3 tips to create your business book content outline

I often hear the phrase ‘I’ve always wanted to write a business book about ……’ to which I respond, ‘Great. Have you created an outline of the content?’ The answer is usually no and its one of the main reasons why only 1% of the 87% of people who say they want to write a book actually do.

Most people who want to write a business book start by thinking about what they want to write, what they want to tell/share with the world. For a business book though it’s critically important to:

  1. Have a clear idea about who you think will want to read what you are writing (your target audience);
  1. Create a compelling, clear and concise concept of your book;
  1. Develop a detailed content outline.

Get these three elements right and you’re way ahead of most business professionals who talk about writing their book.

1. Who are you writing for?

Knowing your target audience is critical as it will have a significant impact on:

  • what you write
  • how you write it, and
  • how much you write.
Construct a buyer persona for your book

Buyer personas have been used in consumer marketing for decades and now they are often termed avatars. Simply explained, they are a thorough exploration of who your ideal customer is: just who is going to buy your book. Understanding, deeply, who your potential book buyer is, will provide you with clarity and focus when you start to plan and write as this is the person you’ll have in mind all the time.

It might take you several iterations to get this right. Dive deeply into who your ‘ideal reader/customer’ is otherwise you might just be writing for a mythical person or, more likely, you’re not targeting your messages and efforts to the right people.

Here are some key questions you should work through.

What is their job/position and their

Are they an employee, consultant or self-employed?

Are they male/female?

What industry associations/organisations do they belong to?

How often do they attend business-related events/conferences/seminars?

How old are they? Are they single, married, have children, have a mortgage . . .

What’s a normal work day look like?

What do they do in their spare time and how much ‘spare time’ do they have?

What are their interests, do they travel and if so to where?

Do they read, and if so what and how often?

There are many more, and you can probably create these yourself.

The more you know about your key target group and more effectively and efficiently you can focus your content on them, their challenges, interests, motivations etc.

2. What is the concept of your business book?

You want to write a business book to share your knowledge, use it to help build or maintain your profile or that of your company. To achieve this you need to be very clear about what it is you have to say that is different, meaningful and will add real value to the reader.

An excellent way to think about this is to turn the discussion around and focus on the customer.

  • What specific problem are you going to help them solve?
  • Why is your solution/insight different from all the other books, blogs, websites out there already?
  • Why would someone buy your book, read what you have to write, listen to you?
Capturing the concept of your book

When you’re writing your book, what you are aiming to do is pass on knowledge and information the reader can relate to. You need to paint a picture of the context of your knowledge, the challenges readers face, and the fresh perspective you bring to this that will help them solve this challenge.

Your book concept should be no more than 400 words. As Einstein said, ‘If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough.’

Five tips for capturing your book idea
  1. Start your business book description with a statement that’s an easy ‘yes’.
  2. Remind them of the challenge that stands in their way
  3. Paint a picture of the future – Imagine if . . .
  4. Show them that this picture of the future already exists (with your knowledge)
  5. Share why you are excited about this (yes, share your emotions).

It might take several revisions to get your concept right so keep working on it till you are 100% satisfied with it. Then try it out on some friends and colleagues and get their feedback.

3. Develop a detailed content outline

Once you have a clear concept you can now work on constructing your content outline.

In dot point form list the key elements of what you want to say. You might end up with 10 dot points or 100. The important thing is to get what is in your head, out of your head and on to paper or a computer screen.

Keep working on this until you feel you’ve clearly captured everything you want to cover.

Once you have got your ideas and concepts down create a logical order for these thoughts and group them together. These groupings then become chapters. Rework this until you are happy with the order of the chapters and the order of key ideas within each chapter. Give the chapters headings and create sub headings for the ideas within the chapter.

There is no optimum number of chapters, ideal word length, book size etc. That said, we’d advise that with your first book try and keep your chapters to around 7-10 and work towards 20,000 words.

Remember: It’s not how much you write but the quality of what you write.

 You’ve now completed the first step along your business book self-publishing path. If you’re interested in taking the next step consider joining The Book Adviser 8 step, 12 month book program. Follow this link to learn more about it.