3 Methods to Strategize the Content for Your Self-Help, How-To or Business Book


Expert content is delivered within a solid framework with a signature system, proprietary process, or method that leads the reader to a specific goal or outcome. People like systems. Step-by-step methods give readers a direct path to the solution. Without a system, delivered in a solid framework, readers may become lost, lose interest, and fail to achieve results.

When planning prescriptive nonfiction content, remember to think in terms of steps, processes, systems, keys, strategies, formulas, or methods. Follow these 3 steps to create a “Quick Reference Chapter-by-Chapter Outline”:

  1. Identify and list the main ideas that will prove or demonstrate the compelling idea (each main idea will become a book chapter).
  1. For each main idea, list three to five topics (or more, depending on your subject) that support, clarify, or expand on the main idea.
  1. Expand upon each topic by adding 3 to 5 points (or more, depending on your subject) that support each topic (if necessary, you can add sub-points and even divide sub-points into additional sub-categories).

(To create your Quick Reference Chapter-by-Chapter Outline you can also use the “Chapter-by-Chapter Content Outline - Quick Reference Guide” included in the Expert Author Workbook.)

3 Methods to Strategize the Content for your Book:

Method 1: Your Signature System

Your signature system or proprietary process is a series of steps you guide your clients through to achieve a specific result or outcome. The system delivers the solution or message in a distinct method.

If you already have a proprietary process or system that you use with clients in your business, or you’ve designed a course, a workshop or a training program, or developed a signature talk related to the book’s subject, you may be able to extract the content from one of those sources to create the main points.

If you have not formally designed a process or method, you can follow the steps below to outline a signature system.

6 Steps to Outline Your Signature System

  1. In chronological order, list everything you do, or each step you walk your clients through, to achieve the specific outcome. (You may end up with 20 or 30 steps that you will edit or combine.)
  1. Review the completed list and determine which steps fall under the same category. Sort the list into 5, 7, or 9 main categories.
  1. For each category, ask what is the first thing that a client must do to achieve the outcome: what realization, what awareness, what action must be taken? Now list the exercises or sub-steps that support this main step.
  1. Play around with the steps until everything is in the right order. You should now have 5, 7, or 9 main steps with sub-steps or actions to follow to achieve the main step.
  1. Name or label each main step with an action word or phrase.
  1. Name the entire system, blueprint, process, or formula - see if you can create a word, acronym, or series of words that start with the same letter to make it memorable. The key for the name is that it’s a results-driven name. It identifies the solution or outcome of the process. Examples: The “Booked Solid System” and the “Speak to Sell Method”.

In his book, Book Yourself Solid, Michael Port presents his “Book Yourself Solid System - the fastest, easiest, and most reliable system for getting more clients than you can handle even if you hate marketing and selling.” His system has 3 modules: Your Foundation, Building Trust and Credibility, and Self-Promotion Strategies. The third module has 7 steps referred to as the “Book Yourself Solid 7 Core Self-Promotion Strategies”, which are Networking, Direct Outreach, Referral, Web, Speaking, Writing, and Keep-in-Touch.

Method 2: Mind-Mapping

Mind-mapping or clustering is a form of word-association or brainstorming. It is a technique that allows you to get information inside your head out onto a piece of paper so you can visualize your thoughts. When creating a mind-map, you quickly write all the words and phrases you associate with a specific keyword or key-phrase.

  1. In the circle in the center of a blank piece of paper, print the subject of the book (for example, if you are writing a book on the subject of marketing your business using the Internet, you might use the key-phrase: “Internet Marketing”).
  1. Moving quickly, draw a dash-line from the key word circle to one of the outlying circles and scribble down the first word or phrase that pops into your mind (for example, “social networking”).
  1. Now draw a dash-line from that word and jot down the next word that comes to mind (for example, “Twitter”).
  1. Repeat this process until you’ve run out of word associations. Return to your keyword or key-phrase and repeat the exercise. Continue mind-mapping until have created 10 to 12 main ideas.
  1. When you’ve finished the first sheet, transfer each individual main idea to a new blank mind-map sheet. These are your individual chapter themes.
  1. Repeat the mind-mapping process with each sheet to create 5 (or more) topics for each chapter and 5 (or more) points for each topic.

The key is to move quickly through the process, without censoring yourself or thinking about what you are doing - just let the creativity flow.

Method 3: Outline Chapter Themes

If you still have difficulty strategizing the content, consider each main idea as a chapter. Each chapter has a main idea and a specific purpose and topics that support the subject or theme of that chapter. Write what each chapter will be about (this is the main idea) and then make a list under each of the chapters of what the chapter will cover, these are your topics (and points).


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