E2A 005: Creating the Content Strategy for Your Book 

 May 4, 2021

By  Scott A. MacMillan

Now that you’ve decided to leverage your expertise throughout authorship, what are you going to write about!?

It's a world where content is meaningful, impactful. Content is vital.

In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, your host Scott MacMillan covers how to decide what to write about in your expertise-based, nonfiction book using a winning and proven content strategy laid out in his best-selling book Entrepreneur to Author.

Listen now to Episode 5 of Entrepreneur to Author.

Episode Transcript

Scott A. MacMillan: You're listening to The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, Episode 4.

Mike Manz: Welcome to The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast…the podcast that brings you practical strategies for building authority and growing your business. And now here's your host, Scott MacMillan.

Scott A. MacMillan: You set aside an entire morning. Your mind is clear. You're ready and committed to codifying your experience and expertise in a book. You're ready to write. You straighten your back, crack your knuckles and run your fingertips along your keyboard.

Scott A. MacMillan: Now, what do you write? Sure. Expertise, experience, positioning yourself as an authority in your field. Check, check, and check. But, just as we did an Episode four when we identified our ideal reader, we also need a clear and concise strategy when it comes to the content of your book, what to write about and how to lay it out so that the reader gets it and gets the most value from your experience.

Scott A. MacMillan: Let's really dig into this in this episode of Entrepreneur to Author.

Scott A. MacMillan: What to write about? It's a key question for every author. Content strategy. How best to deliver value for your reader and for you? Your content strategy focuses on what you'll write about and how it will stand out from other similar titles already on the market. A good content strategy will also make your book much easier to write.

Scott A. MacMillan: Your book subject. It sounds simple enough, but choosing a subject for your book can be both easy and daunting. On the one hand, you know your stuff so you could no doubt craft a fairly high-level content plan. But on the other hand, every subject has all kinds of tentacles attached to it. You could easily take any subject in many different directions. That's where an effective content strategy comes in. Think of it sort of like the viewfinder on a camera. It focuses your subject so that what's left is a well-composed work that includes only what is needed to tell the intended story and it eliminates extraneous information that doesn't serve the author's goal or the reader's needs.

Scott A. MacMillan: In writing your book, you want to be specific and detailed enough that your readers come away with real and valuable insights and takeaways, but you also don't want to overwhelm them or yourself, thus the viewfinder, thus the content strategy.

Scott A. MacMillan: Here's something you need to consider. This is important. Your subject sits between your reader's needs and your unique solution for those needs. But a subject is broad, is general. And a broad, general subject is hard to write to. So instead of a subject, I want you to think in terms of your book's central question. Simply put, the central question is the question that your reader has about your subject. It's the reason that they'll have any interest in picking up your book and reading it.

Scott A. MacMillan: Okay. Picture three boxes. The left-most box represents what your reader needs as it relates to the topic you're writing about. This first box leads to the second one. In the second box, your readers need is reframed as the central question your reader wants to answer when reading your book. And then, all the way to the right is a third box, the author's solution, your solution, your answer to the central question. There's a natural flow from need to question to solution. And that's important to understand. If you want to write a book that truly benefits your reader and positions you as a thought leader in their mind, then you need to understand this. We'll come back to these shortly.

Scott A. MacMillan: In 2021, there is a lot out there, lots of noise, lots of distraction, so much information to take in. There's only so much any of us can absorb, actually listen to, read or watch and still haven't land. There's a limit, period. And that's why this exercise is so important. By writing directly to what your reader needs, you cut through that noise. You turn your book into something that their brain will filter for rather than filter out.

Scott A. MacMillan: Here's a nugget worth remembering. When you choose a subject that squarely aligns with what your ideal reader needs, you'll write a book that they'll want to read, not just one that you want to write. That's the glue right there. What does your reader need? What are they looking for as it relates to your topic? What problems are they experiencing? Let's delve into that for a moment. What does your reader need? What problems are they experiencing related to your topic? What benefits does your reader expect once those problems are solved? And how can you most effectively tap into all of this to best help them through your book?

Scott A. MacMillan: Here are three areas to consider when it comes to your readers problems and benefits. These areas impact all of us. Health, relationships, finances. Fundamentally, these three areas speak to issues we all deal with and often obsess about, don't we? Everyday. Now, back to your content strategy. When thinking about your reader's needs, it can help to consider issues related to health, relationships, and finances, and ensure that the need you're focused on sits within one of these three pillars. If it does, then your readers are more likely to connect emotionally with your content. Now, let's tie this back into your book's central question. In light of your readers need, what question would they ask when seeking solutions to their problem? Now, this is where it's easy to trip up. When I asked first-time authors to turn their readers need into a question, I invariably get a carefully crafted long-winded paragraph that really tries to do too much. So put yourself in the mind of your reader. How would they phrase the central question? What would they type into Google? Keep it short. Keep it simple.

Scott A. MacMillan: Before going further, an example might be useful. Say you're a career coach, one who coaches employees as they're moving into new roles. You plan to write a book that addresses the need of your clients to, well, do well in their new job. How might this translate into a central question? Well, here's how it shouldn't translate. "How can I identify and engage stakeholders, properly set expectations with leadership, and identify and execute positive new initiatives to best ensure a visible success in role and pave the way for long-term positive momentum?" What? Nobody actually talks like that. When I hear a central question phrase that way, I know immediately that the author is thinking about themselves and all that they have to say on the subject, not about their reader and what they need.

Scott A. MacMillan: So how should we rephrase the central question? Remember, keep it simple. Keep it short. How about this? "How can I be successful in my new job?" Simple, short. That's really all the reader cares about. They just need to know how to prepare for their new job. So as we craft and catalog your content, keeping the central question top of mind works like a compass, or better yet, as a filter for your writing. It eliminates ambiguity. It gives your book focus. The central question really gets to the heart of how your book will serve your reader. With the central question clear, the next part of your content strategy to get equally clear about is your answer to that question, your solution. It's the meat of your book. It's what delivers or fails to deliver results for your reader, and by extension, delivers or fails to deliver results for you and your business. Put simply, your solution is your unique answer to the central question.

Scott A. MacMillan: There may be other books on that same central question and many more that cover the same subject, and that's perfectly fine. But your solution is what sets your book apart. It's what sets you apart. It's what sets your business apart as you solve your readers and your customer's problems better than anyone else can. A solution also provides structure, structure for your reader so they can understand it at a high level before getting into the detail, and structure for you so that you can break it down into its component parts and explain it logically.

Scott A. MacMillan: We talked about your solution in Episode three as it relates to your business and how you serve your customers. If the central question of your book speaks to the same needs your business solves for customers, and that's usually the case, you can almost certainly use the same structured framework as your solution for both. Now, if it's different, then what you need to do is ask yourself what your unique answer is to the central question and what are the major components that ladder up to that answer.

Scott A. MacMillan: Going back to our career coach example, the central question is, how can I be successful in my new job? How would you answer that question? In his bestselling book, The First 90 Days, Michael D. Watkins answers this precise question with his 10-step solution. One, promote yourself. Two, accelerate your learning. Three, match strategy to situation. Four, secure early wins. Five, negotiate success. Six, achieve alignment. Seven, build your team. Eight, create coalitions. Nine, keep your balance. And 10, expedite everyone. Watkins' solution answers his reader's question. It fulfills their need, it solves their problem, and it delivers the benefits that they're looking for. What's more, it provides a very clear structure for the book and clear marching orders for writing it. Your solution fulfills your book's promise to your reader by solving the problem they need help with. Isn't that exactly what you're doing? Leveraging your experience and expertise through authorship to help your audience solve the problem. That's thought leadership. That's authority building. That's how go-to gurus are made. It's a powerful pledge and it's a rewarding result.

Scott A. MacMillan: As we wrap up this episode...

Remember This...

Scott A. MacMillan: Where most aspiring authors conceive a general subject and then begin writing, that's a recipe for wasted time and effort and for self-indulgent writing.

Scott A. MacMillan: Instead, know thy reader and know the need that will drive your reader to seek out and read your book.

Scott A. MacMillan: Reframe that need as a question, the central question that your book must answer.

Scott A. MacMillan: Then, structure your solution, a solution that answers the central question and provide structure for you and for your reader.

Scott A. MacMillan: In short, develop a solid content strategy. And when you do, you'll be far better prepared than most others on the entrepreneur to author journey.

Scott A. MacMillan: I'm Scott MacMillan, until next time.

Scott A. MacMillan

Scott A. MacMillan is a speaker, international best-selling author, entrepreneur, and the President and Executive Publisher at Grammar Factory Publishing. He and his team help expert entrepreneurs write and publish books that build their authority and grow their business.

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