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You have the conclusions. Your first instinct for your chapter outlines will probably not be what you should end up with.
Every chapter of Dream Teams went through a half dozen different outlines. I diagramed out the overall concept map for everything I decided probably needed to go in the book. This is probably the least awesome way to describe my book. I eventually simplified the diagram to something prettier, a higher-level abstraction of the concepts that I was really writing about and this one was the most helpful for the organization of the chapters :.
I used different colored sticky notes for. And then I put them up in different combinations on every window, mirror, or wall I encountered, moving them around and re-considering them until I had an outline that looked like it would work:. Next, I did the Snowflake Method for each Chapter.
Breakthrough teams fight, but they do it the right way. Crafting the narrative that gets the reader to care about all this stuff you want them to learn. I co-wrote a whole book on how to tell great stories. But I will briefly summarize my book storytelling process here:.
I get asked rather frequently how I find the stories I end up putting in my books to illustrate the research and principles I want to get across. I generally look for stories in two categories:. So, my story-finding process generally goes along two tracks:. In that case, I tend to search for less-known stories about people who are pretty famous.
I liken this to when I was a teenager and started skateboarding; suddenly every piece of concrete looked like a skate park.
How I Wrote My Dream Book: An Outrageously Detailed Guide
To be honest, I usually start reading Wikipedia summaries about tons and tons of people who I suspect might be interesting examples. The other way I find stories is through interviews with real, live people. Then I go interview those people and ask the same question until I find a story that really grabs me. For instance, in Dream Teams I have a chapter on women detectives.
For it, I interviewed criminal justice professors whose work I found on Google Scholar, etc. I took these referrals and interviewed a whole bunch of amazing ladies. One of those ended up being a woman who happened to be the 1 marksperson in the FBI. And she happened to have an amazing story of thwarting a mafia boss in the s early in her career and soon after they started letting women become FBI agents. Many J. I do this kind of story structure analysis with any article or movie or TV show that really gets me going. Abrams, and weave it in with the story of a rap group almost killing each other in a recording studio.
Nowadays when I write, the stories come last. Whereas I love the stories the most, the research and thinking needs to come first. There will always be stories to put meat on the research bones. T his is the point where I think authors should start seriously thinking about the way they will position their book for maximum sales and marketing appeal.
You have the ideas, the research, the concepts. Now you need to figure out what the final package is going to say to people.
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Ryan Holiday , whose been a guiding force for my book writing and marketing for years, advises in his wonderful book, Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts , that book marketing starts with the manuscript itself. My theory on book marketing can be summed up by this chart I made here:.
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The title and subtitle matter a great deal for Conversion Rate, which is how many people out of will buy the book when they see it. He says he originally wanted to title the book, Negative Self Help. That book would have sold about 3 copies. The book title was particularly difficult for me this time around. I ended up making giant spreadsheets of potential titles and bothering friends and acquaintances for their opinions on them for MONTHS. Basically, I knew that getting the positioning right was important to do early on, but I started too early. But I show you this to illustrate how important it is to really work on getting the title right.
For a long time, I decided I wanted the title to be The Plus Ultra , based on an apocryphal story of a ragtag group of geniuses at the turn of the 20th century banding together to solve world problems. I even mocked it up to see how people liked it.
That was the one. Blast that handsome man. The subtitle was more straightforward.
ADVENTURES & GUIDES
More of an art. I interview an author every month on my blog to get theirs! For a little over two months, I would write for 14 hours a day from Monday to Friday, travel to a new city on Saturday, rest and explore on Sunday, then repeat. At this point it was just about typing, not about thinking.
So my goal was to put myself in a scenario where I could do as much of it as I could. I find that I can pretty much do this with just coffee. My actual chapter assembly process is as follows:. Want to see this in action? I took a screencast of me writing the first draft of Chapter 4 of Dream Teams:. Every chapter was titled like this:. Every day when I started work on a chapter, I would save a copy of the previous draft as a new version 1. Whenever I was ready to submit the chapter for people to review, I would save it as a major draft e.
But editing is not a solo process, of course. So every time I had a major draft, I would loop people in to help tear it apart and build it up again. One of the best pieces of advice about the book process is something my agent has said more than once to me:. He advised me to think of myself as the CEO of the book. So you need to manage the process, rather than be managed by it.
So your job as the author is to collect feedback and edits and take them seriously. For the sensitivity readers and other friends who were just reading and not editing, I actually used Contently Docalytics to host the manuscript pages. Just have them identify the problems. So suggestions will tend to be less-informed. I spent 3x as much time revising as I did writing.
P eople judge books by their covers. The cliche that says otherwise is advice, not what people actually do. Remember my diagram above? The conversion rate of how many people buy your book depends enormously on whether the title gets them or not. Thus, I am really feisty about my book covers. My first goal is for the cover to stand out in the sea of other books out there. My second goal is for it to not make me look weird, since my book cover will follow me around for the rest of my life. For that first goal, I found the most useful exercise to be to take the book cover mockups my publisher sends me, and photoshop them onto Amazon search results pages to see how much it stands out:.
Notice there is not one, but four Dream Teams covers in this. Fun fact: the book that stands out the most to me in this screenshot— Originals by Adam Grant—well, we ended up getting the designer of that cover to design the final Dream Teams cover. I explained how I used them earlier, but just for summary:. I love Blackwings so much I actually have one tattooed on my inner arm:.
But making the book is only half of the battle. Maybe even less than half of it. Even though most of the time will be spent alone, a book requires lots of collaboration. Lean into that. Include people in your process. Invite their critiques. Bounce your ideas and arguments off of everyone you can. Workshop the book together. Do that and, dare I say it, you might just realize that your book was built by your own little Dream Team.