How to Choose Your Idea and Build an Outline
Here is step number one. How to choose your topic and build and outline. So before you choose what to write about, you need to decide why you're writing, and I know we already covered this a little bit, so let's kinda bang through this fast. Why are you writing your book? To attract new clients. To establish new credibility in your market, I know that's something that a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with when they're just starting off. They've got great ideas, maybe they have a long track record in the corporate world, but in terms of having their business and selling direct to clients or customers, they don't have enough credibility yet. Writing a book will do that for you in spades. Maybe you need to, you want to propose a new idea and become a thought leader. How many of you guys wanna be thought leaders? Yes, yeah and if you have any negative associations with that term, listen to my podcast episode with Dorie Clark because she really just lines, lays out exactly what a thought lea...
der is and why they are so important in this new economy. You might wanna differentiate yourself in the market, maybe what you have to say is on a topic that a lot of other people also weigh in on, but what you have to say is really different. Brit, I know that that's very true for you and I think it's true for all of you guys. Or you might wanna write a book just 'cause it's fun. That's okay too. I have a lot of fun writing books. It's one of, honestly, it's one of the most fun parts of my job, of my work and I use kind of those stolen moments, the airplane rides, the Saturday mornings, sometimes even the vacation time, right, those long weekends to write my books because it's so much fun, so if why you wanna write a book is for fun and pleasure, that is okay too. So then the question becomes, once you know why you're writing your book, what topic would help you achieve your goal? What topic would help you achieve your goal? Because I bet you guys have a thousand different book topics rattling around in your head. Especially if you go back through years of blog posts, or podcast episodes or videos or keynotes that you've done. There are so many things you could write a book on. But which one of those topics is gonna help you achieve that goal? So I want you to think about that for a little bit. Once you have your topic in mind, you need to refine it down to a diamond. It needs to get smaller and smaller and smaller because news flash, 8,000 to 10,000 words is not a lot of words. So you need to have that topic be as small as possible so you can really do it justice in 8,000 to 10,000 words. Don't write a book on marketing. Don't write a book on yoga. Don't write a book on writing. Don't write a book on learning. Write a book on something incredibly small. The kind of side effect of this, the positive side effect of this is that that's gonna get you noticed more. How many books on marketing are there out there? But there's only one book on social listening and observing your customers and turning that into ads and copy and headlines. That's my book, the Observation Engine, right? So you wanna focus on that smallest nugget, that little diamond of an idea that's gonna help you reach your goal and also be right in your wheelhouse. To do that, we're actually going to use the parts of the Book Proposal process. Now when you're traditionally publishing a book, you have to write a proposal, if you're a non-fiction author. If you're a fiction author too but it's very, very different. So if you're a non-fiction author you go through this entirely too long process of writing a book proposal. I have done this. My book proposal was more words than some of the books that I have published, gotten speaking gigs from, yeah, yeah right, it is too much work. We're not gonna do all of that, but we are going to use it as a way to refine our idea. So let's look at what the core parts of the book proposal actually are. First there's the overview, why it's important. Why this book is important, to the market, to the world, to society, why is this book important. And I'm gonna go through each of these parts in much more detail in just a minute. The ideal reader, who it's for. The market analysis. What other books is it gonna be compared with and more importantly, how is your book different from those books? Author information. This is always everyone's favorite part. Why should you write this book? Who are you to write this book? You better have a darn good answer to that and the good news is, that will also help your business a whole lot, if you can concretely say this is why I'm the right person to write this book, put this idea out to the world. Then you need an outline or a table of contents and that's just what's gonna be in the book. And finally, you need to write a sample chapter or an introduction, that's proof of concept. If you can't, in kind of creating your idea, creating your topic, write an introduction to this book, you haven't gotten your idea down yet. If you can't write a compelling, wow I need to keep reading this introduction, you are not there yet. So that's why I'm making it a part, that first chapter actually a part of today's work, of step one's work. So let's go into this a little bit more in depth. Again, the overview is why the book is important. In a traditional book proposal, what this really looks like is essentially an argument for, it's almost like a sales page, you guys know about sales pages or product descriptions. That's essentially what the overview is. It is a persuasive piece of writing that explains why this book is important, why it deserves to be published. What kind of results are people gonna be able to get from this? What kind of change are you gonna create for people who read this book? You need to be able to answer all of those questions. The second piece is the ideal reader. Sounds an awful lot like an ideal customer, right? That's cause it's the same thing. But you need to be able to say, point by point, who is this book for, who do you want to have writing this book, because who it's for is gonna greatly influence whether you're able to achieve that goal that you set for yourself, the why of why you're writing this book. So make sure you know exactly who it's for. Tell me about her, tell me about him, tell me about them. Be as specific as possible. If you have specific people in your audience that you have in mind, which is always a technique that I use, if you've watched my other classes, you probably know about the virtual focus group. I always have a virtual focus group for my books, for any programs that I'm creating, I have specific people in mind. If you do, write them down, describe them, that's gonna help you get in the right frame of mind for how to approach this book. The third part is market analysis. So what I want you to do is actually go into Amazon or go to a physical book store, if you actually have one of those around you and look on the shelf. What are the other books that kind of are similar, what other books would be compared with your book? Now here's the tip again, from the traditional process of this, you don't want the books that haven't sold. You wanna compare your book to books that have sold well, and of course Amazon makes that really easy for you to find out, right because you can go and you can actual look at sales information and you can say okay, this is the 500th most popular book in all of Amazon, which is really good. 500 sounds like a lot but it's not. Or this is the 25th best selling book in all of business or all of wellness, and so if you know that, then you can say okay, this is a book that's sold well, this is a book that people really liked, what can I learn from this book to influence my book. How did they format it, what kind of tone did they take? Sometimes you can actually borrow some of that, but then also, again, ask yourself the question, how is my book going to be different? Writing a book, just like creating a program or a course or a package for your services is this fun balancing act, fun should be in air quotes, fun balancing act between repeating what works, and standing out. So you have to balance those two things and the market analysis is gonna help you do that really well. You're author information. Why are you the right person to write this book? Why you? This is a really good opportunity to kind of get a little introspective, to go back down memory lane and think about all the things in your life, in your work experience that have led you to the point where you are now, wanting to write this book. This is an awesome opportunity to sort of mine your experience for stories, for specific accolades, for praise that people have given you that you can use to kind of reground yourself as an author to step into that mode as an expert, as someone with something to say. So don't just give me a bio. Make it engaging. Think about why you are the right person to write this book. Let me give you an idea of what I did with that. Kind of what my thought process was with that with The Art of Earning, and I will be completely honest, this process was not this solid for my very first book. But it's certainly something that I was thinking about at the time, so when I sat down to write that very first book, The Art of Earning, I was thinking about my unique perspective. I've never been somebody who had, or at that time, not been somebody that had tons of money sitting around, in fact I had grown up with a single mother who owned her own business and we didn't have extra cash at the end of every day. At the end of every month, or day, really. Yet, we still didn't hear no very often. We still didn't hear we can't afford that very often, instead we learned how to prioritize. And so when I was growing up, I had this amazing relationship with money. I was able to save money, I was able to spend money, I always felt really good about it, even when I was earning next to nothing, however, then I got a job with a company and I got a paycheck every two weeks. Well my money story went down the toilet. That whole transformation and then clawing back, my positive money relationship, that story, that transformation, or that dual transformation, really, was why I was the right person to write that book. That was something that people could relate to. It was something that added credibility to that book. So that's what I want you to think about. Think about those stories that you have that are going to add credibility, add engagement to the book that you're writing. Then you need to come up with an outline. You will not be successful writing a book if you start at the beginning and keep writing until you feel like you're at the end. That is a guaranteed way to fail. All right, so you need to have an outline. You need to have a road map, note to self, yes. Books are not written A to Z, right. I have written all of my books in very disjointed ways and then pieced them back together. Guess what, I'm gonna show you exactly how to do that. But to be able to do that, you need to have an outline. It doesn't mean your outlines needs to be set in stone. My outlines change and evolve as I'm writing, for sure. But you need to do, you definitely need to have an idea of where you're headed. And then I want you to write that introduction. In a traditional proposal, it's a sample chapter. Often they actually wanna see chapter one, not the introduction, or they wanna see both, for you I'm most concerned about that introduction. I want you to fee so solid on your idea, your ideal reader, why it's different, why you're the one to write it, on what your goal is for this book that you can write a jam packed, powerful, keep me reading late at night introduction to your book and I do think that that introduction should be a fresh piece of writing. And it might only be 500 words. But it should be a fresh piece of writing because it's gonna set the stage and create the context for weaving together the work that you've done to this point, okay? So that's your introduction. Your homework is to do this pre-writing. You guys remember pre-writing from school? Yeah I didn't talk about it that way, but we're gonna talk about it now. The proposal is your pre-writing. And it doesn't have to be in any kind of format. Mine is just a note in my Evernote, which I will show you tomorrow. So it's just that, it's just a simple, like here are my thoughts on each of these different areas. Do your pre-writing by creating the proposal for your book. And this is really a proposal to you. What is gonna make me wanna spend the time, the energy, the mental bandwidth. Cause if you wanna do this in a week, you probably have other engagements going on, right, there's other things on your calendar other than writing your book. It's okay if there's not. If you've carved out that time, I've done that before, I am not doing anything this week, I am writing this book, or I am writing this thing that I have to write. That's fine too, but most of us are gonna be stealing moments, we're gonna be waking up an hour early or we're gonna be going to bed an hour later, or we're gonna work through lunch instead of taking lunch off. Whatever it might be, so you need to propose to yourself why this is such a good idea. Plus that pre-writing really helps. And then I want you to write the introduction. That's your homework for step one. You guys have any questions? No questions? Well fantastic. All right, so if you are watching this at home, as the vast majority of you are, I want you to either tweet me or Facebook me and let me know why are you writing a book and why are you the one to write it? Why are you writing a book and why are you the right person to write that book? You can tweet me @taragentile you can also search on Facebook for Tara Gentile, just write a new post on my wall or leave a comment on some thread, I'm sure there'll be pictures and stuff up there that you can find but let me know those two things 'cause I love hearing from you guys. I love finding out what you're working on as we work through this together. You guys ready to do your homework?