What’s the secret sauce to writing a great nonfiction book? Having a plan for a book that brings about a true transformation in your reader’s life. Readers of nonfiction books aren’t looking for fluff—they’re looking to improve their lives in one way or another. If you can help them make a positive change and get closer to a goal or a way they want to live their life, they’re going to love you (and your book) for it. But how do you create that book plan?
Today, I’m letting you in on a secret. I’m sharing the core components of my Fast Author Framework™, the process I take all of my private strategy and ghostwriting clients through to create a plan and outline for their books. I’ll walk you through the three steps that you should take to plan and write a great nonfiction book that your readers will absolutely love. If you’re struggling to get clarity on what you should put in your book, or if you’ve started writing but you’re unsure if readers will like your book, this episode will help.
Let me start by introducing you to the Fast Author Framework.
Like I mentioned in the intro, the Fast Author Framework is a system I developed over the course of several years, working on both my own books and my clients’ books. I took a good, hard look at the most successful and effective books, particularly when it came to content. Which books did the best job of helping their readers? Which books were the best at conveying a transformative core message to their readers? Each time I worked on a new book, I made sure to note what was really working well.
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The Fast Author Framework works so well because it’s a simple process to plan a book that creates a transformation for a reader. The best nonfiction books, the ones that help readers the most, are books that help readers make a desired change or solve a big problem they’re having. Instead of simply providing information, those books help guide the reader through a process that helps them get to a place where they want to go.
And, what happens when you help your reader undergo a real transformation with your book? They love you. They rave about your book. They become your number one fan and they tell all of their friends about you. You are the one who finally helped them bring about real change. You are the one who finally helped them get unstuck or overcome an obstacle. You gave them a much-needed transformation, and in the process created a loyal superfan.
So, what’s the Fast Author Framework all about?
I like to envision it as a map or a path. Maybe even visualize a Candyland game board, if you ever played that game when you were younger. There’s a clear start of the path, a finish point or line, and then there’s a winding path that connects the two. These are the three main components of the Fast Author Framework: the starting point, the finish line (what I call “The Transformation”), and the path from the start to the finish, what I call “The Reader Path.” When you fill in all three, you’ve got a great plan and outline for your book.
Let’s talk through each of those three steps in detail.
To figure out where you need to go, first you need to figure out where you are. That’s why the first step of the Fast Author Framework is taking a good, hard look at where your reader is right now. If you know where you want your reader to go but you don’t know where they’re starting from, it’s hard to give them the directions to get to the end of the journey (or your book).
Finding The Starting Point is often relatively simple for authors, especially authors who run a business. But, you might find that you could choose one of multiple starting points. For example, if you want to write a book about starting a business, maybe you need to talk about finding the right idea for a business. Maybe your reader has a great idea, but they don’t know where to go next. Maybe your reader has taken on a client or two, but they need help really launching their business and finding success.
Those are three very different places to start. And, the content for a book aimed at each of those three readers would be very different. That’s why it’s so important to take some time to think about The Starting Point. I know this one may seem obvious, but if you want to write a really good book and make the planning process easier, you need to do a deep dive into where your reader is at before they pick up your book.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you find The Starting Point for your book:
Once you’ve spent some time thinking about where your reader is before they pick up your book, write down a description of their Starting Point. Be as detailed as you can, writing down every nuance that you may have come to mind. Combined with a detailed description of your ideal reader (who they are and what they’re struggling with), your Starting Point will help you stay focused and ultimately plan a better book in Step 3.
The second step of the Fast Author Framework is figuring out where you want your reader to be when they finish the last page of your book. What transformation do you want your book to bring about in your readers? How will their lives be better because they read your book? The best, most powerful nonfiction books all provide some sort of a transformation. Even great memoirs inspire their readers to make some sort of a change, even if it’s just changing the reader’s outlook on life.
Think about your favorite nonfiction books. Why do you love them so much? Probably because they changed your life in some way. They might have opened your eyes to a new way of thinking, or maybe they helped you overcome something you’d really been struggling with. Maybe there’s a book that helped you grow your business or be a better spouse or parent. What do all of those books have in common? They gave you a transformation. They helped you become a different, better person just by reading a book. If you can do the same thing with your book, that’s incredibly powerful.
I know you want your book to have a big impact, which is why you need to spend some time thinking about the transformation your book will give your readers. Ideally, you should go deeper than “learning a new skill.” What will that skill allow them to do? How will the application of that skill bring them happiness, or some other desired result?
Think back to your Starting Point. Where is your reader stuck, and where do they want to be? At the end of your book, you want to transform your reader into someone who is no longer stuck and who has achieved their goals, or is at least one or several steps closer to achieving them. For example, if you’re writing a book teaching people how to get out of debt, you may not have helped them completely eliminate their debt by the end of the book. But, you will have helped them formulate a plan for how to get there, and hopefully you’ve helped them pay down a little of it by that point, too.
Another way to think about your transformation is this: what do you want your reader to feel empowered to do? For many of you, this may involve a big mindset shift that your reader has by the end of the book. That shift allows them to be ready to make real change in their lives. Or, maybe you’ve given them the confidence they need to take a big step, thanks to some knowledge they’ve gained or skill they’ve learned. If you can empower your reader and give them the motivation they need to go out and take action, you’ve set them up for success.
Once you know your starting point and your end point, it’s time to figure out how to get your reader from point A to point B. That’s your Reader Path. I find this method really simplifies planning what goes in your book. Instead of wondering about whether you should include anything and everything in your book, you focus in on only including what gets your reader closer to The Transformation.
For those of you who work with clients one-on-one, this process may be relatively simple. You probably already have a common set of steps that you lead your clients through when they decide to work with you. Yes, that includes those of you who create bespoke programs for clients: my guess is you still start out by finding out their problems, then you use a framework to find solutions to those problems. You can codify that process into your Reader Path.
If you don’t already have a method or set of steps you use for clients, that’s okay, too! You can absolutely figure out your Reader Path without one-on-one client work. It comes down to knowing your reader (which is why your reader avatar—your description of your ideal reader—is so important) and understanding how to coach them through your transformation.
Let’s look at an example. One of my clients, Alexa Federico, wrote an amazing book that has really helped her business, The Complete Guide to Crohn’s Disease & Ulcerative Colitis: A Road Map to Long-Term Healing. (You can listen to an interview I did with Alexa to learn more about her and how she wrote her book in Episode 47 of the Blogger to Author Podcast, “Lighting a Path Forward with Alexa Federico.”)
Her book takes readers who have been newly diagnosed and walks them through the basics of Crohn’s and UC. Then, it helps them navigate treatment options and ways to improve their quality of life, including stressing the importance of practices like self-care. Yes, anyone who has Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis is likely to benefit from her book, but Alexa thought strategically and decided to start with the absolute basics.
So, what would the planning process for Alexa’s book look like? Her Starting Point is someone who has just been diagnosed with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Her readers transformation is turning into someone who is empowered to take on their diagnosis, make decisions about treatment, and explore ways to manage their condition and symptoms.
From there, all she had to do was think about what her reader needed to do and learn to get from The Starting Point to The Transformation. She starts out with very basic information, including definitions and what’s going on in the body of a Crohn’s or UC patient. She continues, step by step, walking readers through what they need to know next. The end result is a truly valuable resource that readers love, and that has helped her grow her business as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and AIP coach.
I want you to work through the same process for your book. What’s the very first step that your reader needs to take to be just a little closer to their transformation? Then, what’s the next? You don’t necessarily have to have each step perfectly planned out. You might start writing and decide that Step 5 needs to go before Step 3. No problem! Cut and paste the section or chapter, then once you’ve finished the first draft of your manuscript, you can go back and make sure it all flows together in its new order.
If you’re struggling to figure out your steps, hit the pause button. This is when I like to encourage people to do a total brain dump. Write down any and every topic that might be of interest to your reader as they work from The Starting Point to The Transformation. Spend about 30 minutes to an hour writing down anything that comes to mind. Then, start to put things in order. Do they need to learn one thing before another? Do they need to realize or believe something before they’re ready to get started on another step? Sometimes you need to have all of the puzzle pieces on the table before you can start to organize them into the bigger picture.
Whichever method you choose to use, your goal at the end is to create a Reader Path that will become the outline for your book. Include as many details as you can—that’s going to make your life much easier as you work to write your book. Then, it’s time to get writing! Set aside time on a regular basis to make progress on your manuscript. And, don’t be afraid to repurpose any content you’ve already made! Blog posts, video and audio transcripts, social media posts, emails to your list, and any other content you have can help you increase the word count of your first draft quickly. You’ll really be on the fast track to finishing your book!
Now that you understand how the Fast Author Framework works, I really hope that you’ll put it into action with your own book. If you’ve already started writing and you haven’t done any planning like this, it’s okay! I’d encourage you to hit pause on the writing process and go through these three steps to make sure your book is really solving problems your reader is having. You can find ways to fit what you’ve already written into your new plan. If anything doesn’t fit, it would probably make a great blog post, social media post, or other content for your business, so don’t feel like anything has gone to waste.
I promise you that if you take a strategic view of your book and create a truly transformative experience for your reader, you’re going to be so happy you did! Your book is going to have a bigger impact on readers’ lives, and you’re going to help more people on a deeper level. And, your book will do better, too—word spreads quickly about a great book that actually helps people make a positive change in their lives. So, go make your book plan using the Fast Author Framework and write your amazing book!
If you give this a try and you get stuck, or if you’d just like someone to guide you through the Fast Author Framework one-on-one, I can help. Sign up for a Book Mapping Session with me and I’ll help you write an amazing outline for your book. I’ll also bring my skills as a developmental editor to the table and help you shape and create a book that serves your reader and helps you stand out as a true expert in your area of expertise. Learn more and sign up on my services page.
And, make sure you’ve subscribed to the podcast, because I have a great interview coming up for you in the next episode! I’m talking with business coach and #1 bestselling author Christine McAlister about how she wrote and self-published her book The Income Replacement Formula, and how she used that book to take her business to the next level. She’s a great example of exactly how a self-published book can help you solidify your expert status and grow your business. Make sure you tune in if you need some inspiration for your book, or if you just want to get some great tips from Christine!
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