If you want to write an effective nonfiction book you’ll need to learn persuasive writing strategies to entice your readers to take action.
Providing your services face-to-face requires that you convince clients to adopt your viewpoint and take steps toward it. But when your ability to persuade is limited to the written page, you’ll need to develop a new set of skills to make up for the fact that your expressions, tone of voice and body language are no longer part of the equation.
Fortunately, there’s a lot of expertise in the nonfiction world on how to use persuasive writing strategies to bridge this gap. Let’s summarize them below.
Why Do We Use Persuasive Writing?
When you identify a problem your readers have and you want to help them solve it using your knowledge and expertise, you have to consider it likely that many of them tried different solutions in the past that didn’t work.
As a result, your audience’s search for a solution will probably be tinted by a healthy dose of skepticism. Now, the fact that they’re still searching means that their problem is persisting, but in order for them to choose your solution over others, you’re going to have to be good at communicating persuasively.
First, you’ll have to take the stand that your solution is unique from any other and that it’ll produce the desired result where others have failed.
Then you’ll have to build your case using the best available arguments to convince your readers of the uniqueness of your solution. You’re going to have to back that up with proof in the form of research, data and perhaps the support of a known authority in your field. You’re going to have to counter your reader’s objections and you’re going to have to convince your readers to take action.
This process isn’t dissimilar to the dynamics in the world of advertising, where persuasive writing is one of its most valuable assets. In fact, since the publication of the seminal book The Theory of Advertising by psychologist Walter Dill Scott in 1903, human psychology has played an outsize role in the development of persuasion techniques, and with good reason – in order to influence someone’s decision to take action, you’re going to have to involve their psychology more than their intellect.
How Do You Persuade Readers?
Before you can persuade your readers that they need to adopt your solution, you first need to dig deep into their psychology. You need to find out what their fears, challenges, hopes, dreams and goals are. You need to walk in their shoes, empathize with their plight and understand their motivations.
In short, you have to clearly figure out what their needs are, sometimes even more clearly than they understand them themselves. Why is that? Because their decisions are highly influenced by their worldview and if you don’t know what their worldview is, then you’ll have a tough time persuading them to side with you.
Fortunately, luck is on your side because chances are, if you’ve been in business for years already, you’ll have developed a deep understanding of the psychology of your clients. It’s this knowledge that will allow you to incorporate persuasive writing into your book in a way that’ll produce results.
How Do I Become a Better Persuasive Writer?
In order to transition the persuasion techniques that you naturally developed in your business onto the written page, you’ll first need to become acquainted with the persuasion strategies developed in the field of advertising.
What Are Effective Persuasive Strategies?
Let’s borrow the top ten strategies from the world of advertising and apply them to your nonfiction book:
Strategy #1: Authority
People automatically give more credence to figures of authority. Try to mention support of your solution (or at least the foundation underpinning your solution) by someone who is widely recognized in your field. Coming from their mouths, your arguments will be much more convincing.
A good example is highly popular diets and nutrition programs. It’s often celebrities who make them popular, but their credibility comes from the authority of the doctors or nutritionists who originally developed them.
Strategy #2: Power of Story
Story telling is one of the most widely used methods of persuasion in advertising. The most successful ads, whether in print or in video, are based on the power of story telling to affect people’s emotions and motivate them into action. Purchasing decisions are primarily driven by emotions, and story telling, if well done, can open a direct portal into people’s hearts.
Strategy #3: Exclusivity
At a primal level, humans are tribal beings. There’s something alluring about being part of a group, especially the promise of belonging to a select group that is free of the problem your audience has. Portray your solution as an opportunity to join an exclusive group.
Strategy #4: Being Relatable
People will find it much easier to identify with your viewpoint if they can relate to you. Those ads where a parent tells other parents (the audience) the merits of a product are more persuasive than if it was the scientist who developed the product doing the talking. Whenever you’re trying to influence your audience you have to appear as an equal and show you have the vulnerability to reveal your personal struggles to them.
Strategy #5: Power of Logic
Another powerful persuasion strategy is to present your case with facts and figures that cannot be disputed by logic. Your goal is to establish beyond the shadow of a doubt that your solution simply “makes sense.” Clear logical arguments backed up by facts are very hard to refute and are very easy to embrace.
Strategy #6: Testimonials
This strategy is an extension of Strategy #4. In order for people to make a commitment or a purchasing decision, they first need to hear from other people they can relate to. Client testimonials are an extremely powerful persuasion tool and should be used throughout your nonfiction book in the form of client stories and client case studies.
Strategy #7: Fear of Missing Out
This is a relative of our primal tribal tendencies: we just fear being left out of the tribe. While this strategy is used to great effect in advertising with techniques like time limited offers, it’s something that could also be used in the context of your nonfiction book by highlighting the uniqueness of your solution and the benefits your audience will miss out on if they ignore it.
Strategy #8: Micro-Commitments
This is a powerful persuasion strategy that entails asking your audience for a small “yes” first, something that they can easily agree to, and then scaling up through slightly bigger yeses until your audience is conditioned to be open to the big “yes” at the end of the book.
Strategy #9: Trust
People are much more easily persuaded to buy from those they trust than from those they don’t. Here you have the upper hand because as the author of a book you’ll be perceived automatically as an expert, which translates into implicit trust.
Strategy #10: Urgency
A sense of urgency is a great motivator to take action. Depending on the level of pain experienced by your audience, some topics will lend themselves to this strategy more than others.
Here are some examples of topics where urgency can play a big role for persuading audiences to take action: health, fitness, activism and certain time-sensitive financial investments.
To help you develop your persuasion muscle, here are some questions you can answer as you develop your book:
- Is the thesis you’ll be presenting to your audience clear in their eyes?
- Do you have solid reasons why your solution is better suited to your audience’s needs than other solutions?
- Do you have well-thought-out reasoning to overcome key objections to your solution?
- Do you have evidence to back up your claims?
- Have you developed a good understanding of your audience’s viewpoint? Have you put yourself in their shoes?
- Do you fully understand your audience’s pain points and what triggers them?
- Do you have a good set of testimonials to use in your book?
- Do you have a number of client stories and cases studies that best exemplify your solution?
- Do you have a clear closing argument with solid reasons for your conclusion?
- Have you anticipated questions about your solution that you audience may have?
Persuasive-Writing Words and Phrases
Here are some typical words and phrases from persuasive writing that you can use as a reference or as writing prompts:
- I believe that…
- Do you really think…
- Just think about…
- What would happen if…
- This will cause…
- This will mean that…
- Do you want to be part of…
- For that reason…
- You can see how…
- To this end…
- On the other hand…
- In spite of…
- In particular…
- With this in mind…
- As a result of…
- In conclusion…
- Equally as important…
Persuasion strategies are central to nonfiction books of a problem-solving nature. Although in the world of adverting the goal of these strategies is to sell you something, the use of persuasion strategies in your book isn’t meant to be that overt.
Persuasion can be used in your book for a more holistic reason. Throughout the course of your book you’ll be empathizing with your audience, you’ll be feeling their pain, establishing a strong connection and finally taking your audience along a journey of discovery where your solution will be slowly revealed.
In parts of your book you’ll use story telling through the power of narrative writing in order to create an emotional connection with your audience. In some parts you’ll paint pictures to help your audience absorb information better through the power of descriptive writing. In other parts you’ll use expository writing in order to establish your credibility as an expert and earn their trust.
But in the end, unless your audience puts your solution into action, your book will be no more than a reference manual that’ll sit on a shelf most of the time – it won’t be enacting meaningful changes in your audience’s lives. That’s the reason you need to master the science of persuasive writing: so that your readers can actually benefit from your solution.
The strategies, questions and prompt words and phrases in this article are here as a guideline so that you can understand the power of persuasion to enact change in people’s lives. In order to get good at persuasive writing, you’ll have to put them to practice.
For your persuasion to be truly effective, it has to be delivered in your own voice. Persuasive writing devoid of personality will feel manipulative and deceptive. But when mixed with authenticity, it becomes a very powerful device in your writer’s toolkit.
There’s nothing more alluring for a reader than an author that they feel understands them deep inside. An author who has their best interests in mind. An author who inspires them to act through well constructed and reasoned arguments.
It’s this ability to move people into action that makes great problem-solving nonfiction such a powerful agent of change.
All the best on your writing journey!
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, printing, distribution and marketing.