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Process Makes Perfect: 15-Year Writing Slump Vanquished, Thanks To The Book Professor®

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Process Makes Perfect: 15-Year Writing Slump Vanquished, Thanks To The Book Professor®

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The Germination of a Book

In any business, marketing your services is critical, and in 2007, Rem Jackson created Top Practices—a company that helps podiatrists market their services. To teach them how to understand the foundations of marketing, Rem developed a rubric he calls “the four pillars of marketing” for medical professionals: online marketing, referral sources, internal marketing to existing patients, and external marketing to the broader community.

Top Practices was soon serving hundreds of podiatrists across North America, with some as far away as Australia.

Rem soon realized that solving one problem created another. As his client doctors found more patients and filled their waiting rooms, they needed stronger business management skills to handle the logistics.

When you go into podiatry, he said, “no one mentions that, by the way, you’re also going to be a business owner. So they’re accidental entrepreneurs.” Rem’s clients needed help with the business side of things, so Top Practices acquired two partners that specialize in that area.

Happy with his business and confident in his mastery of the podiatry marketing niche, Rem finally turned to an idea he’d been kicking around in his mind for years: maybe I should share my knowledge in a book.

The 15-Year Slump

“I’d wanted to write a book since forever, since 2005,” Rem said. “Doesn’t everybody think they have a book in them?” He realized that writing on a topic grants one a certain air of authority in that arena. After all, he points out, the word “author” is very close to the word “authority.”

Rem wanted to write a book, but in 15 years he’d never gotten around to it. After all, he was a responsible business owner with a large roster of clients. The prospect of getting all his knowledge out of his head and onto paper seemed daunting. He didn’t even know where to start. So, for over a decade, the book remained nothing more than a dream, until a chance encounter with The Book Professor® made it a reality.

Rem met Nancy Erickson at a conference for a marketing database software they both use. He and his wife Diane sat next to Nancy at an awards dinner. Diane and Nancy chatted for a time, then Diane turned to Rem and said, “This is Nancy. You need to talk to her.”

Rem was delighted to discover that Nancy helped people just like him write nonfiction books. She explained her process and he became interested in her one-on-one book coaching.

But Nancy sensed that Rem’s personality would thrive in the Executive Group Mastermind Course, where she gathers several authors into a common cohort as they work on their individual projects.

Rem, a mastermind leader himself, deferred to Nancy’s expertise. “I made a conscious decision to say, I’m going to listen to The Book Professor, because she knows,” he said. “I’m going to submit myself to the process.”

He showed up to the meetings as planned, albeit with some skepticism. Would his group members be helpful? Could he receive quality feedback and advice from writers who didn’t specialize in his subject matter? He soon grew interested in what other group members were writing about, and he saw their willingness to roll up their sleeves and help each other. He recognized the power of a writing group. So, he stuck with the process.

“And what I soon found out was, I didn’t know how to write a book. But Nancy does,” he said.

Freed by the Process

Rem credits Nancy’s process for pushing him past the 15-year “I’m too busy” slump. Her process also freed him from the paralysis of not knowing where to start.

Early in the course, Nancy gave him the secret to writing a first draft. She emphasized that all first drafts are lousy. First drafts don’t emerge from the brain as glowing prose on paper, Nancy said, and the sooner an author escapes that expectation, the sooner he or she will actually complete a draft.

“That freed me up,” Rem said. “I started to write what I thought was going to be a lousy book. I just wrote it, and I kept writing it.” He didn’t try to wordsmith every sentence. He just got the ideas onto paper and submitted new rounds of work to Nancy by the due dates.

He expected scathing feedback, given how un-polished the draft was. But Nancy praised the work he’d produced. She wasn’t looking for perfection yet, just good content, and Jackson had delivered that by pushing perfectionism out of the way.

Only when the material was written and organized into a specific structure did Nancy coach Jackson to polish the prose. He did everything in his power to make the words shine, but still worried it didn’t sound “good enough.” Regardless, he turned it in for Nancy to edit.

“And when it came back,” Rem said, “I thought, This sounds like me. These are my words. I wrote this, but it’s so much better than before. And it was wonderful.”

Bite-Sized, Intuitive, and Insightful

The deadlines helped too. Nancy’s strategy of weekly time blocking—regular hours set aside to focus on the book—helped Rem to overcome his busy schedule and produce a manuscript little by little. He found Nancy’s weekly curriculum on writing to be interesting, inspirational, and most importantly, bite-sized. To fit his schedule, each lesson and assignment had to be clear and short. The Book Professor’s® weekly curriculum met that need.

The process built the steps intuitively, Jackson said. He began with a structure, then a BookMAP, and then came the heavy lifting: he wrote the actual text. Although time-consuming, that part proved easier than he thought thanks to the BookMAPs Nancy encouraged him to complete first.

The Book Professor’s® process gave Rem yet another gift: it helped him identify original content he’d already produced for his business that should be included in his book.

He’d first planned for his book to explore the inner struggles common to most people, even outwardly successful and high-powered people like medical professionals. Nancy helped him realize that he should also write about the four pillars of marketing. He had, after all, developed this completely original content for Top Practices.

“Nancy’s process helped me write the right book—not the book I thought I was supposed to write, but the book I needed to write,” he said.

Of course, the adjustment in subject matter called for a new title. Rem’s cohorts in the mastermind suggested Podiatry Prosperity as a title, an idea that encompassed both the prosperity that comes from strong marketing and the metaphorical prosperity of a well-ordered inner life. It tied the book’s main ideas together.

Rem also loved that the title included the word podiatry. “In my business, I serve podiatrists. I don’t want them to wonder whether if this book is for them,” he said. “I wanted it to be obvious.”

A Book Can Be Your Business Card

Thanks to The Book Professor®, Rem Jackson wrote a book he feels proud of. He’s seen contemporaries cobble together manuscripts out of recycled blog posts and lectures, but he wanted a book comprised of strong, new material. “I wasn’t trying to take a shortcut,” he said. “I was trying to write a book that I was proud of and that my children and grandchildren could read.”

Plus, it granted him an authority in his field that all professionals aspire to. “It’s the best business card you can have. It raises your level of authority in whatever market you’re in. You’re a published author! It’s fun to say that.”

Rem says he’s used the book to successfully grow the Top Practice brand. It helps him stay top-of-mind in the industry. The book is an excellent teaching tool for podiatrists who are interested in his services, and all his clients receive a copy as a perk.

The book birthed several other creative endeavors as well. One chapter, titled “Your Inner Six-Year-Old,” examined people’s tendency to criticize themselves and suggested that they instead talk to themselves as they would talk to their six-year-old selves—with love, respect, and patience.

Rem’s daughter, an illustrator, designed a children’s book based on that concept, which Rem and The Book Professor® are in the process of publishing as a short standalone book.

His first book’s title, Podiatry Prosperty, also prompted Rem to reflect on the meaning of the word “prosperity.” It piqued his interest to such a degree that he began a podcast, Prosperity and Something Greater, to explore how successful people define prosperity. He even hosted Nancy on one episode.

When Writing, Trust the Expert

Rem encourages anyone who thinks they have a book inside them to go for it. If you have an idea or a topic that will lift people up, help them, or possibly even save lives, then he believes it’s your responsibility to get that message out.

But, he says, a word of caution: turn to an expert like The Book Professor® rather than try to go it alone.

He realized early on in the process with Nancy that, “you don’t actually know how to do this, or you would have already done it.” But by following The Book Professor’s® process, he ended up with the book he wanted.

Write the Book You Want to Write

Are you like Rem Jackson? Maybe you have a great book idea but don’t know where to start, or you fear you don’t have time to complete the project. And yet, you feel a responsibility to get your message out.

The Book Professor® can help. Our masterminds and one-on-one coaching can turn you from an aspiring author to an accomplished author and get your message out to the world. Contact me today and let’s get started!


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How to Write for Men or Women (or Both!)

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Write a book that resonates with your audience, whether male or female.

Many aspiring writers have questions about how to write a book for men vs. women. Should authors employ a different style or voice for men than they would for women? Will an author have more success writing to his or her own gender? Is it wise for an author to switch audiences?

Nancy Erickson weighs in on the topic with good news: it’s not nearly that complicated.

Many Subjects Appeal to Both Men and Women

When you start writing a book, regardless of subject matter, begin with a careful analysis of the target audience.

“You have to know to whom you’re writing because that affects how you’ll deliver your message,” Nancy says. When she works with writers, they “spend a great deal of time answering a series of Foundational Questions” to determine the audience for the book.

Many topics turn out to be more universal than expected, says Nancy, and writers who envision speaking exclusively to women or to men may find eager readers in both camps.

Business and career coach, Tina Asher, discovered this while working with Nancy on her upcoming book Teetering, which advises readers how to transition from a corporate career to a different career and lifestyle. Asher began with the assumption that the book, which was largely based on her own personal journey and featured personal stories from other women, would appeal to women in the corporate world. Yet as she and Nancy gathered more anecdotes for the book, they had just as many stories about men as they did about women. Nancy and Tina realized the message of the book could help either sex on their journey out of the corporate world. And so, the book’s audience expanded.

The same thing happened to an author in The Book Professor’s® Group Mastermind program. Her book was about breast cancer, which seemed like a very female topic. Yet men can also get cancer of the breast tissue; more than 2,000 men receive such a diagnosis every year. Thus, the book could help both women and men navigate a challenging illness.

Even Dr. Kathy Maupin’s book Got Testosterone? has audience overlap. The book explains the benefits of hormone therapy for men, but wives and girlfriends often read the book first in their quest to help their partners improve their health.

Your Topic May “Lean” One Way or The Other

But some topics lean heavily toward one gender.

For example, The Book Professor® client Rich Daniels wrote A Tourist In My Own Life, a book about how fathers can form close bonds with their children. Some moms likely read the book too, but men are the obvious targets of its advice.

Another client, Heather Carey, writes about women’s relationship to food and how it connects to body dysmorphia and eating disorders. While some men struggle with these issues, women have historically borne the brunt of social shaming as it relates to the body. So Carey directed her writing toward a female audience.

“One thing I’ve found is that men and women have an equal yearning to communicate their message,” Nancy says. She’s worked with a multitude of clients and has seen equal talent, equal determination, and equal joy in the writing process from both men and women.

Find Your Voice and Stick to It

Should writers adopt different tones for different audiences—for example, a more direct tone for men and a gentler tone for women? “Not necessarily,” says Nancy. “The most important thing is to discover and maintain your authentic voice, regardless of the audience.”

“We never, ever want the author to change their voice based on who they’re addressing,” she says. She tells writers that their future readers “need you to be you.”

In fact, one of The Book Professor’s goals is for each author to learn to write in their own unique way.

Make Your (Male or Female) Audience Feel Included

So what, if anything, should differentiate a book for men vs. a book for women? Not much, Nancy says, save a couple of guiding principles:

Consider your metaphors and whether they’ll appeal to the intended audience.

Nonfiction authors often use similes and metaphors to help readers grasp a point. Choose your metaphors wisely depending on whether your book speaks to men, women, or both.

A book that uses sports examples might strike a strong chord with men, but would it appeal to most women? An author with a mixed audience—or a female audience—should evaluate this before comparing every challenge in the book to sports.

Likewise, women may be more likely to employ metaphors about family life and parenthood. In general, men are less apt to look at life through that lens.

Review your metaphors and your story examples and imagine how they’ll appeal your ideal audience.

Count the number of stories you tell about men vs. women.

Nonfiction books often feature stories of clients, friends, family members, or coworkers to help illustrate points and give examples. Notice whether your stories feature all men, all women, or a healthy mix of both.

If you hope to sell your book to women, you should ensure that many of your stories and examples feature women. Likewise, if you write for men, use mainly men’s stories. If you hope for a mixed audience, have a mixture of both.

“Always make sure you keep the reader inside your circle,” Nancy advises. “Don’t make them feel left out or excluded.”

Do You Need to Identify Your Audience?

You have a story to tell, but maybe you don’t know who would read it. The Book Professor® can help!

Our coaching program helps you identify your audience. Who will benefit from your story? Who would find it interesting? This process goes far beyond men vs. women and takes into account various factors that could define your ideal readership: age, background, career status, and much more.

Readers need your story. Only you can tell it. Let The Book Professor® guide you.


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Second Time’s The Charm

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After a tough “first book” experience, Dr. Kathy Maupin turned to The Book Professor® for help with the second volume.

Dr. Kathy Maupin spent 30 years in obstetrics and gynecology before midlife health challenges set her on a new course.

After a hysterectomy at age 47, Maupin underwent hormonal shifts that threatened her physical and mental health. She turned to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, which saved her health, happiness, family life, and more. The power of hormone replacement therapy hit home for her, and she approached her postmenopausal patients with a new understanding of their health challenges.

Inspired, Maupin became an advocate for bioidentical hormone replacement pellets. She founded a new medical practice in St. Louis, Missouri. BioBalance Health provides hormone replacement pellet therapy to ease a myriad of the troubling symptoms of middle age: insomnia, low libido, migraines, hot flashes, anxiety, and much more. BioBalance Health soon expanded to Kansas City, Missouri, and Pasadena, California.

Inspired to reach more patients with her message, Maupin wrote a book. She and coauthor Brett Newcomb, a St. Louis-based family therapist, published The Secret Female Hormone: How Testosterone Can Change Your Life in 2009. They wanted to raise awareness among women of the benefits of hormone replacement therapy.

But from start to finish, Maupin says, the process was a slog.

First Experience: Disappointment

The book took four years to write—four years of decisions over what to include and exclude, four years of drafts and rewrites as they struggled to organize their message. It drained and exhausted them.

Once they finished the manuscript and handed it to their publisher, Maupin and Newcomb retained little control over the edits. Maupin had written a chapter on the scientific evidence behind hormone replacement pellets. Most of her clients had heard of or experienced the too-good-to-be-true claims of less reputable providers in the wellness industry. “Patients have been fooled before and don’t want to be fooled again,” Maupin says, and she insisted that the book needed this chapter. The publisher disagreed and cut it.

Despite the frustrations with drafts and editors, the book release brought a new boom for Maupin’s business. As new clients piled in the door, she noticed an interesting trend. Many women brought their husbands, brothers, fathers, and boyfriends along for advice about male hormone replacement. Maupin’s male clientele grew. She felt she’d stumbled on a need, and should write a second book aimed at men. Coauthor Newcomb agreed.

Once they began their draft, it was déjà vu all over again in terms of slow progress, discouragement, and difficulty organizing material. On top of that, they had to puzzle out how to write the same material to a different audience.

“I don’t want it to be a struggle this time,” Maupin remembers thinking. “I want this to be fun. I want to enjoy writing this.”

She wanted an expert to guide her through the process.

Enter Nancy Erickson, The Book Professor®. Maupin hired Nancy as her personal book writing coach, and she, Newcomb, and Nancy began work on a new book, titled Got Testosterone?

Write For Different Audiences

Right away, Maupin and Newcomb faced a dilemma. Got Testosterone? would have a different audience; men rather than women. Maupin knew how to appeal to female readers—she was one, after all!—but what would hold a man’s attention?

“Nancy helped us do things differently,” Maupin says. Drawing on her expertise in writing for different audiences, Nancy suggested several changes from the format of than The Secret Female Hormone:

  • Make the new book shorter.
  • Make it easy to read quickly.
  • Choose only brief patient stories to illustrate points.
  • Put the basic facts of each chapter up front.

Under Nancy’s direction, Maupin and Newcomb soon grew confident in their ability to switch gears to a male audience.

Expedite The Writing Process

Maupin did not want to spend four years on a book again. Nancy’s proven strategies on how to write a first draft that works cut down on the time.

As part of her personal coaching program, Nancy gave out assignments and deadlines. Maupin and Newcomb would spend two weeks or so on each section and show their progress to Nancy according to deadlines. Maupin found the accountability factor helpful and doubts she could have managed such consistency on her own. Before her eyes, the two-week assignments began to coalesce into a manuscript.

Nancy also assisted the process as she weighed in on which author—Maupin or Newcomb—should write each section. As she worked with the pair, Nancy observed their strengths and areas of expertise. She offered her opinion on which author could explain each section with the most authority.

Talk Like Your Audience

Nancy also proved invaluable for her advice on when and how to utilize scientific data.

Unlike Maupin’s previous editor, Nancy accepted Maupin’s explanation about the need for scientific backup in the book. She helped Maupin and Newcomb incorporate scientific data into the book, but in a digestible form. Instead of one chapter full of data, Nancy encouraged them to sprinkle data throughout the book in bite-sized chunks.

She screened the manuscript for scientific jargon that might confuse or annoy a reader. Often, Maupin hadn’t even flagged these words as “jargon” because they were so familiar to her and her daily work. “Nancy helped us translate something that I didn’t even pay attention to,” Maupin says.

For example, Maupin had used the term “gynecomastia,” which refers to an enlargement of breast tissue in males. The average reader, Nancy pointed out, has no idea what “gynecomastia” means, but they probably do know the slang term for it—man boobs! Maupin used the phrase “man boobs” to connect with what readers already knew of the condition, and offered scientific terms and explanations second.

Business Credibility, Global Recognition

Maupin and Brett finished Got Testosterone? in half the time it took to write The Secret Female Hormone.

“It felt great. It was so much better than the first book because it was very fast,” Maupin says of the process. Nancy helped her navigate the steps to publish the book independently, under Biobalance Health LLC. In March 2019, Maupin and Newcomb released the book.

Got Testosterone? has since garnered attention in several countries. Maupin receives emails from men across the globe who ask for advice on hormone pellet replacement. Though she can’t diagnose and treat them over the internet, Maupin helps them find specialists in their home countries who practice the same kind of treatment. Some readers decide to fly to the US to be treated by her.

“They come from everywhere,” she says. “[The book] has brought business credibility to BioBalance Health, and gotten our name throughout the world.”

Closer to home, Maupin made the rounds of radio interviews, blog interviews, and podcast interviews. She helps listeners understand that testosterone and hormone replacement are about so much more than sex. The treatment is about “staying healthy and free of disease” first and foremost.

This spring, Maupin got another happy surprise when Got Testosterone? won the 2020 Independent Press Award in the Men’s Health category.

“It was really surprising. It was like Christmas,” she says.

Maupin is thrilled at the results she got from working with The Book Professor®.

“Writing a book is much harder than it seems,” Maupin says, and notes that many experts who “author” books actually use ghostwriters for this reason. “If you want to write your own book, it’s not easy, and your chances of success are very low.”

With Nancy, though, “the business of writing the book was expedited.” Nancy even helped them with details they didn’t manage on the first book, like how to secure content and design for cover flaps.

Do you feel overwhelmed at the thought of writing a book?

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed as you prepare to do something new, but don’t let fear kill your idea and your message. Don’t put off the book you want to write in the hopes that you’ll somehow feel more confident later.

At TheBookProfessor.com we cut through the confusion and break your project into manageable tasks. We will help you organize your ideas, tackle the process in steps, and take your manuscript from idea to completion.

Your message matters. You can do this. We can help.

Get past that first hurdle; contact us today.


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How to Write a First Draft that Works

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Avoid the pitfalls. Beat writer’s block. Finish the first draft of your nonfiction book.

I’ve created my book’s structure. Now what?

If you’ve followed this blog over the past few months, you’ve learned that although writing a book is hard work, nearly anyone can do it. The process is simple, even if it isn’t easy.

And when it comes time to write your first draft, you’ll virtually eliminate writer’s block if you have completed Module 1 of my process:

Module 1 is your book’s planning phase, and most authors feel ecstatic when they’ve finished it. After all, they want to write the book, not just plan it.

However, when we finally reach Module 2—Write without Ruts—all the work that lies ahead can feel a little daunting! Though you’ve laid out a plan, a BookMAPTM, in and of itself, is not a book.

And all those pages? They won’t write themselves.

But you can do it! Below are solutions to some of the most common problems and self-doubts many writers experience as they tackle their first drafts.

First Draft Problem 1

What if I can’t remember any good stories as I write my nonfiction book?

Author Brian Marcel put off writing his book for years. One of the excuses he gave (in his delightful British accent) was, “My memory’s crap!”

This excuse is relatively common and keeps too many great writers stuck. However, it’s rarely a problem when you write your first draft. Here’s why.

One of the tools you’ll use is BookMAP 2, which is how you create the problem/solution sets that will serve as the basis for your book. Here’s the magic of that process: When you can think of a problem you’ve solved, you will be able to find a story to accompany it.

It works every time.

Also, writing a book is a process that lasts about a year. (I know—that’s a long time!) While you’re working on your book, your book is working on you. Memories will resurface, I promise.

First Draft Problem 2

What if I remember great stories, but I get the details wrong?

Memories are funny things. During traumatic incidents (car crashes, for example), each person involved comes away with different, and sometimes conflicting, stories.

Similarly, many authors fear they’ll misremember a story. They’re afraid they’ll get the details wrong, misattribute a quote, or make up something entirely. They don’t want to look foolish or be unfair, and this is an understandable fear.

But remember: This is your story, not someone else’s. As long as you’re true to your memories, you’ll be okay.

This doesn’t give you a license to make things up or even to embellish. But it does give you the freedom to write your story as you see it.

And remember, this is your first draft. You’re won’t share it with anyone. After you’ve written it, you may want to revisit your memories with those who shared those experiences. Trustworthy people can help round out your recollections.

Write it down the way you remember it. We can fix it later.

First Draft Problem 3

What if I hurt someone’s feelings?

Those who write Overcomer’s Stories (like this one or this one) have often lived through experiences that put other people in a bad light. Several of my writers have experienced heartbreaking trauma at the hands of parents, spouses, or siblings.

For example, one author wrote about a complicated relationship with her brother. Though she checked with him before she released the book and received permission to share the details, there was still a backlash.

When he finally read what she wrote, her brother became angry and her parents were shocked. The author was confused because she had explained it beforehand.

Writing a book isn’t for the faint of heart.

No one wants to be purposefully offensive, and that’s completely understandable. But, once again, this is your story. You have a right to tell it as it happened.

Also, remember that at this point in the process, you’re only writing the first draft. You don’t have to share it with anyone. In Module 3, when it’s time to edit your book, we’ll work together to soften some of the language. You can change names or refer to someone as “my boyfriend,” “my wife,” or “my roommate.”

But writing the truth doesn’t give anyone an acceptable excuse to write a mean-spirited “gotcha” book, one created for revenge. I never work with authors who are out for blood—only those who feel compelled to write to benefit others.

Write your book so you can bring hope and help to those people who need to hear what you’ve experienced. Don’t let anyone taint your story.

First Draft Problem 4

What if I don’t have enough time to write my nonfiction book?

Yes, writing a book is a massive time commitment.

But busy people write books all the time. I’ve personally watched CEOs, entrepreneurs, doctors, nurses, and moms of young children write books:

  • Jim Canfield wrote CEO Tools 2.0 while he launched a new business.
  • Beth Standlee completed her book while she managed her coaching company and saw her husband through non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatments.
  • Lindsey Jacobs had to put her book on pause while she went to nursing school—then started writing again after her graduation!

As an author, you’ll need to set aside four to five hours a week to write your book. Though that may seem like a lot of time, you have one hundred sixty-eight hours to choose from each week. If you consistently set aside the proper amount of time, you’ll finish your first draft in sixteen weeks.

You can write a little every day or set aside a large chunk of time to write weekly. However, if you only write “when you feel like it” or “whenever you have the time,” you won’t write your book. That’s why I teach writers how to use a time-blocking method, so they don’t get distracted from their mission.

As long as you’re mentally prepared for it, you can find the time to write your book.

First Draft Problem 5

What if I fail to finish?

I went back to graduate school to get my MFA after my kids were grown. I was excited—all bright and bubbly, but that was at the beginning. To complete my degree, I attended school two years straight without stopping, including summers.

And by the time I reached that second summer, I was sick of school. I thought, “Why did I do this? My life was fine before!”

But all these years later, I don’t remember the suffering. I remember the graduation ceremony. I remember all of the opportunities that the degree afforded me. And I think about how I get to live the life I dreamed about back then.

Now I spend my days helping people tell their stories. It was worth every moment I spent in school.

Writing your book is a bit like going back to school.

When you’re in the middle of your first draft and start to second-guess yourself, think about what will come later. 

Think about the people for whom you’re writing. 

Think about the experiences that will come when you have a published book.

You’ll get through this, and you’ll come out on the other side, grateful you finished.

First Draft Problem 6

How do I stay with my nonfiction book if I get confused or lost during the process?

This is the power of working with a book coach. When authors work with me as The Book Professor®, they get consistent instruction, a sounding board when the going gets tough, and accountability to keep them moving forward.

And for those who participate in a Group Mastermind, I love to watch the members spur each other on! We affirm writers who feel overwhelmed. We stay interested in each other’s stories, even as the author grows tired of his or her own book.

We validate each other, and that counts for a lot.

If you want to write your book (and not quit when things get tough), let’s talk. I want to hear about the book you want to write.


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Jim Canfield on Launching a New Career with a Book

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How an author rewrote a classic business book and changed his life.

The CEO’s CEO

Jim Canfield has spent much of his career helping business owners and entrepreneurs from diverse industries succeed. He’s done this through the facilitation and oversight of peer-to-peer CEO groups.

Through thoughtful engagement and listening, he had the opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of the leaders with whom he worked.

But he also learned about successful leadership from personal experience. Having started several businesses of his own, he said the biggest lesson he learned was that “leadership has to be malleable.”

Jim said, “Like a lot of CEOs building a company from scratch, I didn’t realize that, as a company grows, it needs a different type of leader at each stage of growth. I learned leadership had to be malleable. You always have to ask, ‘What type of leader does my organization need to grow?’”

And it was that malleability allowed Jim to grow his own businesses. One of his companies, in particular, was a collaboration with his brother. It proved successful because they leaned into their complementary skills.

Jim said, “I’m great at getting something off the ground. But we found my brother was a better leader when it came time to implement a distributed management system.”

This flexibility of thought permeates everything Jim does. Throughout his career, he’s learned to adapt to new situations, collaborate more effectively, and seize opportunities for himself when the way forward seemed closed.

One opportunity Jim always wanted to seize was to write a book that captured his knowledge. However, he had trouble getting it off the ground. Even though he had collected strong content, he didn’t know what story he wanted to tell to hold the book together.

Just like in his CEO peer groups, though, he found the way forward through the support of another leader. It began when Jim met Nancy Erickson, The Book Professor®, at an event.

Jim said, “What piqued my interest at first was that I could write methodically over a period in a group setting. For me, the creative process was always, ‘I’ll do it when inspiration hits.’ But I appreciate structure, and I believe in the power of a group. Groups can inspire us to do better.”

Jim started work on his book with the Group Coaching Mastermind. But a sudden shift in his priorities made him decide on a different course of action—and a much tighter timeline.

Time for a Change—and a Nonfiction Book

In 2018, while he was in the middle of his book with The Book Professor, Jim put in a bid to purchase the CEO peer-to-peer company he had run since 2006. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.

Disappointed, Jim decided it was time to strike out on his own. He said, “I decided my future was better in my own hands than someone else’s.”

Jim wanted to build a new business that communicated the principles he taught CEOs, and he knew the best way to launch that business was through a book of his own. It was time to act quickly and complete a book he could leverage into a speaking career.

And he had a great idea to accelerate the process. His friend, Kraig Kramers, had written a book he loved called CEO Tools. Kraig had since passed away at the age of 72, and one of his fellow peer group members, Aprio, had purchased the intellectual property contained in CEO Tools.

Jim and Aprio CEO, Richard Kopelman, both wanted to perpetuate Kraig’s legacy—and at the same time give the book a fresh take. Kraig had written CEO Tools in a different era. Though the ideas were timeless, someone needed to update the book if it were to remain relevant. Jim wanted to do that.

Additionally, he knew if he wanted to teach Kraig’s principles in a way that would resonate, Jim would need to re-create the book. The new draft would need to reflect his own experiences, voice, and up-to-date research.

After he received permission to adapt the book, Jim went to Nancy in June of 2018 and said, “I need to change directions. I want to recreate CEO Tools, and I have two objectives for it. First, it needs to be done, and done well. Second, I’ll need to publish it in December. Would you take on a project like that?”

Nancy said, “Yes,” and they went to work.

Writing a Business Book in Six Months

With their strict deadline, Nancy helped Jim create a schedule through all stages of her book-writing process to keep the project on target. To do this, the Group Mastermind would no longer work. Jim decided to hire Nancy as his Personal Book Writing Coach.

Jim said, “The initial problem I ran into was just staying on schedule—hitting my marks. I tried two different methods to get on track. At first, I wrote just a little bit each day. But I felt like I would get into a flow with a thought, idea, or direction, then not be able to finish it.”

So, Jim began to schedule one or two eight-hour writing sessions into his week.

He said, “I would tell myself, This is a writing day. I knew it was my only task. I’m a pretty structured person, so when I scheduled time to write, I’d get up and go! And all the time, I was tracking toward the deadline.”

The book itself demanded much of his creativity, and each chapter had to incorporate three separate elements seamlessly.

First, Jim presented Kraig’s concepts in his own voice with new anecdotes. Second, Jim created a story about a fictional CEO named Jack to illustrate the principles of the book vividly.

Finally, Jim wrote case studies from companies that exemplified the concept presented in the chapter. He included three types of companies:

  • Those he knew from personal experience
  • Those he discovered through research
  • Those that came through referrals from other leaders

One of the companies Jim featured in his book came through an introduction from Nancy Erickson. The CEO of that company was author Craig C. Hughes, a client of hers who wrote the book The Self-Driving Company.

After Jim and Nancy had created his BookMAPs®, the two developed a rhythm that allowed them to complete a little more than a chapter a month. During that time, Nancy would offer her feedback, and Jim would incorporate it quickly.

He said, “Nancy gave me three types of feedback. The first kind was what I’d call structural feedback. It’s when she would read something and say, ‘I don’t follow you here—flesh this out a little bit more.’

“The second kind of feedback was where Nancy and I would just have a difference of opinion. For example, I had written a chapter that was very technical but contained a crucial lesson. Nancy thought it took away from the flow of the book. We went back and forth on it, trying to figure out what was best. In the end, we decided to include the chapter, but as an addendum.

“‘The third kind of feedback was just clean-up. It’s funny, even after reading through my book several times, we’d still find little gaps where there was a missing word.”

“It’s what every author hopes for.”

Amazingly, through rigorous work, Jim was able to write and publish his book in just six months. The book itself became the cornerstone of his new speaking career.

Jim said, “My plan all along was to speak to CEO peer groups. I love it. Usually there are twelve to fifteen CEOs in a room. I spend two to three hours telling the story of the book and talking through the concepts. And for the most part, I follow the structure of the book when I give my talks.”

Jim says that, as a speaker, he’s able to sell between one hundred and two hundred books a month. Several times a year, he’ll sell closer to one thousand copies in bulk for larger engagements.

His speaking earned him the award of TEC Canada’s U.S. Speaker of the Year. His book and talks have garnered him endorsements from Ken Blanchard, Jack Canfield, Debbi Fields (Mrs. Fields Bakeries), and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

But, for Jim, the real reward is watching the book help business owners and executives thrive.

“I’m always surprised to see the impact the book has on individual CEOs. The implementation of these concepts really revolutionizes businesses. It’s what every author hopes for.”

Jim attributes his ability to finish the book with speed and excellence to his decision to work with Nancy. He said, “I think she does a great job. Her system balances the right and left brain very well. I appreciate the structure she provides in addition to her new and fresh creative ideas.”

You can buy Jim Canfield’s finished book, CEO Tools 2.0, right here.

Would a book help launch the next chapter of your career?

We’ve all gained a lifetime of knowledge from hard-won experiences. Often, that knowledge represents how we found success in an area of life. People need that knowledge! And you can leverage it to help move your career forward.

But even the most disciplined people need help to stay on track and avoid the pitfalls that lie along the path to a published book.

As The Book Professor®, Nancy Erickson guides people to complete their books. Then, she helps authors get their books to market so other people can benefit from the knowledge they hold.

If that’s what you need to move your career to the next step, contact Nancy here.


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The No-Excuses Guide to Writing a Business Book

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Establish yourself as an expert. Increase credibility. Attract a following.

Will this help you move your career forward?


Entrepreneur Brian Marcel has had a wildly successful career. As one of the founders of the barcode industry, his work helped shaped the world we live in today.

He is, by any measure, an expert in his field.

Others in his industry recognized his expertise, and for years they asked him to write a book about it. They saw others pass away, and their knowledge died with them. They hoped Brian would capture his experiences and the lessons he learned in a book.

But Brian thought no one would be interested by his work in a tiny niche! He failed to grasp how broad his knowledge was, how compelling his story could be, and how much the general public could gain from him.

This very common self-perception has stopped way too many talented businesspeople from sharing their knowledge in book form. Maybe it’s stopped you. Perhaps you’ve thought, “No one will be interested in what I have to say.”

As someone who’s helped dozens of businesspeople write inspiring and noteworthy books, here are some of the common roadblocks I’ve helped them overcome.

Can you relate to any of these?

Roadblock #1: I feel like my knowledge appeals to too narrow an audience.

For Brian, having grown up in a niche industry, he thought only a handful of people would be interested in what he had to say. But authors from niche industries write great books all the time! The question is this: How do you maximize your book’s potential?

First, know that being “specific” is good. It helps you speak directly to those who are most interested in what you have to say.

Plus, specificity is helpful for marketing. A clearly defined audience translates into a clearly defined marketing plan. You’ll be able to find those you want to reach through industry publications, podcasts, radio shows, blogs, and events.

However, general principles will nearly always emerge from your writing. It’s sometimes hard for authors to see the broader application of their experience.

Authors need an outside perspective. When working on your book, you need to find someone with a talent for seeing the bigger picture. That’s where I come in. Read on to discover how that works.

Roadblock #2: I don’t have any principles to share, just a story to tell.

If you’ve had any success, your story will reveal general principles that could apply far beyond your life and experience.

Our partners also have vast experience in selling drugs through the Internet, now they have big discounts on generic Cialis.

The way authors discover these principles is by breaking their story into problem/solution sets using BookMAP™ 2. Each chapter title will reveal a problem the author solved. Once identified, the solutions and the stories will flow from there.

Brian thought his knowledge was too industry-specific, but here are some of his chapter titles that apply to every business owner:

  • Begin with a Plan
  • Hire the Best People
  • Focus on Process
  • Look for New Markets
  • How to Survive in the Market without Sales

As you can see, these are universal principles that emerged as Brian worked on the structure for his book. Anyone in business can relate!

That’s why it’s vital to spend time on your book’s structure first. Don’t cut corners. If you skip ahead, you’ll confuse yourself and, eventually, your readers.

Roadblock #3: I know what principles work, but I don’t have an exciting story.

A lot of business book authors tell me they can’t think of any good stories. But I’ve found this: If you’ve experienced a problem, then discovered the solution, there’s a story you can tell.

Here’s the formula for a great story:

  • What it used to be like
  • What happened
  • What it’s like now

During the second module of the book writing course, “Write without Ruts,” I teach my authors how to write a great story. I show them how to write in scenes and invoke sensory language so readers can truly experience what the writer experienced. It’s something anyone can learn how to do.

When we move to the third module of our book writing process, “Polish and Perfect”, magic happens. So many of the writers I work with are shocked at how well they can write!

(For more inspiration, read this story about self-proclaimed non-writer Terry Lammers.)

Roadblock #4: What if I give away too much information, and no one wants to hire me?

You may want to write a business book because you’re a consultant with great information to share. You realize you need a book for credibility. Still, you fear if you lay out your knowledge, you’ll devalue your services as a consultant.

I tested this one out for you. I wrote a book called Stop Stalling and Start Writing: Kick the Excuses and Jumpstart Your Nonfiction Book. I put my whole process in that book. I gave everything away.

But I’ve seen that giving my knowledge away doesn’t make me unnecessary. It establishes me as the expert I am. Not only that, but my book has also served as:

  • A sales tool
  • Something people can buy when they can’t afford my services
  • Fodder for my seminars, keynote speeches, and online courses
  • Material for articles, interviews, and blog posts

Listen—there’s no need to have an attitude of scarcity when it comes to your knowledge. There’s enough for everyone. Share, and it will come back to you.

Roadblock #5: What if my ideas are too “vanilla?”

I’ve worked with writers who have authored books on very similar topics. In fact, three of my clients are podiatrists, and it’s hard to believe three podiatrists have something wildly different to say.

I’m here to report that each of those books is uniquely fascinating.

The difference in your book is you. It’s your experiences, your language, and what you’ve gleaned from others that will make your book enjoyable. But that’s not all.

A well-defined target audience will help you create interest. Imagine you’re a financial planner. Most financial planners have similar knowledge, so you spend time thinking about what group of people other financial planners haven’t reached. You think, What if I write my book for resident physicians?

These are people who haven’t earned much money—at least, not yet. They don’t know what you know, and no one has spoken directly to their needs or situation.

Maybe you could help them.

Because, in just a few years, those residents will have large incomes that will need expert management. If your book reached them when they had nothing, maybe they’ll call when they have so much money, they don’t know what to do with it!

Don’t worry about uniqueness. Your book’s individuality will reveal itself as you engage in the process.

You can write a great business book.

Businesspeople, experts, entrepreneurs: You know more than you think. You have something to say, even if you don’t feel like it. If you’ve made a life for yourself, you have something to teach others.

A book can do a lot for you. It can:

  1. Establish you as an expert
  2. Increase your credibility
  3. Help you attract a following

But it’s rare to find a person who can do all of this without some help. If you want to work on and finish a business book that can stand shoulder to shoulder with anything on the market, we should talk.


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Business Book Author Brian Marcel: Niche Experience, Broad Appeal

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With a career’s-worth of experience, this barcode industry entrepreneur created a marketable nonfiction book with The Book Professor®.

Finding Opportunity in a New Technology

Brian Marcel felt starved for inspiration.

It was the mid-1970s, and he worked for the London-based paper manufacturer Reed International. His small division represented a Portuguese paper mill, and he needed a change. Marcel said (in his charming British accent), “It was really boring and very limited, so I said to my boss, ‘Can’t we do something else?’”

Marcel’s boss agreed to let him explore any opportunity. He started by visiting the commercial departments of London’s European embassies. Initially, Marcel hoped to find more papermills Reed could represent in the UK. Though he found none, one German-based business caught his attention.

They specialized in barcode technology, a relatively new industry, and Marcel realized it would fit hand-in-glove with Reed’s clientele. With little more than a phone call, Marcel brought Reed into the barcode business, and it changed his life.

After Reed gained a fourteen percent market share, an American competitor recruited Marcel. Unfortunately, they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a year later. Marcel saw it as an opportunity.

He said, “I took all my customers—and the company car—and set up business. I had always wanted to start my own company because my dad was an entrepreneur. It was a no-brainer, really, but it took something like that to make me do it.”

That was in 1982. By 1987 Marcel was looking for new markets to expand and figured the wall might come down in Berlin, opening the Soviet Bloc to the West.

The corporation he started then, IBCS Group, has become the top mobility integrator in Central and Eastern Europe. Now, as one of the few people with a front-row seat to the entire history of this industry, his colleagues began to push him into facing another challenge.

Finding an Audience for a Nonfiction Business Book

Marcel is part of a trade association called AIDC 100—one hundred colleagues who work in automatic identification and data capture (AIDC). There are few people left to tell the history of their business, so several association members asked if he would write a memoir.

Marcel said, “I never really wanted to write a book because I thought it would be too much hassle.” Then, he said, “I thought I couldn’t do it because my memory’s crap. And I’ll never remember everything—certainly not enough that’s of interest to the public.”

He mentioned his struggle in a mastermind group that included The Book Professor®, Nancy Erickson. She told him about her Group Mastermind program.

Marcel explored Erickson’s website, which intrigued him. He said, “She had a process. I looked at her three modules and I thought, Oh, that looks interesting. And there were weekly calls, which meant I could be held to a deadline. I need that to happen if I’m going to do a good job of anything.”

In the first classes, Erickson had asked the group to identify their target market. Marcel said he was writing it for the people in his industry, as well as his family. When he totaled up the number of readers who he thought would be interested, he only could imagine about a hundred.

Marcel quoted Erickson as saying, “Well, that’s not very ambitious. Would you like to sell more copies than that?”

Marcel responded, “Yes, I’d like to sell more, but who the hell’s going to be interested?”

But Erickson changed his mind, helping him see a much larger opportunity for a business book that would speak to anyone who wanted to start a thriving business.

Leaning into The Book Professor’s Framework

Marcel had plenty of wisdom to share. He could teach people how to start a business, how to work with different cultures, and how to connect an untapped market with a new technology. Besides, he had already been working with mentees in other industries, teaching the principals of business through his life experience.

Once he was working through Erickson’s first module—”From Concept to Concrete Plan”—he felt like ideas started to flow. The process included questions to answer, and he found the direction useful. He created the two BookMAPs® to establish the structure for the book.

However, when he reached Module Two—Write Without Ruts—Marcel was afraid his memory would fail him. When he went to work, though, he found the BookMAPs kept him going, saying, “They were able to suck memories out of me.”

He continued, “Having the weekly phone call was useful as well because it forced me to write. I had a process, a framework, and a deadline. Those were the three key things.”

The book he found himself writing was unique both to his industry and to the business book cannon. Accessible for any entrepreneur, each chapter consists of problems he faced personally, mistakes he made along the way, and the solutions he discovered.

The finished book can connect with, as well as instruct, entrepreneurs from any industry.

New Opportunities through a Nonfiction Book

Marcel said, “The new book has provided some useful opportunities for my business. I find if you have a book, you have more credibility.”

The way Erickson helped him structure the book gave it a built-in marketing plan. He released some of the book’s takeaways through social media, wrote articles based on chapters, and gave several interviews for a variety of podcasts, radio shows, and magazines.

The media attention became a valuable part of his LinkedIn profile, and he said the book is a “good tool to move things forward.” The final chapter, “Spot the Next Trend,” hints at some of the new developments and opportunities he sees, including subscription-based models and blockchain technology.

Entrepreneurs who need a practical guide to business ownership can find Brian Marcel’s Raise the Bar, Change the Game: A Success Primer for Budding Entrepreneurs Who Want to Change the World, on Amazon.

A Success Strategy for Nonfiction Authors

The most productive people in the world know that success isn’t something you can improvise. It takes hard work, accountability, and repeatable disciplines that can become part of your daily life.

At TheBookProfessor.com, we give authors:

  1. A proven process that has worked for hundreds of others across a variety of nonfiction genres
  2. A framework with proprietary tools to lead authors from initial concept to published book
  3. Weekly check-ins and deadlines to keep you on track

If this is what you need to move your career forward, create new opportunities, and get your knowledge to those who need it most, we can help.

Send us a message and tell us about your book right here.


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The Book Professor’s® Complete Guide to Writing Your Nonfiction Book

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A lot of us suddenly have a surprising amount of free time on our hands. If you want to start your manuscript today, here’s my process, start to finish. 

It’s Time to Stop Stalling 

[Note to readers: We have a special offer running through March 31, 2020. Check out the discount at the end of this blog post].

If you’re like most aspiring writers, you’ve probably considered writing a book for some time now. Like someone who stands at the edge of a pool, waiting for the perfect moment to dive in, you might only need a little encouragement. A little push. 

Well, this is it. Especially if you’re stuck at home right now due to COVID-19, I want to encourage you. Use these difficult days to fulfill a dream or propel your career forward. Write your book. 

Do you still need someone to convince you? Do you think, “Who am I to write a book?” Or, “It’s way too hard?” 

Consider the story behind some of the books my authors produced. 

For example, Executive Coach Mike Kitko had several false starts before he engaged the process I’m about to share. But after he followed it from beginning to end, he released an excellent book he can sell at every one of his speaking gigs. (It even helped him create two revenue-producing courses!) 

Beth Standlee is a gifted writer and speaker, but she struggled to organize her “creative chaos” into a book. This process gave her the tools to do so. With this structure in place, she was able to publish her book even while she navigated one of the most challenging periods in her personal life. 

Terry Lammers is a businessman who knows the secrets of buying and selling companies. But he never considered himself a writer. This process helped him produce the book, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. It found a place on the Forbes list, Best Books for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. 

And we haven’t even talked about the Overcomers! Writers like Rich Daniels, Lindsey Jacobs, and Nancy Nelson learned to tell complex, rich stories that grew out of heartbreaking times. It took courage to say what they had to say, but in the end, the process they followed helped them release beautiful books that offer hope and help to others. 

You can do it, too. This article will get you started. But you can get even more complete detail from my book, Stop Stalling and Start Writing. Download a copy (or order the paper version) here. 

Ready? Get set. 

Write! 

1. Purpose Statement

If you want to complete your book as soon as possible, you may be tempted to start at chapter one. But a little pre-writing goes a long way. It keeps you from writing three or four chapters only to discover you’ve “lost the plot. 

Start with a purpose statement, which allows you to make choices that will drive your book forward. It follows this formula: 

The purpose of this book is to action for audience to result. 

Let’s break that down. 

Action 

First, what do you want your book to do for people? The answer to this question is vital because people don’t buy books; they buy solutions  

Audience 

Then, define your audience. It’s okay to be specific. The better you define your audience now, the more targeted your writing can be. It will also give you a way to market your book when you’ve completed it. 

Result 

Finally, what will your audience take away from this book? That’s the “result.” It’s the change your audience will experience when they’ve read it. 

This strategy works for any nonfiction book. All of my writers have focused their writing through this formula.  

But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean you can rush through it. Take some time. Freewriting will get you a long way. (Try writing with your non-dominant hand as well.) 

If you want to learn more and see some examples of purpose statements for a wide range of nonfiction books, read this article. 

ASSIGNMENT: Write your purpose statement. 

2. BookMAPs

We’ve talked about BookMAPs extensively on the blog, and I encourage you to read this article in addition to the one you’re reading now. This part of the process gives you the structure you need to write quickly and effectively, virtually eliminating writer’s block.  

You’ll start with BookMAP 1, your personal story. Here’s the formula: 

  • What it used to be like 
  • What happened 
  • What it’s like now 

If you’re writing a memoir, you’ll base your entire book around these three points. For most writers, however, BookMAP 1 will inform your introduction and give you many of the anecdotes you’ll need to fill out the rest of your book. 

As you consider each of these three points, spend time writing down what life was like during each of these three periods: 

  • Personally 
  • Professionally 
  • Physically 
  • Spiritually 
  • Financially 
  • Mentally 
  • Relationally 

Write all of this out and collect it in a single document. 

ASSIGNMENT: Create BookMAP 1. 

Next, you’ll work on BookMAP 2, which are problem/solution sets. Your book is about how you solved one big problem. Still, you’ll break that larger problem down into about several individual problems that each had a solution you discovered. 

Each of those solutions has a list of features, which are the attributes and aspects your solution provides. Second, each of those features has a list of benefits. These benefits are “what you got out of that solution.” 

For most business books and how-to books, these problem/solution sets will define your chapters. Collect your problems, solutions, features, and benefits into one document.  

ASSIGNMENT: Create BookMAP 2. 

3. Write without Ruts

With your BookMAPs in place, you know what you’re going to write. Now you just have to do it. 

I recommend writers set aside time to write their book. Whether you can work every day or once a week, make sure you reserve this time for yourself. Then, do whatever you have to do to concentrate and write. 

Also, don’t double back and fix what you’ve written. It’s too early to determine what you’re going to keep and what you’re going to throw it. All of that is just a distraction. This first draft will not be perfect, but it does have to be complete. 

Write the book and be prepared to fix it later. 

ASSIGNMENT: Write your first draft, one chapter at a time, from beginning to end. 

4. Rewrite: Polish and Perfect

Now, go back through your book and see what you need to do to make every line work and every word sing. It takes some time, so don’t rush the process. But as you edit, ask yourself: 

  • Does this address my audience? 
  • Does this help my audience take action that will produce their desired result? 

If it doesn’t, no matter how much you love it, cut it. Your first draft was for you. You had to get it all on paper. But this draft if for your audience. This draft will make a difference in people’s lives. 

Also, this is when you’ll need to engage a professional book editor. No matter how proper your grammar is, your book will need a second set of eyes. And if you’re not a very strong writer, editors can help you keep your voice but fix your mistakes. 

ASSIGNMENT: Go back to the beginning and work through your book line by line. 

Is that really all there is to it? 

Yes and no. If you read straight through this post, it probably took you about five minutes. And it only takes a handful of hours to read my book on this subject. 

But writing a book takes a long time. I estimate forty-eight weeks 

And there’s more to a book than just writing it. At some point, it won’t make sense to work through this process all alone. I do a lot of big-picture editing for writers, helping them when they get lost and don’t know what’s next. When we finish, I bring in another editor to go through the book line by line and make sure we haven’t missed anything. 

The cover and layout are essential to the reader’s experience, too. There’s a tangible difference between a professionallydesigned book and a printed-out Word document. When you have someone do it correctly and beautifully, it will earn you an extra degree of credibility. 

But nearly anyone who has lived through a problem (and figured out how to solve it) can write a book. If you’re not ready to work through the process with me, that’s okay. Use this opportunity to get started. 

But if you’re ready to go allin, get someone who can walk you through this process, and work with a coach who can cheer you on, I’d love to work with you. Contact me here. 

A Special Discount through March 31, 2020

A lot of you have followed me for some time now, waiting for the perfect opportunity to write your book. Maybe a finished book means a leap ahead in your career. Maybe it means fulfilling a lifelong dream.

But if this current landscape of uncertainty has caused you to put your plans on hold, I want to make things easier for you.

I’ve temporarily adjusted the price and the terms of our Group Coaching Mastermind:

  • I’ve reduced the price by 15%—from $350 a month to $297.50 a month
  • After the initial payment of $297.50, I’ll delay your payments for three months

That means you wouldn’t make another payment until July! The course begins on April 2, so this offer will expire on March 31.

If this is a dream you were going to have to defer yet again, I hope this helps. You can take advantage of this if you go to our registration page here and use the coupon code WRITETIME.


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A life coach’s memoir finds hope amid tragedy

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Nancy Jo Nelson’s “little book about big stuff” confronts the mystery around grief for a suicide victim with help from Nancy Erickson, The Book Professor®.  

Trigger warning: This post deals with the subject of suicide. 

Walking through the Unknown 

Nancy Jo Nelson knew her marriage was over. 

She had lived with her controlling, formerly alcoholic husband for seventeen years. They even had two children together. But no matter what she tried, it was clear nothing would save their relationship. Not therapy. Not hard work. Not even prayer.  

Nelson said, “I grew up with the belief that I should be the anchor in the relationshipthe problem solver, the savior. But I cannot make anybody do, think, or feel what they don’t want to. It’s not my job.” 

She asked her husband, Bob, for a divorce in July 2009. On October 7 of the same year, and without warning, he disappeared. No one at work, home, or in his extended family knew where he was. 

For Nelson and her family, daily life took on a surreal quality as the police searched for her husband. She was interrogated, asked to take a lie detector test, and even stood aside as cadaver dogs searched her property. 

Five months to the day after his disappearance, Nelson and her family learned the awful truth. Bob had committed suicide in the woods just a mile from their home. As she and her family grieved, they had to carry on with their lives as well.  

She said, “I learned that all I could do was be present when my family needed to talk through things. I couldn’t put a Band-Aid on this—it was out of my power and control. But I was beginning to understand that everything is out of my control. Everything, that is, except for how I choose to show up in any given situation.” 

Though she would one day write a memoir about the period that surrounded Bob’s disappearance and suicide, she had to heal first. That healing process changed her profoundly, helping her find a strength she never knew she had. 

Nancy Nelson’s “Overcomer’s Story” 

Nelson worked hard to help her kids continue forward as she and her family moved through grief. “I had to go to work, send my kids to school, and be present for them when they needed me.”  

She also realized that, in Bob’s absence, she had to provide for herself and her children financially. She decided to go back to school and finish a degree in Applied Behavioral Sciences, one that she had abandoned thirty years earlier. Then, Nelson continued to develop professionally, studying to become a certified life coach. 

At a professional event, Nelson shared the story about her husband’s suicide with another life coach. That person said, “This is a book. You’ve got to talk to my friend Nancy Erickson. She’ll help you.” 

It was just the encouragement she needed. Nelson knew she had a unique story, what a friend jokingly called a “movie of the week.But there was more to it than that 

In her hometown of Barrington, Illinois, several teenagers had recently stepped in front of trains to end their lives. She knew their loved ones needed someone who could speak into that particular kind of heartbreak. 

Nelson said, “Suicide is a different type of death. The grieving process is, in many ways, unique. My daughter said, ‘No one talks to me about the good memories they had about dad. They focus more on how things ended rather than how he lived.” 

Further, she wanted to show how those left behind could build their “life after.” She hoped to encourage the heartbroken that beautiful things can spring from tragedy as well. 

But when it came writing, Nelson wasn’t sure how to create something as long and complicated as a book. She said, “I know how much I benefit from other people’s experience and knowledge. I can say, ‘I don’t know. I’m going to the expert that does know.’” That’s when she called Nancy Erickson, The Book Professor®. 

Writing a Nonfiction Book that Makes a Difference 

Nelson chose to write her book through the Group Mastermind program, which still allowed her a significant amount of one-on-one time with Erickson. After she wrote her purpose statement, defined her audience, and created her BookMAPs, Nelson began her first draft. 

She said, “The part that surprised me (and I guess it shouldn’t have) was that you do this on your own. Nobody writes your book for you. Nancy has great tools, but the bottom line was that I had to do the writing. 

She continued, “It was very cathartic. Nancy [Erickson] said at the beginning of the process, ‘The book writes you as you’re writing the book.’ And I dismissed it as nothing more than a nice thought. But I discovered it’s true. It’s really, honestly, true.” 

Nelson found the most challenging part of the process came after she completed her first draft. The manuscript felt overly long, and she wanted to trim it to something that would make a profound impact on her readers. 

She worked to make sure every line in the book supported her mission statement and spoke to her audience. Nelson found one tool especially helpful. 

Erickson encouraged Nelson to search her book for every instance of the words I, me, or my. Nelson took the advice. If she deemed the passage wouldn’t connect with her audience, she cut it. In the end, her final draft was about a third as long as her first draft. 

Still, she didn’t think the book felt right. Though she had a lot of compelling material, she believed it lacked flow, like she was trying to force it into its final form. 

She says she’ll never forget the moment the book revealed itself to her. She was at a coffee shop with all the chapter headings of her book on separate pieces of paper. As she laid them out on a table, she let go of her preconceived notions for the book.  

Suddenly, she saw how all the pieces fit together. 

Nelson said, “One of the big things Nancy always said was that you almost have to take your hands off the wheel and let it come, let it flow. That’s how it worked for me. I tried to control it. But in the end, I had the overwhelming feeling that the book wrote itself. 

Balancing Control and Trust 

The whole experience was cathartic for Nelson. She said, “It’s about taking your power back. You can’t hand it over to anyone else.” 

As she’s shared her book, she’s watched its message resonate with readers. One friend tapped her heart and said, “I took all the hurt and put it right here.” Nelson’s book helped her friend release that pain and start to find healing. 

Additionally, the memoir has opened doors for Nelson to speak to a variety of groups about suicide and resiliency. A dance company even has plans to perform a piece on the subject, asking Nelson to consult. 

Through it all, Nelson has become more aware of synchronicity in her life. She said, One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is this: You do what you need to do. But trust that in the background, beyond what you can see, things are percolating.” 

About her partnership with Nancy Erickson, Nelson said, “The friendship—working with Nancy—was absolutely a wonderful, beautiful experience. She said, ‘Here are these tools. You pick what works for you.’ And that was very freeing to me.’” 

You can buy Nancy Nelson’s compelling memoir, Lessons from the Ledge: A Little Book about Big Stuff, through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  

Do you have a story you need to tell? 

If you want to write a memoir (or what we call an Overcomer’s Story), we believe you have lived an experience the world needs to hear 

Unfortunately, many people who want to tell their story never finish their book. They may have notes, drafts, blog posts, and other pieces of a memoir, but they get stuck somewhere in the process. 

At TheBookProfessor.com, we help authors put all of those pieces together. Nancy Erickson enables writers to see what they have, focus it into a finished book, and release something that can stand shoulder to shoulder with anything else in the marketplace. 

We have a process to follow, a team that works with you, and a variety of tools and tricks to get you across the finish line.  

You do the writing. We help you finish. 

If you’re ready to write your book, contact Nancy Erickson here. 


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The Key Ingredients of an Effective Memoir

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Are you an Overcomer?

When author Lindsey Jacobs came to work with me, she had an incredible story. She went through a divorce but found her way, bit by bit, as she trained for a triathlon. That triathlon became a metaphor for the change she experienced as a person.

The book she wrote, Stronger: From Trials to Triumph to Triathlete, comes out of that particular slice of her life. Her story, along with her life change, culminates with the moment when she crosses the finish line.

Like many of the authors I work with as The Book Professor®, she had to face off with several problems. Over time, she found solutions to each of them. She could have communicated what she learned through a variety of genres:

  • A self-help book
  • A business book
  • A how-to book

However, Lindsey decided to write a memoir, or what I call an Overcomer’s Story. In an Overcomer’s Story, the author’s life has a strong and direct “point” to it. That point is the main takeaway of the book.

Here are the key elements to a memoir, and what you need to know to write one.

Memoir Ingredient 1: Honesty

I love memoirs. Lucy Greeley’s Autobiography of a Face and Jeanette Walls’s The Glass Castle are two of my favorites. Throughout each of these books, the author gives us a snapshot of a real and messy life told with absolute honesty.

In a memoir, the reader gets on the roller coaster with the writer.

This is not typically true of an autobiography. Autobiographies are usually a textbook-like, long (and tedious) highlight reel: “I did this, then I did this, and then I did this.”

I rarely enjoy those kinds of books. They create psychological distance between the writer and the reader. The author tells his or her story in a way that ends, “And we all lived happily ever after.”

By contrast, though a memoir can end in triumph, it doesn’t end with a fairy tale resolution. It ends like this: “And here I go on, still trudging this road. But I’m here.” Readers can relate to that kind of conclusion.

Memoir Ingredient 2: Hope & Help

As The Book Professor®, I only work with authors who want to offer hope and help to people. To make sure the final result will accomplish this goal, we always do two things.

  1. Create a purpose statement
  2. Define the audience

We talk more about these two critical parts of the process in this article. Those two “boundary lines” help inform every word the author writes from that point on.

When we build these two components, the memoir becomes more than pure entertainment. As the author tells his or her Overcomer’s Story in an emotionally descriptive way, the audience receives a sense of hope: “If the author made it through that, maybe I’ll be okay, too.”

Then, the “help” comes in how the person did it. These books still contain problems and solutions, but the author shows more than they tell.

The skinned knees and bruised elbows represent the problems the author faced. But he or she will then say, “I found this, and it really helped.” With a well-defined audience and purpose statement, the author can be certain that the book’s readers have faced similar problems.

Memoir Ingredient 3: Pivotal Moments

When I help authors structure their book, I use a tool I developed called BookMAPs™ (read more here). There are two of them, and each serves a vital role for the author. BookMAP 2 looks at the problem/solution sets the author discovered.

However, memoirs use BookMAP 1 to define their overall structure:

  • What it used to be like
  • What happened
  • What it’s like now

It’s the second bullet point, “what happened,” that makes up most of the memoir. It’s a series of pivotal moments where everything shifts, and through those shifts, the author’s life completely changes.

Sometimes, these pivotal moments can be “Aha!” moments, when the author decides, “I’m going to do things differently.” But most of the time, those pivotal moments come to us as a surprise. They can be happy surprises: You meet the love of your life, have a child, or fall into a career that’s perfect for you.

However, pivotal moments often come as a result of unwelcome surprises: A death, divorce, or job loss.

But as the author describes these pivotal moments, he or she can’t just recount the facts. The reader needs to experience all of what the writer has to offer.

Memoir Ingredient 4: Go Deep

Through BookMAP 2, authors will look at each of these pivotal moments through a variety of lenses. They’ll ask themselves what their life was like:

  • Professionally
  • Financially
  • Relationally
  • Physically
  • Personally
  • Spiritually
  • Mentally

For each of these, we take a deep dive into the “before,” the “during,” and the “after.” There will likely be more than one element that the writer has yet to consider.

For example, a pivotal moment might cause someone to learn about his or her relationship: “I don’t want to be around people who make me feel bad anymore.”

Or, it might be a financial change: “I tethered myself to this person because of the money, but I decided to put myself first. I may live hand-to-mouth for awhile, but that’s better.”

As the author writes, we look for ways to pull out these moments through sensory language. We want readers to feel what the author felt at the time. There, as the readers viscerally experience the author’s story, they experience more of the hope and help so crucial to the audience the author has defined.

Are you an overcomer?

Of all the genres of nonfiction books, memoirs can be the most difficult to write. The experience can be emotionally draining, and a lot of people think they can just farm the work out to a ghostwriter.

But here’s the thing. Ghostwritten memoirs rarely make a personal connection! The person who lived the story has to write the story for it to make an impact.

If you want to write a memoir, you don’t have to do it by yourself. At The Book Professor®, we don’t write your book for you. We guide you through a tried-and-true process. We become your sounding board. And we help you finish and publish a book that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anything else on the market.

If you’re an Overcomer, I’d love to help you write your book. Let’s get your story out there!


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How One Triathlete Turned Her Blog into a Memoir

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Lindsey Jacobs found her voice as an author while going through one significant life change after another. She transformed her story into a nonfiction book with a little help from The Book Professor®.

It started with a lifelong dream

Lindsey Jacobs had always wanted to write a book. As a kid, she took creative writing courses and crafted poetry. Though she harbored a desire to have a finished novel one day, she said, “I would never have expected my first book to be my personal story.”

That story was fraught with difficulty. Lindsey went through a painful divorce. She struggled to learn how to become a single mom and deal with the fallout from her marriage. In talks with a counselor, she discovered her “normal” wasn’t normal at all. She had been worn down and completely stripped of her sense of self—traumatized by years of abuse.

As therapy helped her heal, she sought balance in her day-to-day life. Lindsey had always been a runner and, at the time, worked at a Fleet Feet franchise. A co-worker encouraged her to train for a triathlon, something Lindsey had never considered.

Inspired by her friend’s words, she decided to sign up for an IRONMAN® triathlon. The training was tough. She still enjoyed running but found biking tedious and repetitive. Worse, she was a weak swimmer, terrified of water.

But as she tackled her tangible fear of swimming, she found she could also tackle some of her less tangible fears—the anxieties that came with her new life.

During a training session one day, Lindsey had an idea for a short essay. Though she said it started as “stream-of-conscious ramblings,” by the time she got home, she had a two-page anecdote to type up.

Lindsey took her small document to work and discovered it resonated with other athletes. They said, “This looks like it belongs on a blog. Have you ever thought about starting one?”

She hadn’t, but she found the idea exciting. She purchased the domain ramblingrunnergirl.com and started blogging. Her initial posts were purely about running and triathlon.

However, she began to write about the training process in the context of her life and struggles. Before Lindsey knew it, she had something more than “ramblings” on her blog. She had a strong idea for a book.

Seeing a Nonfiction Book Inside a Blog

As Lindsey blogged faithfully, she found a powerful metaphor. All of life is like training for a triathlon. Each of us experiences:

  • Fears (swimming)
  • Monotonous obligation (biking)
  • Joys (running)

When she saw how these ideas came together, she said to herself, “I need to tell this story.”

Lindsey completed IRONMAN Arizon in 2014. Not long after, she ran into Paul Gilbride, a former Fleet Feet customer of hers. As they spoke, she shared her experience and book idea.

Listening to Lindsey, Paul said, “I’ve got to introduce you to somebody!” Paul had been working on a book of his own with Nancy Erickson, The Book Professor®.

As an athlete, Lindsey understood how helpful a great coach could be. She decided to write her book with Nancy, choosing the Group Mastermind process.

Lindsey said, “I’m an athlete. I’ve always been part of a team, and I love the camaraderie of people alongside me who are working toward a common goal. The Group Coaching thing was perfect for me.”

Lindsey came to the table with several ideas but no structure. She appreciated Nancy’s step-by-step process, which reminded her of the drills her swimming coach assigned her.

Lindsey said, “I’m a creative. I have a lot of ideas, but sometimes those ideas just kind of float around in my brain without any real purpose. Having Nancy to guide with her modular plan made it really easy to follow and tackle little bits at a time.”

She continued, “When I started swimming, I had no clue what I was doing. The swim coach said, ‘Okay, I want you to swim the length of the pool without using your legs—just your arms.’ Then, later, he had me swim by skimming my fingertips on the top of the water. When you work on one small thing at a time, it’s easier to put the whole thing together into one natural motion.

“That’s how it was with my book. I had all these ideas I was thinking through. But breaking down the book-writing process with Nancy was like learning how to swim.”

However, as Lindsey continued to find personal balance, she decided to go to nursing school. With full-time work, single motherhood, and college, she had to “sideline her book for a while”—halfway through the first draft.

But even though she stopped working on her book, her book kept working on her.

Relying on a Book Coach

Nancy believed in the book and kept in touch with Lindsey. When Lindsey finished school, Nancy asked if she was ready to finish her book.

She was. The two picked up right where they had left off. Though life became busy again, she kept going. Lindsey said, “Nancy was great. She told me to go easy on myself and never beat myself up for not going about it perfectly. Just like with training, there are good days and bad days. You just have to press on.”

Though Lindsey had structured her book around a BookMAP™ 2 structure (problem/solution sets), the book made more sense as a memoir, based around a BookMAP™ 1 structure. (Read more about BookMAPs here.) The whole book ended on a “big moment,” which was the moment she crossed the IRONMAN finishline.

However, for Lindsey, she didn’t feel like the structure worked until she reached the editing phase. After months of work and struggle, while she was out for a run, she saw the opening scene in her mind. When she found that scene, everything clicked into place.

She said, “It’s just like training. You have to trust the process—that it will all come out in the end.”

A Story that Changes Lives

It’s been a whirlwind for Lindsey. She began training for IRONMAN Arizona in 2014. Since then, she’s become a triathlete, a blogger, a nurse, and has even re-married. Through it all, she managed to finish her book, which she was released on January 1, 2020.

Now that her book is out in the world, she’s found how relatable her traumatic experiences are. She said, “My story is very vulnerable. And I have gotten such great feedback from people! My favorite part is that people now share their stories with me.”

She even got an endorsement from Olympic rower—and three-time gold-medalist—Emily Regan. You can buy Lindsey’s book, Stronger: From Trials to Triathlete to Triumphant, on Amazon.

What’s Your Story?

Do you have an amazing story to tell? Some insight into life that you want to share with the world?

At TheBookProfessor.com, we believe you do. Don’t keep it to yourself. And don’t let your ideas just rattle around in your heart, head, or blog. Contact Nancy Erickson and get started on your book.


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Overcoming Writer’s Block Part 4: Structure Is the Secret Sauce

Are you one of these people?

As The Book Professor®, I meet aspiring authors all the time. They say things like:

“I have a big idea that would make a difference. I wish I could figure out how to write it down!”

“My heart breaks for people who go through the same thing I’ve experienced. I wish I could share my story with them.”

“Life would be easier for people in my industry if they only knew what I know. How do I write something they’d want to read?”

“I’ve always wanted to write a book about my experiences. But I don’t know where to start. Maybe I’ll get to it someday.”

Most of these would-be authors have the same difficulty. They have all the pieces of a book rattling around inside them. They can feel it. And sometimes, in more enlightened moments, they can envision what it would look like as a finished product.

But when they get to work, they find themselves so frustrated they quit. They get “writer’s block,” unsure what the next step could be.

I understand their predicament. It’s like having all the materials you need for a beautiful house in an unsorted pile: From lumber and drywall to bathroom fixtures and picture frames. They suggest a structure, but the final product seems out of reach.

Similarly, you have:

  • A story to tell
  • A set of problems you’ve faced
  • A solution to each of those problems
  • Information and anecdotes that relate to each

But which story goes where? What problems from your life belong in the book? And what solutions actually helped you overcome each problem? You need a blueprint to make sense of the creative chaos you have inside you!

To sort through this “pile of materials,” I help my clients create a BookMAP™. It’s two documents that tell you everything you need to know about the book you’re going to write.

When authors work with me, we begin by defining the book’s purpose and audience (more about that here). Then, here’s how we proceed.

BookMAP™ 1: Your Personal Story

When you pour out your story for the first time, it can feel overwhelming. So much has happened, and so much of it is painful to relive. Where do you begin?

Some people think it’s best just to start from the beginning: “I was born in rural Arkansas on a dark and stormy night….”

But this may not be relevant to your reader. So, if you’ve set your purpose statement and defined your audience properly, you have a pretty good idea what the reader will find compelling.

Then, you can frame your story using this formula:

  • What it used to be like
  • What happened
  • What it’s like now

That’s it. It’s a classic “compare and contrast” formula that, once you learn, you can use in nearly any communication—not only your book.

If you write your book to help someone overcome a particular problem, you’ll be able to make your point by telling them:

  • What life was like before you encountered the problem
  • What life was like while you experienced the problem (and worked to overcome it)
  • What life is like now that you’ve conquered the problem

Yes, you need to include your story.

Some people love telling their personal story. But sometimes I’ll get a little push-back from authors who don’t think their story matters for the kind of book they plan to write.

I think your story does matter. When you present yourself as a superhero who knows all the answers, it’s difficult for others to relate to you. But when you establish yourself as a flawed human who’s encountered real problems, you’ll be able to reach people. They’ll see themselves in you, and that will give them hope.

Plus, writing your story is good for your soul. Many of the authors I’ve coached have experienced some pretty powerful moments of revelation as they’ve written their stories. As they relive their most vulnerable moments, they’re impressed by how much they overcame.

They also realize their experience is even more valuable than they initially believed. They move into writing their book with greater confidence, and that’s something authors need for the many months of work that lie ahead.

For some writers, their personal story will reveal the structure of the entire book. For most, however, it will only inform the introduction. But don’t worry: We’ll use this formula inside the chapters of our books as well.

BookMAP™ 2: Working with the Problem/Solution Set

If you’ve talked about books with me, you’ve heard me say this: People don’t buy books; they buy solutions. In BookMAP 1, we establish the story of a problem you’ve faced and overcome. In BookMAP 2, we show your audience exactly how they can overcome their problems, too.

The formula for this is simple as well: Problem/Solution.

It’s tempting to jump right to the solutions. But books that only give us solutions are hard to read. As readers, we have no context for the “information dump” thrown our way—no relatable situation to which we can apply your solutions.

However, readers don’t just want a list of problems, either. If you merely hope to gripe about your industry, the government, or your life, your book probably won’t find much of an audience. The power lies in that combination of problem and solution.

Here’s how it works. Since you know the purpose of your book, the audience you’re trying to reach, and the story you want to tell, write down every problem you faced. In the end, you’ll want to whittle it down to twelve, more or less.

Then, write down the solution you discovered to each of those problems.

This will give us approximately twelve chapters with problem/solution sets that are robust enough to justify hanging some real content on them.

BookMAP™ 2: Diving into Features and Benefits

Each solution that you’ve found to deal with the real problems of life comes with several features. These are the distinctive attributes of the solution you’ve found to the problem your audience faces.

Each of these features will come with a list of benefits.

For example, a feature of my BookMAP process is “clear assignments.” Some of the benefits are:

  • You’ll never have writer’s block — you’ll always know what you’re going to write next
  • You’ll have a plan for finishing your first draft
  • You’ll be able to write quickly and efficiently

Another feature is that you create problem/solution sets that both become chapters and can stand on their own. Some of the benefits include the ways you can use these problem/solution sets to promote your book:

  • Blog posts
  • Articles
  • Podcasts
  • Social posts
  • Videos

When you’ve put together your feature/benefits sets, you’ll be able to find at least one good relatable story. And stories are something we already know how to tell:

  • What it used to be like
  • What happened
  • What it’s like now

Do you see how, when you do the work of structuring your book first, you’ll be able to proceed with your first draft? You’ll be able to get moving, and as I like to call it, “Write without Ruts.”

The Structure for the Book Is Not the Book

As we discuss creating a BookMAP for your personal use, you may ask, “Does this kill all my creativity later in the process? Does your system cause me to write to a boring formula?”

That’s not my experience—nor is it the experience of the dozens of authors with whom I’ve worked. Let’s look at another house-building metaphor:

  • When you create your book’s purpose statement, you lay a foundation
  • When you define your book’s audience, you frame the house
  • When you create your problem/solution sets, you build the walls and the roof
  • Now, you’re free to focus all of your attention to make your house beautiful and unique to you

It doesn’t kill your creativity. It gives you the chance to be creative—something a blocked writer never has the opportunity to do.

It’s simple, but it’s not easy.

When you read through this process, I hope you think, “That makes sense! I can do that!” You can even read a deeper dive into these topics in chapters 13 and 14 of my book, Stop Stalling and Start Writing: Kick the Excuses and Jumpstart Your Nonfiction Book.

However, I believe that people who are serious about their book need more than a framework. They need practical, day in and day out help. They need someone to bounce ideas off of, to be vulnerable with, and to keep them accountable.

That’s what I do for aspiring authors. If you want to write your book—and release a finished, professional copy that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with anything in the market—I’d love to help.

It’s what I do. To talk with me about how I can help you, click here.


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