Posts tagged writing how to books
I normally try to stay out of the whole traffic and marketing field. Instead, I focus on planning for success in writing books and eBooks. But I answer questions from my clients. (Yes, I really, really do that… me, personally).
And anyone who is writing books or eBooks is going to get into the problem of marketing those books. So I get these questions about how to market ebooks. Sometimes effectively disguised as planning for marketing and sometimes not so effectively disguised.
Today, I got an email from a client in South Africa. (You know who you are and no one else needs to know.) And frankly, it ticked me off. :mad: Not at my customer, but at some of the pseudo-gurus who’ve sold him a bill of goods. You’ve seen these [watch the language - ed.} or at least their headlines ... Make Money Quickly By Writing an Ebook. Books Make Money! Wealth! Fame!
Borsht! [okay, I'll let that one through, but watch it - ed.]
Can you make money with books and eBooks? Yes, you can. Especially with eBooks, now that Amazon and the Kindle are doing the marketing for you. Pick your keywords right, price your eBooks low (in the 2.99 – 9.99 $US range) and you’ll make some money. How much depends on a number of different factors.
And if you’ve got an existing business, you can use books and eBooks to make even more money. They can help you to sell product or services. In fact, they can create a reputation for you that draws high value to your business, while it’s gaining you new customers. So you end up winning both ways.
There is no question that writing books and eBooks can be the basis of a valuable business.
The problem is the promises that are made around that business. “I can show you how to make $10,000 a month in 30 days”. “I can have you selling $100,000 a year in 2 days” Right, we’ve all heard the claims. And in 30 days, they’ll have shown you how. Or sent you the eBook, which will take you about 2 days to read.
The result is that people like my customer end up putting the comma in the wrong place and end up believing that they can make a living on the internet. Which is fine if you have a job and aren’t looking for a way out of the dole queue.
The thing is you can make a living on the internet by writing books and eBooks. It is possible to build a real business. In fact, there are several ways you can do it. However, building a business on the internet is just like building a business anywhere. It takes time, energy and money. If you don’t have the money, you need to put in the time and energy. If you don’t have the time and energy, you need to spend money.
There is no free lunch.
And unless you’re insanely lucky, and very well connected — as well as talented — it’s going to take time to build your business. It isn’t going to happen overnight. You need to build relationships with your customers. You need to build relationships with your affiliates. And you need to build a relationship with your traffic sources. And building a relationship — any relationship takes time.
And it takes skill and knowledge. You need to know how to go about it. You need to create a system. You need to practice the system. Even if you buy a system for selling ebooks, you’ve written over the internet, you need to make it your own. You need to make your mistakes. Is it hard? No. But it takes time to learn how to write and market eBooks over the internet.
And that takes time, energy, perseverance and money. Not hype.
(I did tell you I was ticked about this … in fact, I’m so ticked I’m going to make my customer’s email the inspiration for this week’s blog posts. More coming soon!)
Welcome to a five minute presentation by LearningCreators. This is the first of three presentations on this topic. So what’s the topic?
It’s probably the most common problem my customers complain of … Finding the time to write.
Everyone has a slightly different cut on the problem … “I don’t have the time to write because I work all day” or “I have to get my kids to school and soccer and football and … ” or maybe it’s a matter of “I don’t want to start because I’m not sure people will want to read it”.
But there’s one common theme throughout this …
And that tells me there’s a problem.
You see there’s a problem with problem solving. And providing excuses is a symptom of that problem.
In order to solve any problem, you need to be solving the real problem. You need to solve the problem that’s underlying the stated problem. You need to drive down to the core of the issue.
In North America especially, we have a tendency to state problems in terms of one particular solution. And we have a tendency to focus on symptoms and panaceas rather than looking at actual causes and actual solutions. But that doesn’t help to cure problems. In fact, it leaves us chasing solutions to one symptom after another.
And that means if you look around you’ll find all kinds of “solutions” to the time problem. Everyone has a solution to finding the time to write.
For some gurus it’s “Figure out why you want to do this and that’ll carry you through”. All you need is to do is build up your desire.
And then there’s the new agey gurus “Visualize the result if you do it and magic will happen.” They believe that if you dream it hard enough the universe will just magically make it happen.
And then there’s always the disciplinarian in the bunch who says, “Shut up, sit down, write. And stop cryin’ about it.” They don’t exactly give you a lot of latitude in fixing the problem. But that’s okay ’cause they don’t exactly give you a solution either.
The problem with all those solutions is they don’t seem to work.
You try one solution after another and they just don’t sustain you. You still haven’t got the time to write.
So you go on and you try someone else who says basically the same thing in different words, and guess what. It still doesn’t work.
So you start thinking it’s your fault… or you give up entirely. Well, guess what?
It isn’t your fault.
You have a problem and no one has bothered to help you solve it. You need to know the real problem if you’re going to solve the problem. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
So what’s the real problem?
You want to write a book or create a course or whatever … but … it never seems to happen.
Well duh … I know it sounds really silly and simplistic. That’s because it is.
No one said the problem had to be hard. It just has to be the real problem and not a symptom or a solution.
The problem isn’t that you don’t have the time. The problem is that you want to write a book or create a course and it isn’t happening. You can’t seem to build the energy to start and finish it.
One potential solution is that you need to find the time. But it’s only one solution. And that means that even if you find the time you’ll may never actually finish your book. Why? Because you’ve fixed the symptom not the problem.
We need to get further in behind the problem . We need to explore the situation a little deeper.
It turns out that how much writing you do is a combination of five elements.
- Your desire to write
- The amount of time you spend
- How hard it is to write
- How quickly you can start
- How effective you are at writing
You can combine the last three together to make things a little bit easier to understand and work with.
We call the result the Work Equation.
The amount of work you get done is proportional to
- The effort involved in writing
- Your desire to write
- How much time you have to write
If you aren’t writing, you’ve allowed one of the elements to overload the function. Something — we don’t know what — is out of step with the rest of the function. The result is that you aren’t getting anything done. And you aren’t going to get anything done until you get all the elements into alignment.
So what’s the solution?
Well that’s the topic of our next 5 minute presentation. I hope you’ll join us again in for the next presentation. I hope you’ve found this presentation has helped you get a better handle on your own problems finding the time to write. And that you’ll join us for the rest of the presentations.
Next Session – Due Thursday!
Oh what the hey … I’m in PAIN!!!!!!
You see I’ve been working so hard and so long lately that my poor back is killing me!
And that lead me to write a new series on how to set up your office to write a how to book.
You see, one of the things that people forget when they are about to write a how to book is that they need to have a place to write. The same thing goes for creating information products in general.
So I’m going to share my experiences over the next two weeks or so on different issues related to the physical act of writing how to books.
However, I want to be clear right off the top that these are my experiences. Every one of us is different and you really need to think about your choices and why you are making them. So feel free to comment and disagree.
(BTW … I’ll be interrupting this series for a special announcement … so keep checking in even if you aren’t interested in setting up your office).
So what am I going to write about:
- The most important item in your office
- The second most important item in your office
- Where do you need to be?
- Paper, Paper everywhere … not any more.
- Sunshine came softly over my office today …
Sorry folks, I think I need to go take another back pain pill …
As always, if there is something special you want me to include just ASK!
Okay, up to this point I’ve kind of kept to just how to books. After all, my book and course focus on how to books.
How to Write Your How To Book in 24 hrs or Less
… sort of obvious eh?
But what is a how to book? It’s just a particular form or media to carry learning content.
In other words, we happen to be using it to teach but we could as easily be using another format for teaching the same material.
In fact, we often want to.
Two principle reasons … other forms are easier to learn from and easier to generate. Duh? So why are we even bothering with books? The answer is twofold. First, some people need to have it in writing in order to learn (actually a small but important percentage). But more importantly from the entrepreneur and consultant’s point of view, people value books more. Publish a book and gain instant credibility! A book needs to be one of the cornerstones of your expert marketing effort.
But that’s not the topic of this post. (Do some hunting … I’ve discussed it before and will again later.)
The point of all that is that some of the other types of learning content are like articles and blog posts. Short and quick and easy to get out. And really, really hungry for topics!Man they just chew topics like CRAZY!
So how do you come up with topics for these topic munchers. Now I’m not talking about the alternative forms of the material. That’s where the book is repeated in book, webinar, video and audio formats. I’m more talking about the small “articles” you’ll need around the topic for marketing purposes and blogs.
First start with your topic …. say writing how to books (self serving ain’t I?).
Then ask 7 to 9 questions about the topic that you think you’re audience might like to know. Of course, asking your audience is the best way to create this list. And easier too! But you can create your own list by adding words and deleting words. Start your questions off with How, why, when, where, what, who. Try to concentrate on the things that would be important to your customers/audience. Things like money are always important.
So let’s say I make up the following list …
- How do I write how to books?
- Why should I write how to books?
- When should I write how to books?
- Where should I write how to books?
- What topics should I write how to books about?
- Who should write how to books?
- How can I make money writing how to books?
- How can I make a difference writing how to books?
Once you’ve got that list, you’ve should be able to pick out at least 5-7 which are suitable. By suitable I mean small and reasonably tight. After all “How do I write how to books?” kind of covers the whole topic! But doing a short summary might work.
Now take that list and come up with some related questions your audience might have about the topic. Keep in mind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
So for example, if I take “How do I write how to books?” and expand on that I might get
- How do I write well
- How do I develop topics
- How do I determine chapters
- How do I create a content map
- How do I determine what my audience really wants
- How do I make money with books
- How do I edit books
I could go on but you get the idea. By the time you finish the second level you’ll have at least 49 topics. Now expand on those and you’ll be somewhere in the area of 343 topics.
See … there’s lots of topics. And I haven’t even mentioned the lists (top 10, 7 ways to, the 5 things you must know).
Of course, there’s one problem with this method.
Okay, two problems; the amount of work involved, and the fact that you may or may not hit the problems your reader is interested in.
If you ask your audience – and they bother to tell you — you’ll get a much better list of the problems they’re encountering. Address those problems and you’ll have a much better list of topics.
The key is getting audience involvement.
So over the last two weeks I’ve talked about the four types of books and why the Content Mapping System works for them – or doesn’t.
While the system isn’t a panacea and it doesn’t work for all books, it does work in most cases for how to books and why to books. In short, most non-fiction.
This is true because most non-fiction books are fact based regardless of their organization. Even if they are a simple collection, they still need to be organized. If they are a how to, they still need to be organized. So it doesn’t matter if they are sequential, fact-based or collections, they are still a set of facts that need to be organized. And the best system to do that is the Content Mapping System you can find here in video form (for free) or here in book form (not free).
A minor exception to the above rule is sequential based books. With sequential or process based books you need to add pretty pictures. In other words, flow or process diagrams. But the basic Content Map system works quite well and does allow for adding this type of information. (Yes, believe it or not it is a function of the tool. We don’t talk about it very much but it is part of the proper use of the tool.)
The major exception to the above are time based books. These are histories, (auto-)biographies and fiction. Because they are time based they need a tool which is time based … in other words a time chart based system. Sorry but the Content Mapping system just isn’t the right system for those books.
A couple of final comments.
First, an historical analysis is not a time based book. It is primarily a fact based book. Having said that you may want to use a time chart to help document the occurence of the actions which you are analysing. This leads to the second comment.
The system allows you to use pictures and diagrams when they communicate the information better than words. Don’t be afraid to use them! After all a picture is worth a thousand words. This also applies within your book. Sometimes words are not the best tools to communicate with. Sometimes pictures are. Never be afraid of diagrams. And don’t forget to use boxes … those little quick fact summary boxes you see in some books or at the side of articles. They help to seperate the book and to emphasize key facts.
So enjoy the Content Mapping System and learn to write books in less than 24 hours. Just remember that the system doesn’t work for all books, just non-fiction. It works great for how to books!
Enjoy, learn & get earning.
& the LearningCreators team
The fourth and final type of book is the collection.
What is a collection type book?
A collection type book is a collection of facts presented in a book format. Uhh… Okay, try this recipe books are collections. So are shopping catalogs. So are 50 best & 100 best and 500 best … add your own noun (dogs/cats/cars/boats/pirates … every one of those have been used).
In short it’s a bunch of short articles gathered together and presented as a book.
So what is the best way to organize such a book? Well, actually you have a choice.
One technique is to take a bunch of 4×6 index cards, write the title on the top, and then any facts. Then sort the cards. Viola!
Hey, it works! Elegant it ain’t and with a couple of major weaknesses.
A much better technique is the Content Map system. Start by filling out the Focus section at the top but do it on two sheets.
The first sheet will be the template for each of your articles. Remember that your collection book can be thought of as a series of articles collected and organized into a cohesive form. Now create the structure for your article. All the regular rules about arguments and presenting information apply. With one exception. The number of “chapters” doesn’t have to be exactly five plus two. You still need an intro and a conclusion and you shouldn’t have more than nine total. But the actual number of “chapters” can be whatever makes sense to you. Each of these “chapters” will become a section or paragraph for the book. The final step is to estimate how big (in words) each of these “articles” will be on average. You may find you want to write up a few “articles” to help estimate the average size.
Now take the second sheet. This will be your book itself. Just follow the usual steps for designing your book. However, when you write a topic which is an article, don’t bother to write up anything below the topic. Just mark it with a big “A”. Get fancy, put a circle around it if you wish! When you finish you’ll have the structure for your book. Estimating involves mixing the usual technique with the values you calculated above.
From there just follow the rest of the system.
So does the Content Map system work? Yup!
Have you wondered why we constantly repeat variations on the phrase
Writing How To Books
when we refer to our system?
There really is a reason.
When I originally looked at the different types of books, I categorized them into two types – fact & time. As you can tell from the first post in this series there are more. But fact & time are the two major breakdowns.
Most non-fiction books are fact based.
Fiction, on the other hand, is time based.
If you tell a story, which is what fiction purports to do, then you are describing something that takes place over and through time. This happened then, this happened now and this will happen.
Much of which is causally interrelated. (Hey, I like that phrase … one thing leads to another is SO overused don’t you think?)
Most non-fiction but not all. Histories and biographies (including auto-) are time based. They take place over time and while you may need to link the parts or explain the pieces or even make an argument, the defining characteristic is time.
Because fiction, histories and biographies are not a collection of facts but rather time based they require the use of a different tool.
Yes, the same issues exist. Information comes out of your brain in a disorganized fashion. It needs to be organized. The best way is with a structured brainstorming tool. So far cool. Exactly the same as fact based.
The difference is that the tool needed is a form of timeline (rather than Semantic Network Diagram). Why? Because you need to organize around the timeline and it’s interrelationships. Think of it as a Timeline Network Diagram with a few added bits. Why added bits? Because you still need to organize the facts you’ll state, and the arguments you’ll make.
That’s why we try to be so clear around our system. While the process itself is the same, the tool used is not. The tool we used is based around fact organization not time and facts.
So the question often asked is “Can you use the Content Map to design a fiction book and a biography?”. Surprisingly enough the answer is YES … Are you confused yet????
You see, the content map only works for part of the job (remember the added bits?). It isn’t the best tool for the job. A timeline based tool is.
That’s why we constantly say for Writing How To Books.
It’s not that the system doesn’t work for others … it’s just not the best system available. So why use it? Wouldn’t you rather use the best system for what you are doing? We would rather you did!
So the first type of book we’re going to talk about is the Fact Based book. There is a reason for that. It’s the type of book that our system of writing is best with.
It’s a good thing then that most How To Books are fact based.
So what is a fact based book?
As I’ve already said it’s your standard how to or why to book. In this type of book, the author concentrates on assembling and presenting facts (or opinions). Basically, think of it as an argument in the debating sense of the word. The author lays out a series of facts which make his point and convince the reader to do things the way the author wishes.
So why is our system the best method of designing and writing such a book?
First, the answer lies in the question. An argument is designed. It really doesn’t matter what form that argument takes – book, webinar, speech, debate – a well designed argument must be designed. It doesn’t just happen.
Second, a well designed argument follows a structure. A very flexible structure, true, but a single structure nonetheless. Specifically — intro, body, conclusion. Just like your teachers told you so long ago, “Tell them what you are going to say, say it, then tell them what you said.”
Finally, the creative brain doesn’t work well in structured ways. Rather it works by making connections, which can be totally illogical in their arrival.
So why does our system work so well? Because it allows you to generate ideas in arrival sequence but places them in a structured format. We do this with a technology called structured brainstorming and a tool called a structured semantic network diagram. Sometimes this is called a structured idea map or mind map. But SND is the proper (and generic) name. But call it what you will, you start off with unordered ideas and end up with a structured document.
Of course, to do this involved some 60 years of experience in multiple disciplines. And the whole process involves more than just the content map.
But the essence of why the process works for fact based books is in the content map.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for all types of books. In our next post we’ll look at a version that the system won’t work for. And give you some hints to a version which will.
Learn & Earn
and the LearningCreators crew.
If you’ve taken my free course on writing how to books (if not why not? Just go here – it’s free after all!) (or better still go here and buy my book on writing how to books), then you’ve heard my rant on when to use the 25 hour system. And when not to!
But I never really talk about the alternatives and why the system works (or doesn’t).
So that’s what I’m going to talk about in this little series.
There are four basic types of non-fiction books …
- fact based
- time based
- sequence based (or process based)
Over the next four days or so I’ll go into each of these in greater detail. I’ll talk about how to recognize each of them and the best technique to use for them. I’ll also explain why the 25 hour technique is (or isn’t) a good technique for them.
By the way, I did mention the video course is free ;) , didn’t I? (And taking the course will give you a special price on the book? :D ) So if you learn better by reading go here. If by video (or you want to save some money) go here.
Breaking the rules to improve your writing
After all the mistunks I made last article, I’m almost afraid to continue this series. But a promise is a promise. (Thank you Jim (axonaxis3) ).
So far I’ve given you a whole bunch of ideas or maybe rules on how to make your writing better. How to make it easier to read and harder hitting. How to be clearer and make your writing easier to understand.
Now I’m going to tell you to forget it!
Okay, I’m exaggerating. But like any rules, there are times you want to obey them and times you need to ignore them.
The key to writing well is to know when to obey and when to not obey. As a former girlfriend once commented about my writing “Now, that we are no longer in school, we are ALLOWED to break the rules.”
By the way, how many of you noticed how many errors I made last article. Lots more than you think! (I gotsta get me some sleep! Either that or an editor with a masochistic streak! ).
Write Like You Speak.
Okay … so where to start with this one. Your speaking voice is a part of you. It’s a combination of your personality, your history and your culture. Trust it. Listen to it. Write with it.
You don’t always have to be correct. After all, when we speak we are seldom correct in our speech. When we are perfectly correct, people tend to think we’re putting on airs. The same is true with writing. If we always write absolutely correctly then our own personality won’t come through. That’s great if you’re a technical writer. Not so great for a business or other type of writer where personality is part of what you’re selling. (Please like me. Pretty Please …).
On the other hand … if we write exactly like we um, you know, sortta speak sometimes. Well, you know, I don’t like to brag but it can end up in a bunch of, mmm, four letter words. If you know what I mean.
In other words … if we write exactly like we speak, our readers will start throwing things at us. Like a speaker, a writer needs to learn to eliminate the time wasters (umms, ahhs, etc) and the unlinked ideas. Sentence fragments are okay once in a while but not all the time (unlike speech). On the other hand, run-on sentences are also okay – once in a long while – but only very infrequently. Generally speaking, swearing is only acceptable within conversation (too many people are offended by its random use).
Use Shorter Paragraphs
Although not in the calculation, just as sentence length affects reading level so does paragraph length. Generally, the more sentences in a paragraph, the more difficult it is to read.
However, remember the intro, body, closing structure. Like the overall structure, a good paragraph should have an introductory sentence, a body and a closing sentence.
Should not must!
Use your paragraphs to help the reading. Short paragraphs read quickly. Especially when they flow into the next.
Keep long paragraphs for school. (And technical and academic writing).
Mix it up
One of the downsides of all this easy reading is that everything is short and quick. That’s why it’s easy to read.
Unfortunately, that’s also why it is exhausting!
After all, you wouldn’t run a marathon all out at sprinter’s speed, now would you? No, of course not. By the time you finish, you would be exhausted. The same is true for your writing and the poor reader. You need to pace their efforts. Give them a break where the sentences go on just a little longer.
Give them paragraphs where they can take a breath and not have to rush. Inevitably, these paragraphs will have a higher grade average since the number of words per sentence has increased. But by balancing the long and the short, by altering how you speak you can slow the reader down and give them a break without affecting the readability negatively. At least not too negatively.
In addition, one length is boring and insulting. Remember your “See Dick run” days? Now we laugh at it. There are two further problems with short sentences beyond the exhaustion aspect.
The first is the same sentence length time after time is boring.
The second is that if we write at too low a level – unless the content is REALLY, REALLY good – we tend to insult the writer. Generally, try to keep the writing around the grade 5-6 range. Below 3 begins to be insulting. Above 6 requires effort on the part of the reader to follow the thoughts of the writer. Try to match the grade level to the time availability of the audience (the busier, the lower the grade).
So I hope you have enjoyed the series. Let me know. This series was suggested by one of our students. If there is something you would like me to expound on please feel free to suggest away.
Learn and Earn