(Paul’s Note – this post is excerpted from Module 3 of my 10 Module Course on Creating eBooks. To get the complete course delivered to your email inbox on a weekly basis you need to subscribe to my Newsletter!)
There are four reasons why you should outline your eBooks. Any one of these individually validates the time you spend on outlining. The compound interest effect of all four makes outlining an indispensable part of the eBook process.
Those benefits are:
- (i) Reduces the ‘overwhelm’ factor
- (ii) Gives a snapshot of the eBook prior to writing
- (iii) Provides a writing schedule for the eBook
- (iv) Ensures that your write a focused eBook
Let’s look at these in more detail.
(i) Outlining Reduces The ‘Overwhelm’ Factor
I’ve written at length about Writer’s Block on the One Spoon website – one of the primary causes of writer’s block is a fear of the blank page.
That fear is magnified by a factor of 50 or more when it comes to writing an eBook instead of writing a blog post or a website article. The thought of 50 or 60 blank pages to be filled is daunting – especially to the blogger or content marketer thinking about writing their first eBook.
But if you take your eBook and divide it into manageable chunks, then that overwhelm factor is seriously reduced. If that manageable chunk is equivalent to a blog post or a website article, then it’s immediately far less intimidating to think of writing a series of 20 connected blog posts or website articles than it is to write 60 pages.
If a series of 20 connected blog posts or website articles still seems overwhelming, then break those down further. Find the unit that you feel comfortable with – and outline your eBook in multiples of that unit. When it comes to writing, every day that you complete 1 or 2 units is a day that you’re 1 or 2 units closer to finishing.
Completing an eBook – or any book – is as simple as that.
I chose chunks equivalent to a blog post as my basic unit because I when I write I tend to write a complete post. So you know, we’re talking around 1200-1500 words here.
If your blog posts tend to be 800 to 100 words long, then use that as your chunk size. Don’t be dictated to by the way that I write – be dictated to by what’s comfortable for you.
For most bloggers and content marketers embarking on their first eBook, this reason alone is sufficient justification for outlining your eBook.
There’s more though.
(ii) Outlining Gives A Snapshot Of The eBook Prior To Writing
The second benefit to outlining your eBook is that the finished outline will give you a reasonably detailed snapshot of what your eBook is going to be like when you’ve written it.
This snapshot can be used to check that your original idea will in fact translate to eBook length, and that there’s sufficient depth to your idea to warrant 50 or 60 pages of writing.
This snapshot can also be used to ‘test’ your eBook idea. You can use the outline to create a synopsis and send that to 4 or 5 of your best clients and see what they think.
Or you can use that snapshot as the basis for a Sales Page if you’re someone who likes to presell your eBooks. Without an outline it’s almost impossible to create a convincing Sales Page at ‘Pre-Sell’ stage. Pre-Selling is something that deserves a course of its own – and there are guys out there who teach such courses (Sean D’Souza and Clay Collins to name but two).
Once you’ve established an audience – or built your tribe – and have written two or three eBooks, then pre-selling is something that I believe every business should do. It’s hard to pre-sell without an outline – in face if you tried to pre-sell without an outline you’d probably find that the process of creating a Sales Page at pre-sales stage is effectively the same as creating an outline anyway.
So bite the bullet. Create an outline. There are still two more compelling reasons for writing an outline too.
(iii) Outlining Provides A Writing Schedule For The eBook
Outlining your eBook into manageable chunks or units has a third benefit: that outline can form the basis of a writing schedule to actually get the eBook written.
If each of those chunks is equivalent to say a day’s writing, then you can see by looking at your outline how many days writing there is in the eBook.
And you can go to your calendar and plan it with military precision. Day 1 – Chunk 1. Day 2 – Chunk 2. Etc. Obviously you have to be aware of existing writing commitments – regular posts or content for your blog, or guest posts for other people – but you can literally find the days when you’re not writing for your blog and schedule a Chunk.
For most of the eBooks that I’ve started I try and create some kind of visual track of my progress. I posted about it here:
I’ve read of novelists who printed their pages out and placed them in a steadily growing stack face down on their desk. Or I had a friend who created a simple Excel application and he would enter how many words he’d written that day and it would produce a Pie Chart showing what percentage of his book he’d written.
If this is your first eBook, I can’t recommend enough that you find a ‘visual’ method to track your progress, and put whatever visual aid you’ve decided upon somewhere prominent. So that when you see it, you can see your momentum growing. It’s a great boost on those days when you don’t feel like writing.
Outlining also ensures that your eBook has a consistent thread throughout it.
(iv) Outlining Ensures That You Write A Focused eBook
There’s nothing worse – in any form of writing – in reading something where the Author loses track of what he or she is writing and meanders from idea to idea with no apparent shape.
A strong outline ensures that this won’t happen to you.
Remember the One Sentence Summary of your eBook? From Module 1, The Quick Start Method? If you build your outline from that – whichever method of outlining you use – it’s unlikely that you’ll suffer from a lack of clarity, or any kind of meandering from one unfocused idea to another.
Tip: Sometimes when you’re outlining an eBook you’ll come up with ideas for ‘chunks’ that are related to your eBook, but don’t quite fit in. There are two things you need to do with these tangential ideas – firstly, excise them from your eBook. If it doesn’t fit the idea expressed in the One Sentence Summary it’s out. Be ruthless.
Those tangential ideas can form blog posts that you can publish on your blog that can be part of the selling process on your blog. After your eBook has been published, it’s great to publish these tangential posts and then refer your audience to your eBook Sales Page as a Call to Action in that post.
To Read More…
To read more of Module 3 of my course on writing and publishing eBooks – which includes 4 different outlining methods for eBooks – you’ll need to subscribe to my newsletter. The Course is currently in ‘beta’ and being developed week by week.
If you’ve got any thoughts, comments or questions on outlining eBooks then fire away in the Comment section below.