’s website (StevePavlina.com) gets over two million visitors per month.