Why you should write a private and public purpose statement for your book

purposeBy taking some time to really think through the purpose and scope of your book project and why you are really doing it, you will not only be happier with the process and product, but when you are ready to start writing, you’ll be more successful, says faculty and productivity coach Susan Robison, author of The Peak Performing Professor: A Practical Guide to Productivity and Happiness.

Start by writing a private purpose statement that spells out your reason for writing the book and that will guide you on a day-to-day basis, she says. Your private purpose statement might be something like, “I want to declare my expertise in… [fill in the blank].”

“A very important motivation for me in writing my book was leaving a legacy,” says Robison. “So I actually wrote out exactly what that legacy meant. I wrote about how the book and its content and the controversy it might stir up would live way beyond my life expectancy with other writers reacting to the book and doing research, and graduate students and faculty using the book, etc.”

Once you know your private motivations for writing the book, write a public purpose statement that will serve as the 15-second sales pitch that you will give a prospective publisher. You should be able to say your public purpose statement quickly and succinctly, she says. This statement will also be printed on the back of the book, on the book jacket, in the introduction of the book, in the preface, or in the first chapter, depending the type of book. “You’ll know it’s the author’s purpose statement because it will begin with, ‘I wrote this book because…’ and then you’ll see something like, ‘…the students just could never understand calculus the way it was taught in olden days, so I’ve invented a new method’,” says Robison. “It might say, ‘I wrote this book because very few people know what life was really like in Germany in the Second World War.'”

This is the purpose statement on the back of Robison’s book jacket:

“Drawing on research from the fields of neuroscience, faculty development, work productivity, positive psychology, and resilience, The Peak Performing Professor is filled with techniques, strategies, and practical tools for managing the complexities of academic life while maximizing professional potential.”

This article is based on a webinar Robison presented for TAA members. Listen to the podcast.


Susan RobisonSusan Robison is a former professor of psychology and department chair at the Notre Dame of Maryland University. She provides faculty development and productivity coaching at higher education conferences and on college campuses. Her mission is to help faculty increase their productivity and work-life balance. Her book, The Peak Performing Professor: A Practical Guide to Productivity and Happiness was published by Wiley in October 2013. Visit her website Professor Destressor.


What is your book’s public purpose statement? Share it in the comments section below.

About Kim Pawlak

Kim Pawlak is Director of Publishing & Operations for the Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA). She has been writing about the textbook and academic authoring and publishing industry for 20 years.