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8 Step 1: Set Up Your Book

“Good writing is clear thinking made visible.” – Bill Wheeler

The perfect setup process, and identifying your superpowers.

Time Invested — 3 Hours

Action steps:

1) The purpose of your book.

2) The very best idea for your book (what’s your book going to be about?).

3) The questions your book will answer (what’s the ONE thing you want your ideal client to believe or understand?).

4) The ideal client avatar (with WHOM (exactly) you want to have a conversation in your book).

5) The outline, topics and format that will provide an optimum reader experience.

6) Niche down (polish and organize your topics into the best possible format).

7) The interview questions that you will answer in Step 2.

8) Draw out the most compelling offer for your book (how you or your product can help your ideal client).

9) The perfect title for your book.

You’ll spend an hour coming up with a draft that includes these action items and the second hour polishing them and the final hour finalizing them. For maximum benefits use the entire 3 hours.

Okay, let’s go…

What’s The Purpose Of Your Book?

I know there are a couple of things getting in the way of your starting your book. 

It’s deciding on WHAT you’re really going to do with your book and WHAT it’s actually going to be about. 

You’re 100% right. Defining the purpose of your book AND the idea for your book are super important, and I completely understand why they could be getting in your way… 

That’s why I put this exercise together: for you to spend some time thinking, specifically, what your purpose and your goals are for this project, AND the very best idea for your book—before you get started.

When you’re done you’ll have more clarity and confidence to move forward with your book.

But I’m sure this will get your creative juices flowing.

Finding your purpose

The only way to author a “good” book (or create any project for that matter) is to embrace the almost clichéd saying: “Start with the end in mind.”

By “getting clear” on the purpose of your book and why you are doing this, you will have immediate clarity that will get you pumped to do your book project.

Ask yourself: “What is the result I want to achieve?” (be very, very specific)

For example: Get 10 new clients in the next 6 months for X.

Once you know your purpose for authoring a book and what the desired outcome looks like for you, then it’s time to come up with the IDEA for your book.

The Perfect Idea

Now for the fun part. You need to decide WHAT your book is going to be about—the IDEA for your book.

Trying to determine your very best idea may seem overwhelming at first because more than one idea may come to mind.

  • How do you pick the BEST one?
  • What’s the best one for you to pursue?
  • Which one will have the greatest impact on your ideal client?
  • Which one will have the greatest impact on your biz?

Here’s the quickest and easiest way for you to get clear on WHAT your book should be about.

Make a list of your top 3 services or products (the ones that add the most value and as a result make you the most money). As you can imagine, a client-getting book will be most successful when you don’t reinvent the wheel or try to create some brand-new market for yourself…

Okay. Now sort these services or products based on these 5 criteria.

1) What is the most unique and/or unique to you?

2) What is the easiest to fulfill?

3) What do you love to do/what are you most passionate about?

4) What can make you the most money?

5) What will have the greatest impact on your ideal client?

It shouldn’t take long for you to see a clear winner. The winner will be what your book is about.

What you’re going to talk about in your book (the Outline and the Questions your book will answer)

Now it is time to take that IDEA (you just got clear on) and go deeper with your THINKING.

You know WHAT (in general terms) book is going to be about, but now you’ve got to figure out the WHY.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why is this topic the clear winner?
  • Why is it unique?
  • Why is this topic the easiest for me to talk about?
  • Why am I passionate about this topic?
  • Why is my related service or product the easiest for me to fulfill?
  • Why does this have the greatest impact on my ideal client?
  • Why is this service or product the most profitable for me?

Answering these questions about your IDEA will give you profound insight.

Next, take a few minutes to get clear on WHO (exactly) you want to have a conversation with in your book.

Of course, this is your prospect, the ideal client avatar that you want to reach with your book. The best way to do this is to define the exact avatar YOU want to speak to. You probably have a current or past client who is the exact person you’ll want to imagine.

A good exercise is to make a list of ALL of their attributes—problems, goals, values, opportunities, age, income, education, demographics, gender, marital status, etc. Then make a list of the results and transformations they got (directly and indirectly) from working with you, or using your product or service.

If you’re having trouble, a great way to get clear on your ideal client avatar is to envision yourself sitting down and talking with them one-on-one.

Once you’ve thoroughly documented your ideal client avatar ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the most logical question my ideal client is going to be asking themselves (about this service or product I provide)?
  • What can I say or share with this ideal client that would make them want to start a conversation with me?

Then I recommend using a technique I learned up from visionary and business growth expert, Mike Koenigs. Make a list of the 10 FAQs (frequently asked questions) your ideal clients have about your product, service or solution and the 10 should-ask questions (questions that they should ask you BUT they don’t)…

The Outline And Questions Your Book Will Answer

Congratulations! You have just created a rough draft of the OUTLINE and the QUESTIONS that your book will answer, the ones that will draw out your best thinking and fully address your idea. Ones that provide an answer to your ideal client’s problem or highlight a solution that you are specifically able to talk about.

These questions will highlight YOU doing your best work (you in concert pitch).

But you’re not done…

From here, you need to do an 80/20 analysis of your questions (and the answers to the questions) and NICHE, down to the very specific TOPICS you are going to share in your book. 

Usually a theme will jump out at you, but the rule of thumb is it needs to follow these 4 criteria for your book to be the most compelling to your ideal client:

1) Be simple to understand

2) Have a significant benefit

3) Be interesting

4) Have some element of surprise, unexpectedness, curiosity; an aha moment

Next, you will determine the format you want to use for your book.

This is how you structure your topics so they follow a logical path.

Important: You want to structure your outline based on what you can discuss during a 2 hour interview. Don’t try to cram too much into your book; it will backfire on you. If you really want to share more, make it a series of books.

The very best way to do this is to make sure your book is hyper-focused around ONE main message. This means that you focus on getting your ideal client to believe or understand just ONE thing. That’s it!

Of course, all your content needs to be a stand-alone valuable product with a valuable message (regardless of whether your prospect decides to do business with you). You don’t want any gotchas or “sales messages” in disguise here…

For example, maybe you want to educate someone on your unique process, system or product. Or you may want to show people how to solve a specific problem, or you want to highlight a solution you can provide.

The best way to get clear on this concept is to design your book so that you give your prospects exactly what they WANT—the answer(s) to their burning questions, FOR FREE (just like I am doing with the 5-Hour Author).

Yes, I know the thought of giving all your best stuff away for free (in a book) is a bit scary, but it’s the only reason to author a client-getting book. Sure, there are exceptions, albeit few and far between.

So, unless you have some special chicken recipe, like KFC, go ahead and share it already.

There are several ways to structure a book so your high-value content elegantly leads up to the part where you come in. Here are two of the most common ways: The first way is to share “How” to do something with your ideal clients for free. And then you’ll offer to help them with the obvious, and natural next step that is to show them “What” to do for a fee. The second option is to share both “How” and “What” to do for free. Then, you can simply offer to “Do it for them” for a fee.

Here’s a simple (and very effective) format that you can use to lay out your book:

1) Introduce the Big-Ass Problem or the Big-Ass Opportunity (your ideal clients have).

2) Agitate the Problem or shine a light on the Opportunity (what happens when they don’t fix the problem they have or what happens when they take advantage of this opportunity).

3) Offer the Bigger Solution (this happens to be what you provide—no selling here, please).

4) The Conclusion and your Offer to Help (why you are the clear choice to solve their problem—this can be on the back cover as well).

5) Your “About” Pages (this is where you will woo your ideal clients by highlighting how you can help THEM; you’ll also point out some credibility-boosting stuff about you, your business and your team).

6) Acknowledgements.

These topics will become the chapter or section titles of your book’s table of contents AND the source of the questions you will answer (to generate your book’s content) in Step 2.

The Offer to Help

Now that you have your outline and format, you can easily zero in on what you can OFFER your ideal clients that is good for them (and good for you!).

You’ll want to start by making sure what you are sharing in the book elegantly leads up to your offer at the end of the book (because the reader must be compelled to want to take the next step).

A great way to do this is to visualize what would be the NATURAL next step for them to take, the step that is good for them (and is super-easy to take).

For example: You can offer to help them with X, and they can find out more about X by email or phone, or by finding information on a website, completing a form, etc.

The Title Of Your Book

Once you know what your book is going to be about, you’ll need to spend some time coming up with the very best title. The title is made up of two parts, what I refer to as THE HEADLINE and SUBHEADLINE.

The title and cover of your book matter. A LOT.

In fact, I believe your cover is the most important part of this entire process because even if your book is very good, which it will be, your cover (alone) can determine 80% of the success of your book. 

Why is this? Because we all judge a book by its cover. And the truth is most people will get a book because they want the benefit that is advertised on the cover. That’s it!

The first rule of thumb here is this: Your headline needs to stand on its own.

The best way to do that is to make sure your headline, in and of itself, is going to cause your ideal clients to say, “I gotta have it! I gotta have it!” The headline must scream to the reader “That’s for ME,” and it’s got to tell the WHOLE story (without the story having to be read).

Once the headline is read, there shouldn’t be anything else needed to get the person to understand the benefit your book is offering.

So how do you come up with the perfect attention-grabbing headline for your book (the headline)?

Well, there are many ways, but here’s my favorite formula for generating the perfect headline and TESTING ones that you have already thought of (I learned this from Gary Bencivenga).

The formula is Benefit + Curiosity = Interest (B + C = I). 

Let’s break this down… 

Benefit: This is your main benefit that speaks to the desired end result (what your ideal client wants or needs, your proof or promise to them. It should be direct and descriptive.

+ (Plus)

Curiosity: It has to be unpredictable. “Predictability kills curiosity.”


Interest: You must have the benefit AND the curiosity or you’ll lose interest.

A very relevant example is the 5-Hour Author headline. It explains the main benefit, it’s descriptive and it ignites curiosity.  

Getting the headline just right is easier said than done, but when you do it, your ideal clients will want to drop everything and get your book immediately.

But there’s one more step!

Once you’ve come up with a headline that passes the TEST and has your ideal client INTERESTED in your book, the next step is to create a subheadline.

When used effectively, a headline and subheadline together are an unstoppable combination. But it’s critical to create a headline that stands on its own first, before adding a subheadline. The reason for this is that the only function of subheadlines is to add meaning, interest and/or value to the HEADLINE. So you should use it whenever you can make the headline better. That’s it.

Here are the best ways to use a subheadline to make your headline better:

  • Use it to further define and add clarity to your headline.
  • Use it to segment your target audience and call out to your ideal clients directly.
  • Use it to highlight, heighten and enhance the interest that’s already been created from your headline.
  • Use it to narrow or broaden the focus of the benefit offered in your headline.
  • Use it to appeal to your ideal clients’ senses by helping them imagine what it would be like to get the benefit you are offering.
  • Use it to add more value to the benefit offered in your headline. This is like putting your ideal client’s interest on overdrive or fast-forward, or adding a bonus.

Let’s use this book as an example: The 5-Hour Author: How to Author a Client-Getting Book in Just 5 Hours… The headline passes the TEST and stands on its own, but the subheadline makes the headline better. The first way it makes it better is by further defining the book’s target audience: It calls out to business owners who also want to get more clients, not to people who want to author fiction, a biography or a memoir. The next way it adds more value is by setting expectations for the target audience. It accomplishes this in 3 ways. The first is by adding “How to.” Because I know the majority of biz owners don’t know how to author a book, this lets them know that this book will teach them how. The second is by reiterating that it takes “Just 5 Hours.” This adds to the curiosity and helps minimize concerns about the huge time commitments that come with writing a book. The final benefit of this subheadline is its ability to help business owners envision what it would be like to get more clients when they become an author.

A book with a masterfully crafted headline and subheadline is The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss.

If you’re getting stuck with finding the right words to use in your subheadline, here’s a fallback method: Try using “How to”.

  • Or The 5 Ways to X (insert your benefit)
  • Or The 5 Reasons to X
  • Or Why X

This method works well because these phrases use magical gateway words that scream “educational content.” When your ideal client is looking for what you offer, education is the key to showing off what you know and why you’re different. Education is the great neutralizer that can elegantly lead your ideal clients to your services and products.

Here’s a great example (used frequently in marketing circles) of just how much of a difference the title of your book MAKES. It’s from published author Naura Hayden.

The first edition of her book, published in 1982, “Astro-Logical Love” was “Unique” but was lacking the “I gotta have it” effect—selling just under 5,000 copies.

The book was republished in 1998 (same book, just a different title), “How You Satisfy a Woman Every Time…and Have Her Beg for More!” was a home run—selling over 2.5 million copies!

Of course, the above example shows book sales (a very tangible metric). But imagine how many more clients the right title and cover would get you…

So here’s a quick exercise you can do to see if your book’s title passes the test. Get at least 20 people to give you feedback on your title. You can talk to them, send it by email or post the headline on a social network. But just say, “Hey, I am finishing a book,” and let them know the title (headline and subheadline) of the book only (no explanations). And then ask the question, “Are you interested?” That’s it. If the first thing they say is, “What’s it about?” then you probably don’t have the right title. Yes, for some people that may be a natural response (without really thinking first), so be alert for any false alarms. But in general this will be a good test for you.

When it comes to your book cover design, less is more.

The best way to frame this up is to use this example: Your book cover should be like a well-done billboard that you drive by on the highway—you have only a few seconds to see it, read it and understand it. Unfortunately, most billboards still get this wrong, and so do authors.

A perfect cover has few colors, and has big, clear and readable fonts that will catch your readers’ attention. And it uses images sparingly (I prefer ONE meaningful image).

Your book cover will usually be tiny when showcased on your website and used in advertising, or if you submit it to any of the online bookstores. So big lettering and a bold image are important. And because you want to make sure the title of your book is prominently displayed and readable, even when your book is the size of a thumbnail image, it’s not always possible to fit a headline and subheadline on the cover together. In these cases, I recommend only displaying the headline on the cover, and making sure to draw attention to the subheadline on your website, advertising and online bookstore.

When you pull off the perfect title and cover design, your clients will be lining up to get your help.

Take a break from doing anything on your book. Let the thoughts, topics and ideas simmer a bit.

Next, we’re going to jump back in with a clear mind and look at the draft you created so far. Now you can spend the next hour digging deeper and polishing your purpose, the topics, the outline, the headline and the offer you are going to make at the end of the book. Then you’ll spend the final hour going through the process with a fine tooth comb, one last time.

When you’re done you’ll emerge with a final outline, headline and offer that you’re bursting with enthusiasm to share.

I do recommend that you add two more sections to your book. The first is for your “about” pages, where you can tell the reader about your business and you. The “about” pages aren’t for spewing out the typical business jargon like name, rank and serial number. They should be value-laden and focused on how your business serves your ideal clients most selfish desires. Then you’ll spend a few minutes sprinkling in some cool stuff about you and tooting your own horn in the “about the author” part.

The other section is for the “acknowledgments”. This section is where you can thank people, organizations and companies that have helped you out in some unique way that’s worth sharing.

One last thing, double check all your topic areas to make sure they tie into the big benefit that the title/headline of your book is promising.

Okay, now you should have a final outline, topic areas to discuss, and a headline and your offer (what you’re selling). Time to move on to Step 2.

Focus Tips //

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I struggle with getting (and staying) focused, particularly when I am working on projects that require lots of deep and creative thought. My favorite way to get into the zone is to listen to music on the Focus@Will app or their website.

I simply select the type of music I want to listen to and how long I want to focus. The service does the rest. It really helps me get into deep levels of concentration, which makes me more productive in less time.

Focus@will is a neuroscience-based music service that helps you focus and reduce distractions. The technology is proven to extend your attention span and productivity cycles.

Try it out at focusatwill.com.

Another focus hack that works for me is using the Momentum extension for Google Chrome. Whenever I open a new tab in Chrome, I see an inspiring reminder of what I want to do that day. Not a gateway into the internet black hole. This simple tweak reminds me to stay on track. It prevents me from being sucked into the constant loop of checking email. And keeps me from jumping online for something that’s usually not important.

Try it out at momentumdash.com.


Step 1: Set Up Your Book Copyright © 2016 by Travis John Agency LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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