Michelle will present a workshop at NCWA’s Renewal Conference. See end of post for details.
In my practice as a counselor, I must identify quickly what my client wants to accomplish in my office. Do they need support? Do they need perspective? How about guidance? Or validation? I must listen to what they say they need- note it and keep in mind. I must also be astute enough to evaluate the need of which they are not aware. If I don’t, they will likely fire me, and I’ll lose a client.
I have the unique opportunity to study, to interview, and to walk a journey with unparalleled access to people’s deepest fears, desires and needs. I am deeply humbled by this God-given privilege. But just because I have this kind of access to the inner workings of human psyche and behavior, doesn’t mean I know Tiddly Winks about crafting a literary answer to meet the felt need of thousands.
I found that out while trying to find a publisher for my book.
By listening to the advice of literary agent, Les Stobbe at the NCWA Renewal Writers Conference, I found new direction. Les was one big reason why I found a publisher to take on my book. So when Les talks, I listen. In a blog post entitled “How to Overcome Publisher’s Litmus Test” he took on the ever- important but oh-so-illusive Felt Need.
He writes, “Unfortunately, a lot of writers tackle an article or a book because they believe they have something to share, overlooking that readers pick up non-fiction books because of a felt need in their lives.” I know this was true of me.
When I first started writing my book, it was because I needed to express, to create, to shout my newly discovered truths from the mountain top! But my shouting would be a sounding gong if I didn’t have the love to alter my focus from my need to share, to their need to hear.
The process of writing proposals, editors and agents meetings, and searching for publishers who wanted my book felt like a beating even on the good days. But, with each rejection I was forced to look at my blossoming audience and re-evaluate what they needed. It forced me to make my readers the priority, instead of my book. I had to ask myself, “What do they need, and am I doing a good job of meeting it?” And that’s not all. Here’s what I had to figure out:
1.Who has the felt need? This is the target audience. One of the best pieces of advice I was given, was to write to one person. Get in her closet, her kitchen, her journal, her phone, her head. Write to her with all the love and moxy you can muster.
2.What desperate need do they have of which they are aware? This is the felt need. Where does it hurt? Is your target audience hurting enough to look to you for a solution? How can you test your hypothesis?
Stobbe goes on to write, “Even responding to real need will not do—what readers feel as their need is your only gate to their intellect and heart.” So, let’s say you’ve written a book addressing humanity’s deep need for God. You and I will agree that humanity is desperate for an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, but do they know they need it? If they know they’re hungry, but they don’t know they’re hungry for what you have, they won’t go to your restaurant.
So how do you target your audience, and how do you recognize their felt need? Simple! You get to know them! Build a readership, a following- people who read your stuff and give you feedback. Talk to them, ask them questions. Engage them. Make yourself accessible. It is easier now than ever to get to know your audience through social media and email. There are more reasons for a non-fiction author to establish her platform than increased book sales.
Gaining audience means you are striking a chord, you are hitting a nerve, you are meeting a felt need! Good for you! Well done! You figured out who needs what, and you have the what! Congratulations! Now, write a book!
You did it backwards like me.
Don’t worry. You’re going to run into someone like Les Stobbe too, who will make you re-evaluate, re-write and re-visit until you hit that nail right on its shiny head. Until then, cheers to you, and all your writing relationships!
At NCWA’s Renewal Conference, Michelle and Laura Smith will be conducting: “Public Speaking Start to Finish.” Click the conference button on the right-hand sidebar of this page.
Michelle Hollomon, MA, LMHC, is the host of Relationship Coach Radio on the Alive in Christ Radio Network, and author of God Unwrapped. She is a licensed counselor in Redmond, Washington, a wife to one dashing man and mother to two sassy daughters. She has been a member of NCWA since 2010.
Michelle Hollomon, MA, LMHC, CPC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Professional Coach
Approved Clinical Supervisor • 425-999-9470
Bringing opportunity to any challenge.