What’s the right way to approach writing a book?

Reader (and http://makemoneyonline.exposed listener) Jim W. writes in with a great question about writing and creating books:


I see you’ve written a few books. What is your approach to writing a book? Do you have a set process? If so… What?

I’m intrigued.



Excellent question, Jim! I do have a process that I follow for identifying a problem to write about, identifying the questions to answer, and writing your book. (If you want to share this article, “Write Your Book,” with a friend, you can use this link: https://kaidavis.com/write-your-book/)

This is a condensed version of few conversations I’ve had with coaching students, friends, and clients on how to turn their knowledge into a sellable book. This is the process that I follow (and recommend) for outlining an information product (be it a book, a course, or a video).

  • You start with a focus on the expensive problem you’re solving / outcome you’re helping the customer achieve
  • You go a level deeper into the specifics of the expensive problem (think of this as the ‘topic level’ outline)
  • You go a third level deeper into the specific questions that people ask about the expensive problem (think of this as the ‘question level’ outline).

Step 1: What’s the expensive problem?

Start by defining the expensive problem that the person who would be buying this is experiencing. There are a few ways to focus in on this:

  • Who is the target market for this product? (“Educational product creators” or “Professional Bloggers” etc)
  • What is the trigger that motivated them to seek out this solution? (“I just tried to follow an online guide and got stuck” or “A consultant told me to do X and Y, but I don’t know how”)
  • What is the expensive problem they are describing themselves as experiencing? (“I can’t figure out how to create course” or “I tried building a course before, but I got stuck and…”)

That expensive problem is the heart of what you’re teaching them how to solve.

Step 2: What are the 10 main subjects / topics that address the expensive problem?

Brainstorming on the expensive problem, what are the top ten (it could be more or less than 10, just aim for 10) topics or subjects that you’d want this product to address? These are questions that are part of the expensive problem, subjects that address a specific piece of the expensive problem. For example, I used this process to outline a book on “Blogger Outreach for eCommerce Store Owners”. Expensive Problem: Getting reviews on relevant blogs 10 main subjects (in no order):

  1. How this all works
  2. How to find blogs
  3. How do you qualify blogs once you find them
  4. What value are you providing
  5. How do you track outreach
  6. How do you manage the review process
  7. How do you follow-up consistently
  8. How do you build a relationship
  9. How do you automate the outreach campaign
  10. What do you write in an outreach email

Each of those is a topic that falls under the expensive problem of “Get bloggers to review our stuff”

Step 3: Turn subjects into chapter titles

Refine the list of subjects/topics you generated into first draft chapter / section / topic titles. They don’t have to be perfect, just refined from the first draft and ordered in what seems like a logical progression for the reader/buyer.

Step 4: Generate questions for each chapter

Write down ~5-10 questions that you can answer within that chapter that will help the reader better understand that topic For example, for the “Identifying Blogs” chapter, I came up with these questions to answer:

  • How do ‘Target Market,’ ‘Target Audience,’ and “Target Blogs” differ?
  • How do you identify your target audience and target market?
  • How do you find blogs in your target market?
  • How do you use Google to find blogs in your target market?
  • What’s a ‘reverse iterative analysis’ and how do you use it to find blogs?
  • How do you stalk competitors to find blogs?
  • How do you use an industry analysis to find blogs?
  • How can you use referrals to find blogs?
  • How do you use competitors reviews to find blogs?

Each question is a subset of the chapter topic and is one ‘fix’ or solution or concept that will help them better understand the topic and better solve the expensive problem.

Step 5: Generate an ‘Outline Chart’

You’ve got the expensive problem identified. You know the chapters you’re writing. You know the specific questions you’re answering in each chapter. Now, optionally, you can break this down into Trello cards, with each card representing a chapter, and each card having a checklist with questions you’re answering in that chapter.

For context, this is what this process generated for me for the ‘eCommerce Blogger Outreach’ book (PDF Mindmap). After generating that, my process was to tackle the questions as I felt like it, writing as much or as little as I needed to in order to answer the question. Once I had each question answered, then I’d go through a round of editing on the book to give it flow.

Step 6: Answer the questions

For the first draft, just focus on answering the questions piece by piece. You don’t need this to be a flowing narrative. You’re just focused on answering questions. Once you finish answering the questions, then you can go through an editing process to make everything flow better. At this point, you have a list of ~80-100 questions to answer that all relate to the Expensive Problem you’re solving for your ideal customer. Answering those questions gives you the meat of the book.

Would you like some quick, actionable advice on your business — and only pay by the minute? 

I regularly schedule calls to answer your questions using a service where you only pay per minute: https://clarity.fm/coaching/

Here’s what WJ Bae had to say about our recent coaching call:

I had a coaching session with Kai about my new MVP and how I should go about pricing and talking to potential customers, and identifying features I should work on next.

Kai understood where I was having the hardest problems and suggested action items I can work on this month. He helped me to confirm some of my ideas and also fix wrong assumptions I had in mind.

My time with him was incredibly valuable. Thanks!

— WJ Bae

Want to book a 1-on-1 call for some quick advice about your business, your book, or your product idea? Call me: https://clarity.fm/coaching/precall