Writing a Book: Putting the Content to Work

Nov 13, 2018 | Writing A Book

Writing a book is hard work. You pour your heart and soul into it, and you want your reader to get the most from it. You want your reader to put what they read to work.

Business book authors have two ways to help readers put content to work. Summaries help the reader remember the key points of the book. Action steps help the reader turn understanding into action.

There’s no one best way to summarize or suggest action. Here’sf how different authors help their readers.

Tom Hall and I added “Thinking Points” and “Action Steps” at the end of every chapter in Ruthless Focus. Thinking points summarized the key chapter points and the action steps suggested things a reader could try right away.

Patty McCord did something similar in her book, Powerful. She concluded chapters with a “In Brief” section to summarize key points and a “Questions” section to help the reader think about the points in the chapter.

Other authors highlighted important material throughout the book. Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness did that in Peak Performance. Morton Hansen did it in Great at Work.

Team of Teams summarizes key points with a boxed “Recap” at the end of each chapter. Daniel Coyle lists action steps as “What you can do” and the end of chapters in The Culture Code. The authors of Competing Against Luck put the end notes that would normally be at the end of the book at the end of each chapter.

Some authors came up with a device that’s appropriate for their book. Rod Santomassimo’s best-seller, Brokers Who DOMINATE, profiles several top commercial real estate brokers. The chapters tell the story of each broker and include suggestions about the key points. Rod’s subjects shared tons of information that didn’t fit in their chapter. So, Rod added a section at the end of each chapter titled “In Their Own Words,” with advice the successful brokers he profiled had shared during their interviews.

Dan Pink adds value to his book, When, by creating a parallel book. The chapters of the book share his findings and observations. Each chapter of When is followed by a chapter of what Pink calls the “Time-Hacker’s Handbook.” The Time-Hacker’s Handbook shares suggestions about ways to put the information in the main chapter to use. The result is that you can read either the basic book or the Time-Hacker’s Handbook alone and get value, but you’ll get the most value if you read them both.

Don Miller’s excellent book, Building a Story Brand, also has a unique value-adding feature. The seven core chapters of Miller’s book take a reader through the process of creating a message using the Story Brand technique. At the end of each chapter, there are exercises for the reader to do. Miller’s innovative twist is to provide a website where the reader can do the exercises online and build a complete message. The website is free.

Bottom Line

There’s no one way or one kind of feature that will help you add value to your book. Look at what other authors have done for inspiration. Figure out what will be best for you. Your readers will thank you.

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