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What to Include in Your Nonfiction Book

So you have an idea for a book topic, but you don’t know what to put in it. Maybe you have one or two topics you want to discuss in your book, but you have no idea how that’s going to fill out a book. Or, maybe you have so many ideas for what you could write about, but you’re not sure they should all go in your book. Whatever camp you fall into, what you need is something to help you decide, “Yes, this goes in the book,” or “No, this gets left out.”

In today’s episode, I’m sharing an overview of the framework that I use to help my clients plan their books and create detailed book outlines. First, I’ll help you get in the right frame of mind to help make it easier to choose what should go in your book and what shouldn’t. Then, I’ll give you some guidelines to help you brainstorm the ideas and topics you want to put in your book. At the end, you’ll be able to go out and write a list of what you need to include in your book that you’ll be able to easily turn into your book’s outline!



(This is a direct transcript of the episode. Please excuse any typos.)

I often get asked the question, “What should I put in my book?” I know of a lot of people who have an idea for a book, but maybe it’s just a topic or maybe they know of one or two things that they would like to put in it, but they may not have the entire idea of the book fleshed out. And this is particularly true for those of you who have not yet written an outline for your book can be a little tricky sometimes to figure out everything that you want to put in it. And so I went to help you out with that today. So the first thing that I think you should do is figure out who your book is for. And a lot of us even a sit one topic. You could write a book for two very different audiences and so to figure out what should go in your book, you first need to figure out who you’re writing the book for.

Because that will help you decide what you then need to put in the book. So if you haven’t yet, take time to write out a detailed Avatar for your book or a description of who your ideal reader is a for your book, and I’ll give you an example. So my first book was Yoga for runners. I then last year wrote a follow up book for that called map to pavement. And My avatars for those two books are very different. They’re all going to be runners who were interested in yoga. My first book, Yoga for runners is meant to be a very introductory book. It helps lead people into things. Matt to pavement sort of is the next step beyond what I talk about in Yoga for runners and it actually really dials in on the mental aspect of yoga for runners and how that can make them better runners as they’re mentally stronger runners and just sort of the tips and tricks.

But so again, my Avatar for my first book, Yoga for runners is somebody who is interested in maybe starting a yoga practice. They want to resist getting injured. Maybe they’ve been dealing with some injuries on an offer. Maybe they’ve just heard that yoga can be a really great way to help them be stronger, which will help them be a better runner in many different ways as well as helping them prevent injuries meant to. Pavement is different. It’s somebody who has either they’ve established a yoga practice somehow. Maybe they’ve bought my first book and they want to learn a little bit more about it in depth or maybe they are just somebody who has been taking some yoga classes at the gym and they know the poses, but they’re ready to kind of take that next step into yoga and see how essentially some of these next level strategies can help them be better runners.

So at first it seems like it’s for the same audience, but that second book is meant to be sort of a next level book. But if I tried writing or if I just had generally had this idea for the book and I wanted to write it for the same audience, while it would essentially be a chapter in my first book, it wouldn’t quite fit in. And so I needed to sit down and really figure out, okay, I have all of these ideas in my head about yoga for runners, how do I want to segment those out into different books or do I need to make them into different books? And so ultimately my answer was to that question was, yes, so for you, how can you apply this to your book? Again, it comes down to knowing who your ideal Avatar is. And so for Yoga, for runners, I knew that I wanted to write that book for somebody who’s just getting started, maybe they’ve taken a class or two, but really they need more help getting into things.

And so I had things to say, um, that were more next level ideas, but I didn’t want to overwhelm my readers of that first basic book. And so that’s why they got put in the second book. So likewise, is your book meant for beginners, for example, or is it meant for people who aren’t more of a next level and that can help inform you, okay, do I need to talk about this? Or is this something that my audience already understands? If it’s more of an intermediate or an advanced book, or maybe you do need to go into the basics. If it’s a book for beginners and these are just examples, but yeah, thinking through essentially figuring out the mindset that your reader is in and then keep that by your side as you look to figure out what you should put in your book. So really get into that headspace and then start to think, okay, what types of questions would this avatar asked me about what I’m trying to tell them about?

And so, you know, you might even if you deal with people or even a blog readers or followers on social media, you know, what kind of questions do you get from people who are like your reader Avatar and we, you know, how are you going to answer those questions essentially in your book? So ask those questions. Maybe even have a friend read over that Avatar and think through questions that they would want to have answered and include all of that in your book outline. But really I think you should approach what goes in the book from the perspective of your reader, what they need to know, what questions they’re going to have, what explanation they need to have, what terms they need to have defined, what concepts they need explained to them, and then also what stories can you tell or what examples can you give to effectively explain those ideas and those concepts and do you need to include more than one example to help them fully understand how they should be applying what you’re trying to teach them in that book.

And so once you have that idea of really what your reader needs to know, it’s a lot easier to then inform what needs to go in your book. So start with your reader in mind and then consider what questions they would ask you about the subject of your book. Even. Feel free to pull your audience and asking, you know, people who are at such and such stage qualify it so that they know if they are an ideal reader or close to that reader Avatar you have. And just ask them what they need to know about, what do they want to know about, what questions do they have, and you can use that to inform what goes in your book as well. Also know that your outline can be, you know, almost a living, breathing entity that it doesn’t have to be set in stone. Once you have the first draft of your outline, you can add to it and in fact you should add to it if you get some feedback that you need to explain something in more detail or that you need to add a section on this or that.

And even you can publish a second edition of your book if you feel like you hear that, oh yeah, people would love to hear more about this or that. And that’s honestly why I’m coming out with a second edition of that book. Yoga for runners soon. I’m currently working on it because I looked at the initial book and I knew from talking to my readers that, hey, I can actually even approve on this. So don’t be afraid to go through and edit things as well as to it. Get feedback from your audience, get feedback from some readers and just make sure that your book serves them well and gives them the information they need so that they can have that transformation that you want for them at the end, whether it’s learning a new skill or making some change in their life. Know what that point is that you want them to be at at the end of your book, and then figure out, you know, ask for some feedback and figure out what they need to know, what they need to learn to understand, to believe, to get to that transformation that you want them to have at the end of your book.




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Not sure what you should include in your nonfiction book? This framework will help you figure it out.