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 book, product, or course.

This is the process that I follow (and recommend) for outlining your information product and then getting started.

You start with a focus on the expensive problems, go a level deeper into the specifics of the expensive problem (think of this as the ‘topic level’), and then go a third level deeper into the specific questions that people are asking about that topic (‘question level’) to be able to quickly write something that prospects and customers find valuable.

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 a 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 subsets 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 a ‘[Content Type | “Book”] Outline Grid’

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

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.

But 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.

For context, this is what this process generated for me for the ‘eCommerce Blogger Outreach’ book (PDF Mindmap).

My process since then has been to tackle the questions as I feel like it, writing as much or as little as a I need to in order to answer the question.

Once I have each question answered, then I’ll go through a round of editing on the book to give it flow

Adapting This To Other Product Types

I used the word ‘book’ a ton here, but this applies equally as well to any non-book type of product:

  • Define the expensive problem that you’re solving
  • Identify the main subjects/topics that relate to that expensive problem
  • Turn the subjects into ‘module’ or ‘lesson’ titles
  • Write down 5-10 questions per ‘lesson’ that you want to answer
  • Write out the answers to those questions as the base material for the video/course/book/what-have-you

Scaling This Down To A ‘Freebie Offering

I think this works well to generate a Freebie Offering. To scale it down, what I’d do is adapt it to this:

  • Define the expensive problem that you’re solving
  • Identify the main subjects/topics that relate to that expensive problem
  • Turn the subjects into ‘module’ or ‘lesson’ titles
  • Write down 5-10 questions per ‘lesson’ that you want to answer to give the viewer the material they need
  • Pick one of the ‘lessons’ or ‘subjects’ or ‘chapters’ that you want to focus the freebie offering on (it should be one that the person experiences a ton of pain around. In the blogger outreach example, it would be ‘How do I identify these damn blogs?!’)
  • Pick three to five of the questions you wrote down and answer them
  • Write the answers to those questions
  • Turn that into the small freebie offering that solves one small part of one of the topics that fits into the Expensive Problem they’re experiencing

Am I explaining all of this well? Send me an email with your thoughts, questions, and feedback.