Let’s start from the beginning.
- Know why you’re writing your book
It’s most important to have a solid foundation when writing a book. A lot of people feel as though they want to just sit down and start writing.
The truth is, that’s really not the best way to go about it.
I really like this metaphor:
You wouldn’t decide to drive to a specific destination and just get into your car without mapping which freeways to take and how to get there.
There are certain roads to take, turns to make, etc. (and the destination is rarely a straight drive down the street).
The same goes for writing your book.
The first thing someone should do is figure out what their desired outcome or specific goal is for their book.
When I say that, I’m not asking for answers such as “to help a lot of people” or “giving tips for how to get through this life event,” the list goes on…
These kinds of answers certainly have a humanitarian concern and that’s always great, but when I’m asking what your specific goal is, I’m asking what are you trying to accomplish for yourself?
Are you trying to write a book that can be used to get you speaking engagements on a particular subject matter?
If that’s what you’re looking for, you should write with that goal in mind.
If you want to get on TV and do media appearances to grow your authority because of your book, then you need to write with that intent.
We are past the era of generic business books.
You’ll be much better off writing about a specific niche that will show your authority in your space.
Ideally, every author wants to help their audience in some way through their book, but this part is about you.
Why do you want to do it for you?
Be selfish for a moment and consider exactly what you want to get out of publishing a book about your industry.
What’s in it for you?
- Know your audience’s main problem
It can be a really big problem or it can be multiple problems. The book you write will address this problem and solve it for the reader/help them solve their own problem.
It’s helpful to know your ideal reader or ideal client so you can use language that appeals to them. This comes in handy when writing the title and subtitle of the book as well.
The sooner you can hook them in and get them interested, the better.
A common technique is to create a customer/client avatar. This is usually one of the first few things people suggest to new business owners. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend that you take some time to map it out.
This person should have a gender, age, they should live somewhere specific, they have an education level, interests, and hobbies, etc.
Some of these things may not matter based on your book or business but there are plenty of questions to ask and details to iron out which can help you get clear on who your client avatar is.
I would also suggest asking yourself what kinds of books, blogs, and magazines your avatar reads, what social networks they use, and how much time they spend online.
This will help you find them.
You’ll also want to know what their frustrations are. We want to know what they can’t figure out or do on their own.
For example, if someone is writing a health book or a book on weight loss, a frustration for the reader might be that their clothes aren’t fitting right.
So the author can talk about how many of us have clothes we’re saving for when we get that last 10-15 pounds off but we never do.
That’s a client frustration.
There are also client fears. Their fears are more deep-seated so using the weight loss example, someone who’s going to pick up that book might have a fear that they won’t grow old enough to play with their grandkids or not being able to be as active as they once were.
These are things you want to think about because when you’re writing your book you want to communicate with your ideal client as well as possible so you’ll be able to incorporate all of their fears and frustrations into your book.
On the positive side, you’ll also want to take note of what their wants and aspirations are. Typically aspirations are the opposite of fears.
So if a client is afraid of having a whole wardrobe of clothes they can’t fit into, their aspiration would be to fit into all of those clothes and look better in them
The point of all of this work is that you’ll be uncovering the identity of your ideal client.
It’s also a great tool to come back to so you while writing your book you can continuously ask yourself, what am I doing? What expertise do I have? What magic do I have to share that will help people solve their problems?
- Create the skeleton
Before you even start to write your first sentence, I suggest you put the skeleton of your book into place.
You want the bones of the project to be strong before you begin putting nerves, flesh, and blood onto it.
Are you going to write a book about 4 major ideas and then go into detail across various chapters?
What exactly are you tackling with this book you’re writing?
In my book, we cover three main topics: publishing a book, promoting a book, and profiting from a book.
Do you know what the foundation of your book is?
This foundation starts with an outline, title, subtitle, and table of contents. All of these things become a great map for you to use while writing your book.
Let’s start with crafting the title.
All books have covers and titles so if yours isn’t attractive, doesn’t immediately stop someone in their tracks or speak to their problem, then they’re moving onto the next one.
When it comes to a title, I suggest something that’s 1, 2, or 3 words. Can it be 5 words? Of course.
But, if you can create a powerful title in just a few words, you’ll provoke more curiosity and more interest.
Malcolm Gladwell is a great example of this.
One of his books is titled “Outliers.” It’s a great one-word title. It’s direct, explains what the book is about and has now become part of our pop culture because of his book.
His other books include “Tipping Point” and “Blink” which are both just a few words.
I love how simple and clear the titles are.
Now I’m giving you a rule here… but rules are meant to be broken. You can have a fantastic 5 or 7-word title.
“How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
One of the most famous business books ever. You could do something like that and make it really successful.
This is just a general rule of thumb: the fewer words, the better.
After you have a solid title, it’s time to think about your subtitle.
If your title is short and really thought-provoking, you’ll want to create a subtitle that lists the promise and benefits of reading the book.
A tile sparks interest, a subtitle draws people in.
My suggestion is to write out a list of 5, 6, or even 10 benefits or solutions your book offers. This will help you find the best way to describe to your ideal client what problem you’re solving and how you’re going to do it.
Let’s go back to Malcolm Gladwell.
“The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”
“Outliers: The Story of Success”
“Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking”
In each of these titles, followed by their respective subtitles, he’s giving us the promise of the book.
Tim Ferris has a great one too…
“The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the Nine to Five, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich”
That’s a hugely benefit laden subtitle.
You can do the exact same thing.
Tim Ferris picked the three benefits to use in his subtitle that he felt his ideal client would find most valuable.
- Table of Contents
I have 3 great ways I like to organize a table of contents. There are plenty of other ways to do it, but these are the ones I’ve made up.
I call them logical order of progression, segmentation by content, and non-sequential questioning.
Logical order of progression is really quite simple.
In Ray Dahlia’s Book of Principles, Life, and Work, it’s divided into two parts. In part one there are 8 chapters and they document the time of his life.
It’s a linear step through his life.
Using this idea in your book could translate into the story of how you took your business from failure to massive suggests and sold it.
We’ve done a number of books like that for our own clients. It works. It’s a simple order of events. “This happened, then this, and then this…”
Next is segmentation by content.
A great example of this method is Stephen Covey’s famous book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
It’s segmented in a very specific way. There are four primary segments where he has organized the basic principles of his new idea and then goes into detail.
I do the same method in my book “Publish, Promote, Profit.” I talk about publishing in the first several chapters, then promoting a book in the next several chapters, and then the last handful of chapters is about making a profit from your book.
Lastly, there’s non-sequential questioning. This is best when you have a book that answers questions or deals with challenges someone might be facing, but there’s no natural sequence.
In a book like this, the reader can essentially open up to any page and get a question answered.
The goal is to address issues someone may have without them having to read the whole book. They might be interested in certain parts or sections.
This gives you a way to communicate to people based on the problems they have, even if there isn’t a natural order of chapters.
Many people come into writing their book thinking they’ll write their story and start “here” at the beginning and it will end “here” when I solve the problem.
That’s the easy way to do it and it probably isn’t the best way for you to communicate your magic to somebody.
Take some time to think about the best way for you to communicate this great idea you have so you really can help as many people as you can.
This is how you lay a great foundation for writing a fantastic business book. From knowing why you’re doing it to the subtitle, each part is important.