How to write a non-fiction business book – 3 simple methods

Over the next few articles we’re going to look at my model: Directions, Map or Landmark.

This is a model for business book development. It will help you choose what type of business book to write, write the book and most importantly work out how that book can fit in with your business strategy, enhance your profile and provide you with a lucrative marketing tool.

This is a long article, take your time reading it, come back later after you’ve thought a little. If you have questions pop me an email, I’ll respond, I promise. If you don’t like my model tell me why, if you do like my model tell your friends!

And remember, this is just a model — it’s not real. There are lots of different models. A model helps us make sense of complex situations, and to do that it reduces the situation to smaller, more manageable parts.

Everything simple is false. Everything which is complex is unusable. — Paul Valéry, French poet.

This means there will be successful books that don’t fit in my model. That’s OK. It’s just a model. A model simplifies complexity, we’ve been complexifying simplicity!

Helping people get from A to B

Imagine you want to get to the new restaurant in town, so you ask a friend to tell you how to get there. They send you a detailed list of turn by turn instructions to drive there from your home, a 20km journey. But you are at work, on your bike, 2 minutes away from the restaurant. How helpful are the directions? You really needed a landmark to help you — ”head towards the train station and it’s on the left”.

Or perhaps you are new to the area and want some help finding your way around, getting to know the local environment, the best restaurants, where the good schools are. A manifesto on re-opening the canal system won’t be particularly helpful. Of course, later, when you have been there a few years you might be really interested, but right now?

Late at night you realise you’ve walked down a dark alley and are completely lost in the middle of a city, in what appears to be a not too salubrious area. A large scale, tourist map won’t get you out of danger fast. You need a detailed, turn by turn, ‘get me to the closest metro station as fast as possible’ solution.

There are different ways of giving information for different types of people, with different needs and at different starting points. There’s a recurring word here — different — one system does not fit all.

To give good help you need to know where the person is now, where they want to go, why they want go there, how they plan to get there and whether you’re going with them.

When you write a book in the style of someone famous, or following the rules of other business books, or you emulate the same book everyone else is emulating, you are not understanding the subtleties and differences.

The Directions, Map or Landmark Model – DML

I first came across the idea of using directions, map or landmark from my brother, Joe. He came across it in a book: The Back of a Napkin, by Dan Roam.

Directions (how to…) books describe directions to a new place in detail (turn left at the church), map (what & where to…) books must describe the whole map, with all the contours and buildings (detailed terrain), a landmark (why to…) book identifies a bright, shining destination, that we head towards (even if we might never get there).

Directions books (how to…)
are good for people who sell structured training, video courses, other books in a series — “ie do this and then do the next thing in the list”. If you have a team of people who take action, do the work and take the hassle off the client, this is the book you could write. How to books are great for readers who are desperate for a solution, right now!

Map books (what & where to…)
are great for people who have multiple products to sell too, but they allow the customer to decide — like, buy my coaching, or buy my book or buy my in-house training course. Map books are for curious readers who will happily get stuck in and solve their own problems with a little help from your or your team.

Landmark books (why to…)
are for people who want to lead, who are looking for followers and who are able to describe a bright shining opportunity — like mavens (making connections), prolific writers (who can monetise their writing), prolific video makers (who can monetise video), keynote speakers (get paid for speaking), government or big business advisors, also those looking to create follower-leaders (offer mentorship, coaching, train the trainer, which lead back to the manifesto). Your reader needs to be inspired by you and the issue. They are looking to follow an inspirational leader.

No one type is better than the other in absolute terms — they each have their role and place and time.

I’ve found that expert author business books fall into about 30% Directions, 50% Map and 20% Landmark. So the vast majority of small expert business owners, consultants, trainers, coaches will end up writing a map type book — and that’s where they get lost — in detailing the terrain!

If you’ve already started writing, you might be writing the wrong book! Call me to find out.

I have developed the DML model and have a way of mapping yourself and your reader so you can work out what book to write…

In the next articles we’ll look at each type, see who they work for (reader and writer), and what you need to make it work.


 

Should you write a Directions-Type business book?

We’re looking at my model for business book development: Directions, Map or Landmark – in these next articles. It will help you choose what type of business book to write, write the book and most importantly work out how that book can fit in with your business strategy, enhance your profile and provide you with a lucrative marketing tool.

This article is focusing on Directions Type Books.

Directions-type Books – How To

Directions books have plenty of lists, facts, and instructions. People reading this book don’t want to go off and find out information, they want to be told what to do, the order, what next, what they need for the journey. It’s all about order and getting there. They’re not looking for detours. Imagine the reader of a directions type book looking down, following instructions, they just don’t see the rest of the landscape/terrain, they are on their way to a destination.

If they get lost they might abandon the trip and you’ll lose them forever. Or they’ll need to go backwards some steps, wasting time and resources. Directions books need to help the reader get from A to B easily, quickly, without getting lost!

Your reader is desperate for a solution  —  get her there fast, efficiently  —  and don’t lose her!

Any case studies included in a Directions-type book need to show progression in the form of ‘I did this, then that, then that and now I’m here…’ Cases need to be specific, clear, unambiguous.

What business books are in the Directions category?

Types of direction books include cookery books (how to make great paella), how to run a pet store, how to travel the world as a writer, how to run Facebook ads, how to set up a website.

My cookery books are directions books — you have to do the things in the right order, step by step — there is only one right way (or at least the Spanish women I interviewed for the book say so, and who am I to argue?)

For these books to work everyone must start from the same place — so you must choose the target carefully. A cordon bleu cookery book won’t be great for an 18 year old needing to cook for themselves for the first time when they leave for university. A cake baking book isn’t right for a 50 year old man on the Paleo diet.

The difference that makes the difference

You can’t give good directions if you don’t have a common starting point. Imagine you want to take your friends on a picnic, they are coming from all over the city — some from the north, some from the south, you can’t give each person the same directions, unless you get them all to the same starting point.

Books in this space will be competing to take the reader from where they are now to a DIFFERENT place than you want them to go.

For example, diet books — Atkins, Paleo, Low Carbs — they are all competing to take your reader from being unhappy with their diet, but each leads to a different place.

Want a website and don’t have any coding skills? Buy my ‘how to set up a WordPress website for dummies’ book. No, buy my ‘how to get started with your website on WIX, without coding skills’ book.

How to set up your business mailing list on Infusionsoft — or on Salesforce — or on ActiveCampaign— same starting point (problem), different destination (solution).

Same starting points, different directions, different destination.

Why Directions-type books don’t get read…

They can be turgid, boring, repetitive — these are the biggest problems with a directions book. You need to consider different ways of presenting the useful lists of directions. Think about: screenshots, bullets, breakouts, checklists, images. Any method to break the monotony.

How can you tie this in to your business?

We’ve looked at what the reader needs from the book, but what about you, the writer? Directions-type books are great if you are selling: step by step instructional videos, courses, more books, more how to products, done for you services, toolkits, product progression (beginner to advanced), DIY with help from the team or done for you by the team.

If you decide to write a directions-type book make sure you know where your reader is, where they need to be, that you have the detailed directions to get them there, and that you have something else to sell them when they arrive!

Remember: You must decide what type of book your are writing – Directions, Map or Landmark – before you write the outline or decide on the title and subtitle.


If you’ve already started writing, you might be writing the wrong book! Call me to find out.

I personally reply to all emails, shout if you have a question…
If it takes me a little while to respond, it’s probably because I’m herding cats, dogs, goats, chickens or horses! I’ll be back – send me directions!


 

Should you write a Map-Type business book?

We’re looking at my model for business book development: Directions, Map or Landmark – in these next articles. It will help you choose what type of business book to write, write the book and most importantly work out how that book can fit in with your business strategy, enhance your profile and provide you with a lucrative marketing tool.

This article is focusing on Map Type Books.

MAP  —  WHAT & WHERE TO

With a map type book you need to diagram everything, set out all the nooks and crannies, show the whole terrain — landmarks, corners, traffic lights, McDonalds (even though you hate fast food), you need to be complete and all encompassing within a specific scope, size, scale and span. Let’s have a look at the 4Ss that determine a map-type book.

MAP  —  Scope

What purpose will the map provide? Is it a cycling map? A pub crawl? Lost treasure? Motorway service stations?

This helps you work out your “who for” — a cycling map is for cyclists.

The map isn’t for everyone!

The biggest problem I find (and my bugbear) is that plenty of business people say something like: my book is for everyone who wants to be a coach? My book is for everyone in business. My book is for startups. My book is for executives.

No! They have to have a need to move — cyclists want to cycle, they could use a road map and work it out themselves, but they’d be much happier with a map just for them.

So, your book needs to be for:

  • Coaches who want to grow their practice from X to XX (where they are now to where they want to be in the future).
  • Big companies who want to improve their entrepreneurial spirit (current place, new place).
  • Managers who want to become CEOs (current role, new role).

MAP – Size

Where are the edges of the map? Is it the whole of the USA? The World? The Algorrobo mountain (that’s where I live if you want to send wine or Campari)? If you’re writing a business startup book for getting VC the rules are different in the UK than the States. You need to decide the size of the map, and where your map ends.

MAP – Scale

How much depth will you provide — what scale map? Will it be detailed? An overview? The depth may be effected by or effect the size of the map. You need to provide the same attention to detail, to the scale, for all parts of the map.

If your book is for starting up a small business in the UK, and you cover everything in detail, except the legislation — that would be a crap map.

That fuzzy bit in the middle is where you’ll lose (literally) your reader.

MAP – Span

What time period — how often will it need updating? Mountains are harder to move than McDonalds.

The biggest problem with maps is that they go out of date. The biggest benefit of map type books is they go out of date. You will need to re-visit your book in a few years, do a revised edition, update everything and SELL IT AGAIN! If it was a great map book, people will buy the revised edition too. Of course that means you have to do the work.

Each of these questions impacts the others — a detailed, but small map is doable. A detailed, in depth, map of the world, all the shops, every traffic light is a little more of a challenge — unless you’re Google of course. But even they haven’t written the book about that!

Lots of competition

My Going Native in Murcia book came in this category. I wrote about every town, village, golf course, shopping centre, beach and bar! Restricted to the area of Murcia and for holiday makers. It’s now in its third edition — because the territory changed. Map books can go out of date really quickly, and they can be hard work keeping on top of — but— you have a ready made audience, your readers (clients) need to know what’s changed, what’s new, what’s been torn down. I also wrote a map book for the same region, covering the same scale for people wanting to buy property here. Their movement would be different — they still needed to MOVE — but for different reasons.

In this category — map — there will be lots of competitors, lots of ‘me too’ books — after all you’re all describing the same territory. Your trick is how you differentiate yourself from the crowd. How do you encourage readers (clients) to purchase your map book? What’s different? What’s special?

Your readers are curious about the landscape, the terrain, the options. They want less instruction, more information & exploration…

Map books don’t need everyone to start from the same place, if the terrain (scope, scale, size & span) is well set out then you can parachute the right reader into any location on the map and they will be able to find their own path.

What business books are in the Map category?

Book writing books fall here — you are in place A and you want to be in B — where do you go? What routes could you take? What will you find on the journey?

Also, setting up in business, developing coaching skills, becoming an entrepreneurial type company, creating agile teams, how to be happy, self help…

This category is busy, it’s where most business people end up writing their book.

Tie in to your business: if you want to sell yourself as a speaker, sell products, 1to1 consultancy, training courses, workshops, mentorship, coaching, then a map-type book could be right.

How Map-type books can go wrong…

Neil Gaiman says it best in Fragile Things:
One describes a tale best by telling the tale. You see? The way one describes a story, to oneself or the world, is by telling the story. It is a balancing act and it is a dream. The more accurate the map, the more it resembles the territory. The most accurate map possible would be the territory, and thus would be perfectly accurate and perfectly useless. The tale is the map that is the territory.

If you’re stuck in the middle of writing your map book, go back to your basic map skills.

When you get bogged down in the detail you are not creating a map you are creating the territory. The art of writing a map book is getting the scope, size, scale and span just right.

Remember: You must decide what type of book your are writing – Directions, Map or Landmark – before you write the outline or decide on the title and subtitle.

If you’ve already started writing, you might be writing the wrong book! Call me to find out.

Debs Jenkins

PS: I personally reply to all emails, shout if you have a question…
PPS: If it takes me a little while to respond, it’s probably because I’m herding cats, dogs, goats, chickens or horses! I’ll be back – send me a map!


 

Should you write a Landmark-Type business book?

We’re looking at my model for business book development: Directions, Map or Landmark. It will help you choose what type of business book to write, write the book and most importantly work out how that book can fit in with your business strategy, enhance your profile and provide you with a lucrative marketing tool.

This article is focusing on Landmark Type Books.

Landmark  —  WHY TO
If you write a Landmark book you may meet haters. You are leading people to your chosen destination, other people will want to subvert the direction, and lead them astray.

Nassim Taleb — his landmark (I think) is think— all his books ask us to learn to think better, to question our thinking. He’s not the only person writing for this landmark, but he is especially vocal.

This type of book needs stories, personal stories, inspirational and motivational stories. It needs the stories to get movement in a direction without a map or directions. The reader needs to be able to picture the destination, you use stories to create a picture.

Are you getting the point?
Stories
  —  case stories, life stories, anecdotes…

Not even on the same map

Readers will come from all directions, all lifestyles, every skillset and career. Landmark books don’t need everyone to start at the same spot, they don’t even need everyone to be on the same map, as long as you can see the shining star (the landmark) you can enjoy the book and benefit from it.

Readers are inspired to follow you to attempt to reach the landmark  —  even though you may never get there…

Landmark books could also be called Legacy or Lindy Effect books.

I came across the term Lindy Effect from our thinker friend Taleb in The Black Swan. The Lindy Effect is a theory of the life expectancy of non-perishable things that suggests for some non-perishables, like a technology or an idea or a book, every additional day “alive” may imply a longer (remaining) life expectancy – in other words the mortality rate of the item decreases with time. Unlike us fragile humans.

The best example for a book with the Lindy Effect is The Bible (or Quuran) – the longer it’s been around the better chance it has of continuing to be around. More business-y examples are books like The E-Myth by Michael E Gerber, How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Getting Things Done by David Allen or Influence by Robert B Cialdini. They have a timeless quality, that creates believers and followers, for generations. I’m sure you can think of plenty of other examples.

How cool would that be for your book, to still be on the shelves in 30 years time?

Types of book in the Landmark category? Philosophy, religion (should be here but they frequently end up in directions!), manifestos, calls to action, better world, hope.

Biographies come in this category — they are the ultimate story, with a landmark. Think about Richard Branson’s autobiography. Or biographies of Steve Jobs…

How can you tie a Landmark type book in to your business: licenses (franchises, train the trainer), more books, keynote speeches, government or industry consultancy, advocacy.

Why your landmark book leaves you alone on the mountain…

Finding yourself alone at the top of the mountain you might wonder where it all went wrong… Unless your landmark, bright shining star, is where people really want to go, they won’t follow you.

How sure are you that there’s an audience of vegan, flat-earthers, who want to build a caterpillar-tracked tank to get to the other side of the disc? And are you really the charismatic story-teller who can lead them there?

It’s hard to be inspiring… I know!

Remember: You must decide what type of book your are writing – Directions, Map or Landmark – before you write the outline or decide on the title and subtitle.

If you’ve already started writing, you might be writing the wrong book! Call me to find out.


 

The zombie apocalypse is coming – are you ready? How to outline your non-fiction business book…

In the last article we looked briefly at some examples of the DML model in action. In this we’ll take one idea and delve deeper.

Our goal at the #DisasterFarm is to become self-sufficient and reduce our negative impact on the environment. We grow our own plants, attempt to reduce waste, farm animals, eat local produce. My other half makes his own knives, choppers and axes. We are collectively quite capable. And in case of a zombie apocalypse* we have a zombie apocalypse room (where we store extra loo paper!) So, I think we’re prepared for most situations! Of course right now I have a mini mental breakdown if the internet disappears for 10 minutes, but I’m working on it.

I read a lot of books, quite a few on becoming self-sufficient, so let’s push a sustainability idea through the DML model and create three different book outlines.

1. Sustainability with a Directions-type book

Q: Does your reader have an immediate, clear and urgent challenge, and need equipping with the right steps?
If yes: Help them get fixed fast with a Directions-type book.

To write a Directions-type book you must know where they are.

It’s all about HOW TO get something done. You are instructing them, telling them the steps, being logical. By the end of the book they’ll be equipped. You need to provide details, explanations, the one way, order. They don’t need detours, they need facts, lists, actions. Keep it logical, every chapter should have a similar structure, keep signposting them so they know they’re making progress. Tell them how far they’ve come, give them positive feedback, reviews and % completed. Make it clear that this is the only and best path to the solution they want so they can confidently take action.

Become Self-Sufficient in 180 Days in Murcia, Spain

Chapter 1: Select the right space
Step 1: Find out where south is by…
Step 2: Calculate how many hours of sunshine by…
Step 3: Do this XXX
Summary & what next

Chapter 2: Prepare the land
Step 1: Buy the right tools
Step 2: The best way to dig the soil
Step 3: Managing barriers and pests…
Summary & what next

Chapter 3: Buy the right plants
Step 1: Where, when
Step 2:…
Step 3:…
Summary & what next

Chapter 4: Select the right livestock
Step 1: Where, when
Step 2:…
Step 3:…

Chapter 5: Manage water
Step 1: Where, when
Step 2:…
Step 3:…
etc…

You can only write a great Directions-type sustainability book if you know where they are – then you can provide detailed instruction for their climate, terrain, seasons, sunshine hours, livestock, rainfall…

2. Sustainability with a Map-type book

Q: Are they stuck in a situation and need education to move?
If yes: Write them a Map-type book to show them their options.

Map-type books are for curious people who may not have made a decision because they are still evaluating their options. You need to provide them with information, so they become educated and can decide for themselves. Of course, you need to be on the same map to help them. You need to have mapped the terrain, been there first, be the guide that shows them all their options. You can also tell them your preferences, but you must allow them to explore, with you as the expert guide.

Your goal is to answer the “what” and “where” questions they may have to satisfy their curiosity about the terrain you are mapping.

A Map-type book covers:
Their purpose (scope) – for whom and their need to move
The edges (size) – what you will cover and what you won’t
The depth (scale) – the same amount of detail for each chapter (not too detailed)
The time period (span) – regulations may change…

The biggest problem is that all map type books are detailing the same terrain – you need to work out what makes your book different. And you must map the whole terrain!

Could you become self-sufficient? A simple guide for city-dwellers who want to reduce their negative ecological impact

Chapter 1: Plants and green things
What, where, how, when
Chapter 2: Animals and eaty things
What, where, how, when
Chapter 3: Wet stuff
What, where, how, when
Chapter 4: Planning permissions & planning ahead
What, where, how, when
Chapter 5: Recycle & upcycle
What, where, how, when
Chapter 6: Natural power – solar & wind
What, where, how, when
Chapter 7: Stockpiling
What, where, how, when
Chapter 8: Have you got what it takes?

You can only write a great Map-type sustainability book if you are on the same map, and have thoroughly mapped the terrain you are describing..

3. Sustainability with a Landmark-type book

Q: Are they on a journey and need enlightenment?
If yes: Lead them with a Landmark-type book.

Landmark-type books are for confident people who are ready to take action. You need to inspire and influence them to follow you. Your book needs help them become enlightened for the right path. Show them where you’re going, lead them to your true north. The best way of leading people is by talking to their hearts (first) – you do that with stories. Build tension, passion, desire to move. Demonstrate why other landmarks are wrong, and who the villains are.

Show them why they should follow you, that you can be relied on to lead them to a better place.

The Zombie Apocalypse

Chapter 1: Floods, famines, pestilence
Jim had always wanted his own farm, but the floods in…
Chapter 2: Population explosion
There are an additional 83 million people annually. When Jane was born in
1901…
Chapter 3: Resource depletion
The Mars rover trip was a disaster…
Chapter 4: Viruses are virus-y
When Bob sneezed on the train this morning…
Chapter 5: Governments can’t be relied on
[I can’t think what silly thing to say here – it’s just true!]
Chapter 6: Big companies are b£*st*$ds
The plague outbreak in 1347 was caused by commercial interests…
Chapter 7: Are you ready for the revolution?

To inspire and influence people to move towards your landmark they must also desire the same destination, that means you must describe the shining star, bright opportunity so that people must follow you. It stops being a want, and becomes a need to move.

You can see that one subject can be handled in (at least) three different ways. My DML model will give you the constraints to outline a book that is writable. If you need help working out what type of book to write give me a call (I’ll answer it from my zombie-proof bunker).

Finally, an apology. My attempt to be less silly in this article has failed. The zombies are coming, be prepared!

* I love zombies, my ambition is to be an extra in a zombie movie. If you’re interested the scariest zombie movie is a low budget Italian job set in an elevator. Of course the best zombie movie is Shawn of the Dead.

PS: Don’t come round unannounced, my other half really does make his own axes!
PPS: If the zombie apocalypse happens we have plenty of toilet paper for everyone!


 

Challenge? Situation? Journey? Where’s your reader…

We’ve been looking at my model for business book development, outlining and writing: Directions, Map or Landmark. Now we’ll get into some details about selecting the right type of book by taking a look at some sample book outlines to demonstrate the differences.

First, how do you decide what type of book to write?

The easiest way is to work out what problem or need for movement your target reader actually has (remember a book is to move a reader from where they are to where they need to be). You do have a target reader don’t you? Go back and read: Are you writing the wrong book?: The 8th Cardinal Writing Waste™ if you don’t!

Ask yourself:
Q: Does your reader have an immediate, clear and urgent challenge and need equipping with the right steps?
If yes: Help them get fixed fast with a Directions-type book.

Q: Are they stuck in a situation and need education to move?
If yes: Write them a Map-type book to show them their options.

Q: Or are they on a journey and need enlightenment?
If yes: Lead them with a Landmark-type book.

When you know what type of book you are writing you can work on the book title and subtitle and the outline. I’m going to look more at titles and subtitles in a later article.

The DML Model in action

Let’s use our non-fiction Kitchen Taps book that we looked at in: I’m writing a book. So what?

The Directions-type Outline:
Install Your Kitchen Taps in 15 Minutes
Chapter 1: Go to DIY store
Chapter 2: Select your tap – metal or plastic?
Chapter 3: Install in your kitchen sink – bish, bash, bosh!
Chapter 4: Enjoy your kitchen tap

The Map-type Outline:
What taps to buy and where to get the best deal
Chapter 1: A brief history of taps
Chapter 2: Types of taps
Chapter 3: Funny tap stories
Chapter 4: What happens if you don’t have a tap
Chapter 5: Why everyone needs taps
Chapter 6: Taps, the facts and figures!

The Landmark-type Outline
With the right kitchen tap you can save the world!
Chapter 1: The under-appreciated water-saving device we use daily
Chapter 2: The story of the kitchen tap that could
Chapter 3: Why it’s vitally important to share your kitchen tap message

Obviously, I’m being a little bit silly. Let’s look at a better example: A writing a book book.

The Directions-type Outline:
How to write a business book in a month
Chapter 1: Buy computer
Chapter 2: Install book writing software
Chapter 3: Write book outline
Chapter 4: Write chapter 1
Chapter 5: Write chapter 2…
Chapter 10: Edit
Chapter 11: Review
Chapter 11: Tada!

The Map-type Outline:
The ins and outs of writing a non-fiction book for small business owners
Chapter 1: Writing: how, why, who, when
Chapter 2: Editing: how, why, who, when
Chapter 3: Reviewing: how, why, who, when
Chapter 4: Publishing: how, why, who, when
Chapter 5: Cover design: how, why, who, when
Chapter 6: Marketing: how, why, who, when

The Landmark-type Outline
Think | Write | Lead
Thought leaders write books

Chapter 1: The story of an obscure welder who wrote a book and changed history
Chapter 2: The story of a business owner who didn’t write a book and went bankrupt
Chapter 3: You must share your work, the world deserves to read it
etc…

Oops, I’m still being really quite silly.I have plenty more silly examples to share, but I’ll stop for now. I’m sure you can see how selecting the right type of book – Directions, Map, Landmark – will impact how you write your book. You need to decide this before you write the outline, because the outline is your blueprint for writing the right book for the right reader. Get this wrong and you can get lost in the wilderness with your book, and you might never get finished.

All models are wrong, but some are useful.
George Box – Statistician

Remember: this is only a model. I find it useful, I hope you do too.


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