Can Death Cleaning Spark Joy?

One of the most challenging aspects of being successful in nonfiction is choosing a topic general enough to interest a broad swath of readers, but unique enough to make them think of the question in a new way so they’ll want to buy your book.

Take decluttering. I follow at least three decluttering blogs. My daughter says, “How about just cleaning instead of reading about it? Then you’d get it done.”

Yeah, but reading is more fun than cleaning!

Anyhoo, since there is SO much useful information out there in both blog and book form on decluttering, how does an author clean up?

Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is so popular that Kondo’s name has become a verb for decluttering. (I kondoed my house.)

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson is a recent release that’s caused some buzz.

While both books are about decluttering, they take different approaches to the problem of owning too much stuff. The main difference in the books, as I see it, is:

Kondo’s book says to eliminate possessions based mainly on whether or not they spark joy in your life.

Magnusson’s book encourages people to take a measured approach to eliminating clutter so descendants don’t have to.

Elements the books have in common:

  • Sharing ideas on how to deal with a widespread issue.
  • Labeling methods as originating in exotic countries.
  • Offering approaches that will seem new and different to most readers.
  • Reaching people where they live, both practically and literally.

When an author writes a nonfiction book, he must consider:

  • The number of recent books on the topic.
  • How the text approaches the subject.
  • Intended audience.
  • Which books on the topic are bestsellers, and why.

The author then needs to consider how his approach is fresh and new and if he has enough platform to reach a sizeable audience. Sometimes an outrageously great idea will supersede a weak platform, but ideally, the author will possess both a fabulous platform and a winning proposal.

So you’ve seen success with decluttering. What about your topic? How will you distinguish yourself and your book?

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