Earlier today I read the best email I may have ever laid my eyes on.
If you get emails from Bill Platt you’ll have received it too.
And I’m not just praising it because he’s talking about my training.
Not denying I consider that a significant bonus, but that’s not the reason.
I talked to Bill and he said he didn’t do it on purpose, but the email he sent out showcased the point of “Nonfiction – A True Story” perfectly.
If you have received that email and haven’t read it yet, pause and go read it, then come back to read the rest of this email.
Bill has kindly allowed me to share his email with you here.
If you’ve been a subscriber of mine for a while you might have noticed that my product promos are usually fairly short. It’s something that I have to admit annoys me a great deal. The reason is simply that these short emails tend to sell better than the longer ones. And I’m not going to deny that matters. From time to time I like to send out longer emails that provide you with something you can go and make use of right away.
I write those longer emails for three reasons.
- I want to give you something you can enjoy (I hope) reading and feel you walk away with something that’s useful to you.
- I love writing them. It just feels great to send out a long email with a well-crafted (hopefully) message.
- Whenever I do send out those emails they usually contain a story that is carrying the message I’m trying to convey. I hope and believe that even a few months down the road those are the messages you remember.
The funny thing is it’s much the same thing I do when I teach in classrooms. The truth is most of the time the topic at hand can be summed up in 30 seconds. At least the parts they’re going to need for their final exams. “They” being the students of course.
I give them those pitches right before the exams. I know they have to spend a lot of time reading and studying the topics at hand to find the information they really need and I like to give them the essentials to help them do well.
However, sometimes there are more complicated topics that people need to understand and actually remember. Now, I teach IT to business school students who quite frankly don’t give a crap about IT.
That by itself is a challenge.
What makes it more challenging is that I actually have to make sure they understand what I’m laying down. And remember it.
Sometimes I manage to do that, sometimes I don’t.
The times I’ve been most successful, however, has been when I’ve employed storytelling.
For some reason, an obscure model called the “triangle model” had made its way to my curriculum. It was based on a scientific article on collaboration. The explanation of the model was so convoluted that I spent an excessive amount of time understanding the model myself. When my students read the article they became more bewildered than they had been before.
I tried working through the model with my students several times to no avail.
A few weeks prior to the end of the semester I was subbing for one of my co-workers in one of his classes. They were doing repetition and the topic at hand was said “triangle-model.”
During the break before the class, I was in the teacher’s lounge wondering what to do. I knew to go through the model the same old way wouldn’t work.
There was a fruit basket on the table. It had oranges, bananas, and apples…maybe more…it was a couple of years ago so I can’t recall everything that was in that basket 🙂
I picked up and orange and went into the classroom.
Inside the classroom, I went on to tell them a story about how 3 people would go on about sharing that orange between them. They would do so using the theory from the “triangle model” that I’d taught them so far.
Some of them giggled along the way, others rolled their eyes in disbelief.
Four weeks later I ran into one of the students in the hallway. She’d just been to her final exam. She told me she was quizzed in the “Triangle-Model.”
She got an A.
Now, I’m not saying the story I told was the reason she got an A, but I do know from what she told me that it made her remember the model better.
This is another classroom tale.
This time about workflows.
Workflows are an important aspect of IT development. You have to do things a certain way to make sure things get done right.
To illustrate this point I like to tell the story of how I prepare my kids’ lunchboxes.
How everything is done in the exact order it needs to be. Right down to shopping for groceries. This is always a great example that is easy for my students to remember. They’re adults so a lot of them have kids of their own. It all helps to make it very easy for them to remember how a workflow works.
Sometimes I even sprinkle the story with that joke I know.
Now, how does that relate to Bill’s email?
In my opinion, his email is a perfect example of how you can use storytelling to drive your point home. When you read it try to watch out for what he’s really doing. How he’s guiding you through the initial stages of the story. It might seem like he’s taking his good time, and that’s because he is. He wants you to relate to his story.
Then, closer to the end of the email, he delivers his point. I’m not going to spoil it, but the fact that he took his time getting there makes it much more impactful.
You can deliver the same point in just a couple of sentences. So why go out of your way to use thousands of words?
Sometimes you need to win your reader over. Sometimes a few lines telling the reader the main points isn’t enough.
That’s when a story comes in handy.
A few years down the road I’m unlikely to remember which products Bill talked about this week. Heck! There’s a more than fair chance I won’t remember next week.
I will remember the story he told. And by association, I’m more likely to remember the product he talked about.
That’s powerful. That’s something that gets people buying more products, books, refreshments, etc.
And not just down the line.
A story is the best way to get information stored in a person’s long-term memory. And it’s the best way to get somebody to make a positive decision.
Thing is the story is something we (mankind) have used since the beginning of time to share our experiences. To ensure that we learn from what others have experienced. It’s how we have been able to rise to the top of the food-chain so effectively.
Story permeates our society. It ties us all together. It’s a way for us to share our experiences. These days we perhaps at times share too much too willingly. (No. I don’t care what you had for dinner even if you are an Instagram “Superstar”)
But with a story, we are able to go beyond telling how something is supposed to be done. We are even able to do more than show how to do something. We are able to share the results of what happens when we do something in a specific way. And we make it easy for anyone to relate to what that could mean for that person.
This is important not just in fiction, however, that is what makes fiction so enthralling. Truly good fiction makes you relate to the characters in the story, after all. No, even in nonfiction it’s important. Often our books will have a strong message that we need the reader to “get.” We can do that with a story better than with anything else.
That is what makes Bill’s email so powerful. He doesn’t just tell you why it’s important to have an audience for your nonfiction books.
He provides an apt example of what happens when you don’t have an audience. Or even worse, when you have no clue if you have an audience or not.
And yes, not knowing truly is worse.
If you don’t know you might think you have an audience and continue to walk down a futile path. You’ll be wasting your time and now know that to be the case.
At least if you know there are no one reading your books you can do something about it.
That knowledge will save you time, money and a lot of heartaches. Because let’s not kid ourselves. Whenever we write a book we anxiously await the results of our efforts. As I’ve mentioned I’ve published more than 83 nonfiction books on many different platforms and I STILL wait impatiently to see the results every single time I hit that publish button.
And even though I’ve experienced both success and failure in the past it hurts when a book tanks.
It just does.
As it should.
If you don’t feel anything when you publish your work you need to stop. That’s the day you have to ask yourself what the hell you’re doing. You have to feel it.
And whenever you do publish a book you need to learn from the experience. You need to do this when you’re successful, but also and especially when you’re not.
You will experience failure with the books you publish. It’s almost impossible not to. However, you need to learn from your experience. And you need to learn from those around you. Whenever they do something that works you need to look at that and see if that’s something you can implement yourself.
The first thing is to make sure your books are ones that people will buy.
The second part is making sure that once someone has read your book they will go on to buy the next one you publish. That’s what story can help you do. Because once a reader is done with your book they will remember what you told them and be able to apply it.
Below you’ll find the link that leads you to “Connect-The-Dots Nonfiction Topics.” I hope that even if you’ve already purchased this you’ll forgive me for doing so. I still felt this message was useful to you. However, I’ve also placed a link directly to “Nonfiction – A True Story.” If you have purchased the main product you might now be considering learning more about storytelling in nonfiction. And maybe you’re not so hot on…erm…hot topics, but would love to learn more about storytelling in nonfiction in which case you’re now able to do that as well.