So you want to write a self-help or business advice book. Although these two genres have different audiences, well-written books in both types share one thing in common: the outline.
In this post, I’ll share some tips and tricks for a basic outline you can use to structure your book.
Start with an outline.
Outlines are an essential part of the advice or leadership book creation process. By creating a framework, you’ll know what to write about in each section. An outline will help you put together an organized, thoughtful presentation for your reader. And working from an outline will keep you focused on what you need to say in each section.
A self-help or business advice book that veers off message or meanders from topic to topic will lose readers’ attention. Your reader wants you to stay on topic so that they can get the advice and assistance they need as quickly as possible.
Here’s a basic outline formula you can use to help create your book.
The Super Basic-But-Functional Book Outline in 7 Steps
- Write the introduction for your book. Write about who you are and what makes you qualified to write this book. You might talk about your motivation and inspiration to write this book. Is it born of expertise or did it arise out of necessity, as you had to find your way through the problems presented in your book? Writing your introduction may also help inform the rest of your outline.
- Outline each section of your book. Aim for ten chapters at a minimum, and expand if necessary.
- Explain the problem or the “pain-point” in Chapter 1. Try to establish an empathetic connection with the reader by using sharing your own experience or the experience of others,
- In Chapter 2, introduce a solution to the problem outlined in Chapter 1. Describe how you came to this solution and offer reasons why this solution or method is effective. Begin to include real-life examples in this and subsequent chapters. Don’t rely solely on yourself to illustrate examples; use case studies or other anecdotal stories where others were able to use this solution to effect change.
- From Chapter 3 onward, break your solutions down your solution into smaller, step-by-step instructions. To keep these chapters exciting and provide context and relevancy, continue adding testimonials, case studies, and other real-life examples. Write each chapter to build on the previous.
- Decide if you want to have any exercises for the reader to help them think about the solutions presented and apply them to their situation. If so, go back and add them at the end of each chapter.
- Tie everything together and wrap it up with a positive note in your final chapter. Encourage the reader to begin using the advice and suggestions without delay, while the information is fresh and the motivation high.
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- What are the questions customers most frequently ask you? Those questions may make a near-perfect outline as you present answers to them in individual chapters.
- For business advice and self-help books alike, going in chronological order from beginning to end is often the most precise approach. What’s the first step needed toward accomplishing the goal? What comes after that? Keep going.
Once your outline is complete, it serves as a sort of road map to help you stay on track with creating the right content. It can be tempting to veer off into a detour (and it’s quite normal to lose focus at times), so I recommend keeping the outline visible throughout the writing process. Good luck and enjoy the journey!