Have you ever wondered if you have a special story to tell or do you feel discouraged that it’s all been written before?
In part three of the AHA series, Kathi and Cheri Gregory are at Writing at the Red House, taking in all the delicious delights and revealing the secrets to finding your special sauce.
In today’s episode, you will:
- Learn WHY finding your special sauce is so important.
- Uncover how other authors in your genre can help you find your special sauce.
- Discover the parts of your story that are unique and will help you find your audience.
Take This Topic To The Next Level:
If you want to learn the basics of mapping your book, join us at Writing at the Red House with today’s guest, Cheri Gregory. Cheri will give you a step by step guide and share her expertise with you during this unique writing retreat experience. Click here to claim your spot!
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Transcript of this Episode
Read along with the podcast!
Communicator Academy Podcast #179
How to Map Your Book – Part Three
How to Find Your Special Sauce
Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Communicator Academy, where our heart is to equip and encourage men and women to become the communicators God created them to be. Joining me today from Writing at The Red House, is Cheri Gregory. Hey, Cheri!
Cheri – Hey, Kathi.
Kathi – Well, we are in part three of Aha! Moments for our Book Mapping retreat here. They just keep on coming. The hits keep on coming and it’s so fun to see all of these writers go from “I don’t know what I’m doing.” To “I’ve got a solid plan.”
Cheri – Absolutely. The other thing that keeps coming is amazing smells from the kitchen downstairs. I don’t know. This may have to be a really short episode, like maybe ten minutes, because I think lunch is coming up. It already smells amazing.
Kathi – Lunch is in 25 minutes, so we need to figure this out. I went downstairs to grab something, and I did a drive-by snacking. There was smoked gouda.
Cheri – The food has been so good and so fresh.
Kathi – You know, I eat better at Writing at The Red House than I do any other time.
Cheri – Absolutely.
Kathi – It’s super fun. We have really fresh, healthy salads each day. At least in the summer. In the winter, we tend to do soups and fun things like that. Roger barbecues.
Cheri – Looking forward to that.
Kathi – It’s the best thing.
Cheri – I feel so well cared for.
Kathi – Good! Good! Good! Good, ‘cause we’re having you back in June. You’re going to be doing a Book Mapping Retreat again. This one was such a success. So, we want to give our listeners just a little peak at what happens at Writing at The Red House and share some of the things we’ve learned. So, one of the terms that has now become a Red House standard is ‘finding your special sauce’. So, what that means, and I’ll have you elaborate on it a little, but what it means is, “Hey! There are only so many topics under the sun.” We all know the Bible verse, “There is nothing new under the sun.” So, you have to figure out what your slant on it is. This is how I phrase it. There’s a hamburger place that Roger and I have gone to that does delicious, amazing hamburgers. They also do Impossible Burgers.
Cheri – The only reason I’m smiling is because, suddenly, this episode is all about food, which makes me so happy.
Kathi – Yes. And, by the way, Roger is now all about the Impossible Burger.
Cheri – Really? I’ve never had one, so.
Kathi – Gasp. Carl’s Jr. serves them. He says they’re amazing, so I have to try one at some point. These are meatless burgers and he’s in love with them which seems like, “No.” But, if Roger says it, I believe it. Anyway, you can have a hamburger at this place, but what they do is, it can be an Italian burger, or a Mexican burger, or a Swedish burger. It just depends on what you choose to put on it, and what sauce you add to it. So, what is your special sauce? We have a couple of people here, writing on divorce, but you’re not writing on divorce. You’re taking a different angle. It’s not a divorce recovery book, necessarily, but what’s the angle you’re taking on it? There are a lot of ingredients that go into this special sauce. So, how has your experience been different than other people? You’re writing on mother/daughter stuff, so what would be what you say is part of your special sauce about why you’re writing on it?
Cheri – Oh, well. That’s been part of the journey. Figuring out what the special sauce is. It was interesting, because my editor has seen my first forty thousand words and she was surprised at how normal my family was. She said, “I thought I was going to read about this abusive, neglectful mother.” She was like, “I write about my own mother, and my own grandmothers.” So, I was talking to my writing coach and so it seems like one secret sauce is some of the under-the-radar stuff.
Kathi – That’s another person who’s ringing the bell who wrote 500 words here at The Red House. If you don’t know about that, we’ll have a link, so you know.
Cheri – So, part of my secret sauce is this teetering on the edge of, “Is it abuse? Is it neglect? Is it just normal disappointment from living in a sinful world, where I had these ideas of what a mother/daughter relationship should have been?”
Kathi – I can tell you the answer. Yes. It’s all of that.
Cheri – At some points, I feel like my story is too normal to tell. It’s not extreme enough.
Kathi – There were no wire hangers involved in my story.
Cheri – No. Absolutely not. So, tap dancing through that. Part of the secret sauce for mine, honestly, is the title “I Love You and I Hate Your Tattoos.” My secret sauce is that my daughter is about 70% covered with tattoos. So, for me, wrestling from a perfectionistic, legalistic background with a daughter who is pretty out there with the fact that she’s not going to be anywhere nearly as conforming as I was. So, there’s that little aspect that adds the extra kick to my secret sauce.
Kathi – So, for me, the last book I wrote is called Ready for Anything: Preparing Your Heart and Your Home for Disasters Big and Small. Really, it’s a prepper book. When you think prepper, I know you think Doomsday Prepper.
Cheri – You were wearing camo on Day One. I was a little scared.
Kathi – I was wearing camo. I love my camo. You know what? Green’s my color. It’s all good. It’s so interesting that I had to come up with my special sauce for that, and it was pretty easy, because I’m not an extremist. I don’t have a bunker. I don’t have a thousand rounds of ammo. I say that I am somewhere between, “I’ll just trust God.” and ten years of string beans. I do believe we need to be prepared, because life has shown me that I need to be prepared.
Cheri – Your secret sauce goes one step beyond that, because you want to be prepared enough to do what?
Kathi – Not just take care of my family, but take care of my neighbor.
Cheri – That is super-duper special sauce.
Kathi – Yeah. I want to make sure that I can be, instead of a burden, I can be a resource. That’s what I’m doing. So, what you, as an author, has to do, you have to figure out what is your special, secret sauce. And how does that differ from other authors in your genre. That’s the important question you need to ask.
Cheri – So often, I’m sure you hear this too from would-be authors, they look at the comparable titles out there, then they throw up their hands and say, “It’s all been written before!”
Kathi – Here’s the thing. There are some subjects that have been written to death. So, just because perfectionism was popular five years ago, editors are not looking for books on perfectionism, unless you have a super new angle. If you were an Olympic winning gymnast, and perfectionism, blah blah blah. Somebody wants to hear that story, but they don’t want to hear another perfectionism story from Cheri or Kathi. We’re done with that. So, think about that. What’s your hamburger? What’s your topic? What’s your special sauce? What’s your spin on it?
Cheri – I also talk to people who think that somebody else is going to figure out the special sauce for them. Like, if they get a book contract, the editor will read it and go, “Oh! I have found the ingredients for your special sauce! Here it is.”
Kathi – No. You have to know and be convinced of that before you start. What’s the quote you keep saying here through the whole retreat? I’m putting her on the spot, ‘cause this is what I do. It’s like, the wishier you are on what you’re doing, the more confused your reader is going to be.
Cheri – Yeah, I don’t have it here.
Kathi – Basically, that’s it. The more you leave it to, “People will just figure it out.”
Cheri – “The more uncertain you are, the weaker your brand will be. You need to make decisions about the people who will be most grateful to you for the solutions you provide.” It’s the understanding of the problem that has special sauce to it. It is the solution that has special sauce to it.
Kathi – Amazing. Okay, so first of all, you need to know what your topic is, and how you are different in that topic. Then, why you? Why should you be the author of this book? A lot of this goes back to your life experience. What God has done in your life; What others have done in your life; What you have done in your life. To be able to compare yourself to other authors who are in that genre and in that topic. Now, you say a lot of authors are afraid to do comparisons.
Cheri – I think comparable titles is so much fun now.
Kathi – I haven’t gotten to that.
Cheri – Oh my goodness. I think part of it is, I hear people still talk about it as competition. It’s like, “No!” It’s about figuring out what conversation has already been going on and where am I going to fit into that conversation? It’s like going to a dinner party. I’m not going to barge in and go, “Hi! I’m here! I’m going to start talking now.” I’m going to stand and get my little drink and my hors d’oeuvres and I’m going to listen and listen, and then, when the conversation opens up, and nobody else has covered this thing that maybe I’ve read, or experienced, or whatever, and I can tell that there is actually a need or an interest, then I’m going to find a really natural way to segue into the conversation. I’m going to put in my contribution and then, I’m going to pause and see how everybody responds. This is where things like social media can become so valuable. I’m sure you see this as you’re working with people. They want a hold their content close. They don’t want to share it with anybody. They’re like, “My precious!” And they’re going to someday share it with the editor that’s going to publish it. Rather, you put it out there, whether you’re at a speaking event and you put it into a message, or a Facebook Live, or a social media post. If nobody responds to it at all, guess what? It’s not your secret sauce. Or it’s so secret that nobody gets it.
Kathi – Yeah. There have been so many people who have crossed my path who think their angle is so important, but I’m like, “Oh.” Maybe it works for other people. I don’t find the energy around it. Then, come to find out, no, they were just trying to prop something up. You know, I’ve done it, too. Ugh.
Cheri – Sometimes you throw something out that, to you, is like, “Oh, this is just normal. This is just ordinary, everyday, breadcrumb stuff.” Then, I’ve had this happen on the stage, I’ve had this happen on social media, it was an aside. It was just something that came out of my mouth. Maybe it was like the Holy Spirit said, “Just add this in there.” And I’m just like, “Ah, this a throwaway.” And then everybody responds and you’re like, “You responded to that?” That may be your special sauce. That maybe the secret sauce. You didn’t realize that’s what’s actually adding flavor for other people.
Kathi – That wasn’t even the point! Here’s the other question about your special sauce. I think this is so important. What need has not been met on that topic? So, maybe there is a book about connecting with your kids, but is there a book about connecting with your kids after trauma? Or is there about connecting with your kids after their dad has left? So, what is the ‘and’? Where does your expertise lie? So, look at the books that have been written and kind of the peripheral books. Is there a niche or a super niche? So, I would say, prepping is a niche. Prepping your food supply is a super niche. Mother/daughter books is a niche. Four generations, that’s a super niche. So, see what’s out there. See what space has been left wide open. So that’s what we’re helping the people here at Writing at The Red House do. Figure out their niche, but then their super niche. It can’t just be a book on abuse. It has to be a book on financial abuse in a marriage. That’s a super niche. It’s a wide enough area that hasn’t been discussed that there’s going to be an audience for that. We’ve got some memoirists, here, and one has been a chaplain. The stories that she can tell. We had somebody who is talking about connecting with other people without getting run over. Well, it turns out that she’s an Enneagram 9, so is there anything written from the perspective of an Enneagram 9 about “How do I find my place? How do I hold my ground and still be who God created me to be?” Here are just some of the things that are coming out of here. I’m like, “I would read that book.” If you just told me, “It’s how to connect with people.” Couldn’t care less. I’ve read the books. I want something new, and I want to read a new book. Well, this retreat has been such a success as we’ve mentioned on the last couple of podcasts. We’re actually doing it again.
Cheri – Woohoo!
Kathi – So, June 28th, 2020 through July 3rd. Six days. You’re here on Sunday, you go home Friday, so it’s really five days, but it feels like six. If you are stuck in the middle of your book. If you haven’t started your book. Or, if you’ve got the words written, but you don’t know what to do, and you don’t know how to put it together, this book mapping retreat is for you. So, check out our page at WritingAtTheRedHouse.com and if this is hitting you, where you’re at, and there are spaces open, we would love to have you. I’m excited to take another group through this. We’ve learned so much from this group.
Cheri – This is the best kind of adult summer camp.
Kathi – It really is.
Cheri – Grownup summer camp.
Kathi – Yes! And we do s’mores! Yeah. There’s a night we’re doing s’mores.
Cheri – We’re doing s’mores?!
Kathi – I know. It’s very exciting. Well, Cheri, thanks so much for being here with me.
Cheri – You think you’re going to get rid of me, right? Think again. Thanks for having me.
Kathi – And friends, thank you for being here with me on Communicator Academy. You’ve the best message in the world. Now, go live it.
*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned item
Meet The Guest
Author, Speaker, Writing Coach
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes and speaks from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.”
Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life and the upcoming Overwhelmed.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (23), also opposite personalities.
Cheri blogs about perfectionism, people-pleasing, highly sensitive people, and hope at www.cherigregory.com.
Meet Your Hosts
Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO
Author, Speaker, Mastermind Coach