Today’s Topic: Do I have enough pages for a manuscript? Building content for your book…
What is it that takes people over the edge from thinking about writing a book to actually completing one? Generally passion and purpose are foremost. But, of course, there also has to be a drive to complete it with a strong reason to do so. And, once you are over the edge with purpose, developing content is key… But, how to you know if you have enough content to make a book?
People usually ask me: “How many pages do you have to write to actually have enough for a solid book?” Well… it’s actually not about pages, but more about word count.
Pages are kinda irrelevant since most word documents are 8.5 x 11” and a typical book page is about half of that at 6 x 9”. And with spacing and font size it can be hard to know what it will actually convert into. So, in the book world we go by word count. Generally most New York quality books are going to be from about 50-60,000 words. But, it’s pretty common many of my authors come in slightly below that at around 40-50,000 words. There is a website you can use to get an idea of how many pages you will have when done. It’s wordstopages.com. But, there are a few websites out there that will get you pretty close. In all reality you really could write your manuscript in a custom sized word doc at 6 x 9, but that might create some confusion for your layout artist and editor. There really is no need to do anything fancy because it’s all going to be converted by the layout person anyhow.
So, let’s say that you have a goal of reaching 50,000 words. How do you do that? Of course, I’ll go back to my first comment about passion and purpose driving you and in all reality, the more passion and purpose you have for your book project the easier it’s going to be to start generating content. In fact, you might just have so much that you can’t easily find a place to start. I’ll also say that starting in the beginning isn’t always easy, so start where you feel the greatest draw and passion and start filling in the rest from there.
If you love a subject then you should be able to talk on it for days. But, sometimes no matter how much passion and purpose we have for a topic, it can come right down to ego! Am I good enough? Is this a worthwhile topic? Can I make something of the subject? How many books will I sell? There are practical concerns of course, but again, where there is enough passion there is no room for ego. Passion should be driving you to completion.
So, I guess one might ask how you hone in on your passion or clarify further your purpose in order to not just write with passion, but to write intelligently about your subject. I believe it was Einstein that said if you are a master in something you should be able to bring things down to the simplest terms for explanation. Yes, I just looked up his quote and it goes like this:
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
And if you like that one, Einstein also said:
So, let’s piggyback on Einstein here and go with simple! Simple is a great place to start with developing content. One of the greatest ways to start is to just define high-level topics. If you had to do an infomercial or a speech about your topic then identifying the key points is going to be beyond useful later. You can develop talking points on these topics if you lay them out in a way that drives you deeper into subtopics of your overall subject. This is also great for defining content for webinars or interviews.
Now, of course everything begins with knowing your audience, and how to speak to your audience. You might have a very good understanding of your topic and a lot of passion but if you can't talk to your audience, you're going to get nowhere. So before you do any writing know who you're talking to and how you'd like to talk to them… What is your end result, are you trying to get them to buy into an idea? Are you trying to teach them something new, and have you clearly explained to them your mission or goals before you begin so they have a very clear understanding of where you're taking them.
If I told you that I was an expert in how to write a book, that would be good and fine for me too tell you what I am an expert of but, if I don't tell you how I'm going to help you write a book, then I have done you no favors and you're probably not gonna go any further with me because you don't know what you're investing your time in.
If I told you that I was going to make you a bestseller, and it was a guarantee, then I would suspect that was why you were hiring me, and you would likely expect, when you did hire me, I would give you all the secret sauce to make that happen.
Of course, if you’ve listened to enough of my podcasts, you know that I'm never going to teach you how to be a best seller because I don't think that's an important gauge for a self published author.
Even if you desired the coveted best seller tag, you're only going to get part of the success solution. The other part of the success is, what do you do with it? Why does anybody care if you're a bestseller? Have you thought about that? If your aim is to be a bestseller, then you have to ask yourself why. I believe most people think becoming a best seller is going to draw attention to their cause, but in all reality, it becomes the cause. How do you sell more books? You’ll get lost there and forget why you even wrote the book in the first place. Your time to market and sell yourself will take precedence over your other business-related activities that truly earn you an income. Book sales won’t - just so that’s clear.
So let's get back to generating content… How do you go about selecting your key topics? There are several ways you can go about this. If I were, again, to tell you that I am in an expert in how to write a book, then you'd probably want to know what the steps are. If you are describing a process, it's pretty easy to walk through all of the steps required to reach completion and that would be a pretty good subject for each of your chapters. In fact, that's exactly what I did when I wrote my Let's Get Your Book Published book. I walked through first describing how I was going to teach you and then walked you through each of the stages from the beginning to the end, and then how to do your sales and marketing once you have completed it.
I'm going to take an example of a recent clients book. The title of her book is Living Your Intuitive Genius and her tagline is going from surviving to thriving, while her subtitle is how to tap into your soul to heal your body, mind and spirit. She was a breast cancer survivor. I like how she put this together so that she can help anyone whether they have had breast cancer or not. She has 321 pages and 12 chapters with additional pieces like: a note to the reader, an introduction, and a final note, and in the back, she has a section about the author, and how you can hire her to speak at your next event or hire her as a coach. Her chapters are:
This particular client was not my client for coaching, I simply laid out her book. If I were her coach, I would ask her if she could speak on each of these topics. I would ask her what her favorite topic is to speak on, and I would ask her if she has identified her target audience, and if each of these topics relates to her reader. I would ask her if she had enough material for each of these topics to teach a webinar, to speak as a guest on a podcast, or to coach a client. Since she has a section to hire her for coaching, I would also ask her if she has built her coaching model into the book. In other words, does she have to spin her wheels after she has spent the time writing the book to also write her coaching model. Your book can actually be your coaching model. If you're taking the time to write a book, this is the place you're going to do all of your thinking and you only really have to do it once if you do it right. It doesn't mean you have to give everything away for free in your book but you should have some reference in your book to refer to when you are coaching clients or when you are speaking. You can hit on particular topics and then let people know you have additional detail available. They can read about it in your book and go further with coaching. Generally you're only going to get booked for 30 to 60 minutes to do a speech, so you can't talk about everything you have in your book but you should be able to reference back to your book.
The content that you put in your book should be re-purposeful for every place you're going to use it. If you're laying your book out in a way that is usable for other things and you decide later you want to expand on particular topics you can either expand that topic out into a workbook or you can write a new book on that particular subject. You might actually be writing this book to kind of get a feeler for what people like to hear from you and then get your next piece of material a little more fine tuned for that popular topic.
I'm gonna step back to the earlier referenced client book that I'm using as an example here and I don't know about you, but, all of these topics I gave you… Did they tell you what you were going to get when you read them? Are they vague or are they specific? Are they intriguing? Do you think these topics would make a good subject for a webinar? Would you know what you would get out of the webinar?
Did you know that the contents page is often turned to when someone is considering buying a book? A reader wants to know if this book will benefit them and how. I once had someone tell me that you can define the topics for the chapters by identifying all the big “ah-ha” moments. But, these might be a bit intangible. I want you to think about defining speeches, training classes, webinars, or podcasts. What someone sees on the contents page represents the foundation of your book but also can save you a lot of hassle and re-work when it also works for all other mediums where you present your information.
Going back to the sample book, I would assume — based on the contents page, that this was a book for self-improvement, self- empowerment, and I would assume I’d be shown how to be more intuitive. I might also see that I would learn to love, to stop resisting, to breathe, and manage my perception. I would have to gauge my interest on whether or not any of this applies to me and inspires me to read more.
In my opinion, there could be a bit more consistency in the titling. I might like to see this arranged in an order that tells me where I would start and where I would end on the journey to self betterment. I tend to see this kind of content in an experiential book disguised as a self-help book. I look at client books all the time so this is pretty typical. There is nothing wrong with this as every book has a different audience.
I know this author was a cancer survivor and she went through a massive transformation on her healing journey and she feels very compelled to tell her story and coach others to find strength on their journey. Cancer isn’t specifically highlighted here on the contents page. Perhaps that was intentional with the author. She does showcase this on the flaps on the jacket however.
When I first talked to this author she was a bit concerned with how content was represented on her cover and we spent a bit of time talking in generalities about her target audience. She had a book coach already so we didn’t walk through the entire book together. I would have liked to see a more powerful contents page and more clarity on what she is offering outside of her personal journey. When someone calls themself a “cancer thriver” I know there is a lot of emotion and experiential detail to her overcoming obstacles but I also want to know where I benefit as a reader. I don’t get the strong impression that I will be professionally guided on my journey, but rather that I will have an opportunity to gleam into someone else’s cancer journey and perhaps learn how she combatted her illness. To more boldly define the contents page I would also work to define a coaching system that tells me the author has really thought this through and has a viable program or approach to guide me.
I wouldn’t really be messing around if I had cancer. I’d want to know something I was gaining here was worth my time, especially because my time might be limited. I get the sense I would be emotionally supported but I’m not sure what else I would gain. And, let me make it clear that I’m certainly not beating up this author because her intentions are good.
So, when it comes to drawing up content for your book, hopefully you can see that it really just has to be purposeful. It has to be defined in a way that makes you a leader in your field.
If I were hiring someone to guide me on a journey to healing I’d like case histories of success. I’d want credentials. I’d want to know very clearly how I would be guided. I’d want to know what my personal journey looked like if I invested in the services for this coach and the materials in the book. I would assume this book is an opportunity to meet my coach and learn her journey and I would hope if I wanted her guidance she would have something further defined beyond the book to guide me. She would have to build trust with me.
The exact content I’d expect to find in the book would be dependent upon the authors approach but there is a big difference in telling someone what you can do for them and actually doing it. In fact, the content doesn’t even have to be blown out into a 50,000 word manuscript if it can be explained more concisely.
You see, when people ask if they have enough content to make a book it generally means they are simply lacking focus or self-esteem or they are unclear how a book will work for them. You should know exactly what you are placing in your book because it’s tried and true, because it has purpose, because it is meaningful, and all content should be there to support your purpose outside of the book. For this particular coach and her book, I would have aligned the content so that some of her story was told throughout the book, and I would make sure it doesn’t appear as a memoire simply because I know she wants to use it to step into coaching others on their healing journey. Ideally this book should be used to gain credibility and begin to transition readers into her training program. There would be no harm in beginning the training program right in the book. If she showcased her coaching program at a high-level in her book and got readers started down the road of healing they would feel indebted to her and likely wish to continue working with her in a student/mentor relationship.
Whenever you are showing a coaching model at a high-level you are telling your reader that you indeed do have a program and yet you don’t have to give away all the secrets in your book. You just want to appear as an expert on your subject and showcase your approach in a way that builds trust. When you can talk about your system and how it has worked for others with case histories you will let your audience know this isn’t your first rodeo. So, really, if you have an approach that’s working then you have enough pages for a manuscript.
Now, to be practical, you do really want to shoot for around 50,000 - 60,000 words. Some coaching systems try to tell you to have exercises in the book too, but generally you’ll really only need these if you’re having a tough time coming up with content. I’d call this “fluff” in a book really. In fact, you can write an entire workbook with exercises and it would actually likely be far more profitable than a hardcover bound printed book. A workbook is also a great tool to have if you are coaching because it will also let you know who’s serious about doing the work. They are ready to take things to the next level. In fact, you might even want to have a training program book and workbook that you offer only to your paid coaching clients once they sign up for mentorship. You’ve really got so many options beyond a standard random book you might write when you are clear and focused on how it will best be utilized in your personal and professional life.
That all being said, I’d like to guide you on developing out your manuscript. I’d like to help you align with your best approach when writing and producing your book. Please give me a call or text at (808)280-5559 when your ready. But for now… I will leave you with one last Einstein quote:
“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
I’m wishing you peace, love, and light. Have a blessed holiday season!
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