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

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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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How a business coach turned “creative chaos” into a 5-star non-fiction book

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A Compelling Turn-Around Story

Beth Standlee is the Founder, CEO, and President of TrainerTainment. She’s also a sought-after speaker, coach, and writer. Through her million-dollar company, she teaches people how to sell with confidence.

Beth believes the ability to sell can turn a life around. She understands this truth intimately. A career in sales turned her life around.

When Beth was only nineteen, she unexpectedly became pregnant. Forced to drop out of college, she said, “Instead of getting my bachelor’s degree, I got my M.R.S. degree—then my M.O.M.!”

She believes she could have gotten stuck, unable to reach for the life of her dreams. She discovered sales—a career path that allowed her to fit work around her family’s schedule.

Beth says she was lucky. Blessed with a “wonderful groom,” she had the flexibility to grow as a professional. In 2004, she fulfilled another deferred dream and earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of North Texas.

However, Beth realizes many women aren’t as fortunate as she’s been. Increasingly, she wanted to write a book so others—especially women—could change their life through sales, too.

Her belief in the power of books spurred her on: “I wanted to write a book of my own because I’m a big reader. Books have certainly influenced my life and helped me grow.”

Then she laughed and said, “If this hillbilly from Arkansas can build a business through sales, anybody can!”

Turning Experience into a Compelling Book

As someone with an English degree, Beth is no stranger to the writing process. She writes the blog for TrainerTainment and, since 2006, a monthly column for RePlay Magazine called “The Party Professor.” She thought that writing a book would comfortably fall inside her skill set without much outside help.

So, at the beginning of 2018, she decided to collect her stories and wisdom into a book. She unplugged from work and set aside two weeks to churn out as much as possible. By day two, she realized she needed help.

She bought the book Stop Stalling and Start Writing: Kick the Excuses and Jumpstart Your Nonfiction Book by Nancy Erickson, The Book Professor®. She found Nancy’s structured approach to organizing ideas through BookMAPs™ especially useful.

Beth worked on a draft of her BookMAP but decided to reach out to Nancy for help. When she recalled their first conversation, she remembered saying, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I need your process for helping folks.”

Nancy asked Beth when they would need to publish. It was February 2018 at the time. Beth had a big trade show coming up in June and hoped she could to release it then. Much to Beth’s surprise, Nancy told her five months wouldn’t be enough to finish a book. “Quality takes time,” Nancy said.

Disappointed, Beth said, “At first I thought, ‘What kind of coach are you?’ But then I realized, as a coach myself, how hard it is being on the buyer’s side of coaching. I didn’t like the things Nancy was saying at first. But just like I understand sales, Nancy understood her process. It made me think, ‘So this is how those salespeople feel when a coach comes to help them!”

Partnership with a Book-Writing Coach

Beth felt comfortable with Nancy almost immediately. “It was very collaborative. Nancy helped me focus my story through an extremely efficient process. I came to her with ‘creative chaos,’ and she helped me organize it.”

First, they created a purpose statement. Beth wanted the book to show people—especially women—that a professional career in sales could change someone’s life both professionally and personally.

Soon after, Beth and Nancy structured the book’s problem/solution sets, an innovative part of the BookMAP process. Beth said, “From a speaker’s point of view, I really understood Nancy’s system. Make a point, then drive that point home. It was the same process: First problem. Then solution. Then here’s a story that’s going to help you remember that solution.”

Because Beth worked with Nancy one-to-one, she had the freedom to customize the writing process to her creative style. After some initial back and forth, Beth decided to complete the first draft in one large chunk, then send it to Nancy for feedback.

The notes Nancy gave Beth were insightful. They were also actionable. Beth was able to incorporate the edits during a difficult time—her husband was in the hospital, diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She finished her book as she cared for her husband (who’s now doing much better).

As they approached the final stages of editing, she relied heavily on Nancy’s consistent feedback, especially during such a difficult period.

A Five-Star Book on Amazon!

Beth’s partnership with Nancy gave her the ability to write and organize something as long and complicated as a book. She said, “I’m not a process-driven person, so I really connected with Nancy and her method.”

The Book Professor’s system helped Beth get the book to market as well. She said, “I wouldn’t have kept going if I had been responsible for editing, registering, coming up with the cover, and everything. I could do it, but I’m too busy!”

By May 2019, Beth released her book, People Buy from People. As of the publication of this article, all thirteen customer ratings on Amazon are five out of five stars.

She’s been able to accomplish all of her goals, even donating the book to several women-in-need organizations. Beth said, “When I write my next book, Nancy will be involved!”

To learn more about Beth Standlee’s book, People Buy from People, or to buy a copy, click here.

Are you ready to write your non-fiction book?

At The Book Professor®, we believe nearly anyone can write a quality book. But if you’re a busy professional, you may not feel like you have the time to create something that will truly make you feel proud.

Though many people begin writing books, few of them finish. Those who do rarely end up with a product they feel is worthy of the marketplace.

At TheBookProfessor.com, we help people from all walks of life get from a concept to a high-quality finished book. If you have a story that you need help writing, contact Nancy Erickson here.


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Overcoming Writer’s Block Part 3: The “Just Start Writing” Myth

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First Drafts: Cracking the Code

Have you ever read a book and thought to yourself, “I can do that! I have something to say, and it doesn’t look that difficult.”

If this sounds like you, that’s wonderful! I firmly believe you have a book inside you. And though writing one isn’t easy, it’s something just about anyone can do if they have the will to work hard.

However, most people begin the process with a fatal flaw: They go straight from a flash of inspiration to typing their first draft. They think back to a schoolteacher, a friend, or a creativity guru who said:

  • “If you finish a page a day, you’ll have a 365-page book at the end of the year.”
  • “Your book will write itself if you just let it flow out of you.”
  • “Just turn off your internal editor and write.” (This is good advice for later — but not yet!)

Writing a book isn’t like reading one. Though there are a few experienced writers who are the exception, most cannot start with page one and end when the material runs out.

This is what usually happens to someone who proceeds this way. Though the words flow easily at first, things get messy. Without a clear purpose, audience, or structure, the writer has no clue:

  • How to order their ideas
  • What stories to tell
  • What style to employ
  • How to market the finished product — if they get that far!

As The Book Professor®, I have a process that helps writers work with clarity and precision. My clients create nonfiction books that hit home with readers, solve real problems, and create opportunities beyond their publication.

Recently, and independently from each other, two former clients used the same metaphor to describe what my process was like for them.

So, if you can, think back to 1999.

It’s like The Matrix

Do you remember the movie The Matrix? It’s about a character named Neo (Keanu Reeves) who realizes he and his fellow humans have been living their lives inside a computer program, convinced it was real life. Now, outside of the program, he’s able to see the computer code that defined his existence.

In one scene, he watches Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) look at screens where the code they know as The Matrix streams past. Unlike Neo, Cypher can read the symbols.

Neo says, “Do you always look at it encoded?”

Cypher says, “[…] There’s way too much information to decode the Matrix. You get used to it. I don’t even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette, redhead.”

In other words, where Neo sees a jumbled mess, Cypher sees people. Later in the film, when Neo can finally read the code, a whole new world opens up to him.

This is how it feels to figure out the purpose, audience, and structure of your book. All the jumbled thoughts you’ve had suddenly fall into place. You can see how your ideas, stories, and marketing plan will work together to reach people with your message.

If you follow these three strategies, you’ll crack the “code” that will allow you to sit down and write your nonfiction book freely and coherently.

Nonfiction Writing Strategy 1: Purpose Statement

Good nonfiction books exist to effectively deliver an idea to an audience in a way they can understand. Writers who know this and create a purpose statement have a leg up over writers who don’t.

First, books with a clear purpose keep readers engaged. Confident the book will take them on a coherent journey, people will continue to read, provided the material is relevant to them.

Second, books with a clear purpose are focused. The writer only includes relevant information and anecdotes, which makes their ideas shine more brightly.

Bonus: The writer can save all of his or her other ideas for the next book!

This is what happened for podiatrist and writer Dr. Peter Wishnie. Having finished his first book—one that had an unambiguous purpose statement—he came back to me almost immediately. With plenty of material left over, he’s ready to work on his next book!

Executive Coach Mike Kitko worked very hard to focus his book’s purpose statement, too. Before he had even completed his final draft, he found himself able to structure two more books almost immediately.

That’s the power of a focused purpose statement!

Nonfiction Writing Strategy 2: Audience Definition

Your purpose statement goes hand in hand with the audience you want to reach. Define this group as narrowly as possible. It’s rare to have too narrow a niche for three reasons.

First, audience definition will bring an even more precise focus. You’ll be able to surgically remove information and anecdotes that will be irrelevant to them. If you decide to rewrite the book for a new audience, you can keep the same structure but change the stories!

Second, audience definition will help inform the words you choose. Once again, the narrower, the better! You wouldn’t quote Scripture to atheists, use war metaphors with pacifists, or describe a juicy steak to a vegan. If you know your audience, you’ll be able to speak their unique language.

Third, audience definition will help you market your book. A narrow audience will likely have their own niche blogs, magazines, podcasts, and meetings. Your book will come with a built-in marketing plan and will serve a larger purpose in your life and career.

Nonfiction Writing Strategy 3: Stay tuned!

Next month, we’re going to talk about how to structure your book. This final step in what I call “Module 1” will allow you to write freely and quickly. (More about our modules here.)

As I share this, I want you to feel inspired. I hope you think, “I can do this!” and start tinkering with your purpose statement right away.

But there’s a reason my clients want to work with a coach. They’re busy people who don’t have time to experiment, figure things out on their own, then only maybe end the process with something that will accomplish their goals.

Whether you want to write your book one-on-one with me or in a group of like-minded changemakers, I’d love to talk.

Get in touch so we can begin our conversation!

 


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Author Rich Daniels: Writing a Deeply Personal Story for the Sake of Others

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A Tourist in His Own Life

Rich Daniels was in the midst of a career marked by impressive accomplishments. His resumé included positions in marketing, operations, and strategy for a variety of corporations with an international reach. He traveled worldwide and enjoyed the rewards of his success.

At the same time, he got to live a dream when he became a co-owner of Amigos Cantina, a popular and highly-rated St. Louis area restaurant and co-founder of Yurbuds sport headphones.

Rich is also a husband and father of three. But his home life wasn’t what he hoped it would be. As someone who worked and traveled incessantly, he felt out of step with his wife, Megan, and his three kids (Grace, Luc, and Zoey).

Megan ran their home like a well-oiled machine. When Rich would come home, he’d feel like a disruption to what she’d created. Though he loved his children, he didn’t have a deep relationship with them and was unable to communicate that he knew, valued, and loved each of them individually.

Rich realized he was little more than a “tourist in his own life.”

He spoke with his pastor, acknowledged his problem, then said he wanted to join the men’s group. He hoped to spend time with dads like himself and was curious if any of them had figured out how to live the kind of life he desired—one that struck a balance between work and home.

The church didn’t have a group like that, so the pastor asked Rich to help him put one together. The group would meet in the Daniels family basement. Rich agreed but was so busy that he didn’t make the first two meetings. When he made it to the third, he realized that all of the other men in his group faced the same problem.

It took awhile, but with the support of both his wife and his men’s group, Rich began to rebuild his home life. He slowed down at work. He and Megan decided how they wanted to parent as a couple. Rich became a vital member of his home and community. His life began to improve.

Then, a chance encounter made Rich realize that men outside his current circle needed what he’d discovered.

The Drive to Write a Non-Fiction Book

As Rich made changes to his life, a chance encounter unsettled him. He attended a networking meeting where he chatted with a man who seemed happy and successful.

Six months later, Rich learned that the man took his own life. Rich was shocked. He said, “I grew up with brothers, so I always had someone to lean on when I needed to.”

Rich wanted to reach out to highly-driven men like this one and share the wisdom he’d gained through experience and his men’s group. He wanted to tell them there was a better way to live, and that they didn’t have to go it alone.

Rich decided it was time to write a book. Unfortunately, he had no idea how to start. He shared his thoughts with a friend, who told Rich about The Book Professor®, Nancy Erickson.

Rich visited thebookprofessor.com and took the Self-Directed Book Writing Program. Soon, he decided he wanted to finish his book with Nancy’s help. He hired her as his Personal Book-Writing Coach.

A Legacy to Leave and an Idea to Communicate

Rich entered the book-writing process with a concept designed to reach Christian men. His working title, Creating Gravity, was about “creating gravity that would draw guys to Christ.”

In conversations about his book, Nancy challenged the premise. She envisioned a larger audience for his ideas. Rich thought about it. He said, “Nancy has this saying: ‘While you’re working on your book, your book is working on you.’”

And that’s what happened. The audience expanded in Rich’s mind. His message began to solidify, and he started to codify the ideas he and Megan practiced at home. He could break it down into three main concepts—that every member of the Daniels family would:

  • Feel known. Rich and Megan learned and engaged with his kids’ interests, tastes, and experiences more deeply. They wanted their kids to feel like they were “part of the team”—members of the family, not just someone familiar to be ordered around.
  • Feel valued. In his new family paradigm, Rich began to listen more closely to each person’s words, thoughts, and feelings. Every person now had a chance to be heard.
  • Feel loved. Rich believes every person experiences love differently. He said, “With my wife, it’s when I do chores for her around the house. My daughter Grace, on the other hand, needs words of praise and affirmation.”

Nancy pointed out these three concepts as possible sections for Rich’s book. He hadn’t seen it before that moment. For Rich, Nancy’s perspective made all the difference. It allowed him to write his book quickly and with a sense of purpose.

Authors and “Expert Status”

Though Rich creates effective business strategies for a living, he didn’t have a comprehensive marketing plan for his book. He created a few videos and did a little social marketing, but stopped there.

All he wanted was to have a book to give to guys going through a hard time, like the man he met at the networking meeting.

But the title of “author” continues to afford him extraordinary opportunities.

From time to time, he’s able to bring his message as a guest speaker to groups of men. He said, “My book was more a collection of shortcomings and lessons that I felt were worth me sharing. I wanted to encourage other men to be more engaged at home. But when you publish a book, people see you as an expert.”

Rich shares the message of the book often. He gets to tell others, “As guys, we want the adventure. And with any journey or adventure, we are presented with adversity which we must overcome. It requires the help of God and others. Find a men’s group at your local church or in your community. Get connected with other guys on the journey.”

Rich Daniels’s touching book, A Tourist in My Own Life, is available on Amazon.

The Power of Your Story

Many of us have a compelling story to tell, but don’t have a way to “get it out.” And when we start, it’s easy to get stuck on what we think the book should be rather than what it wants to be —and what would potentially reach the greatest number of people.

If the book you want to write feels like a code you can’t crack, we at The Book Professor® can help. We guide writers and non-writers alike from concept to published book. It’s not easy, but our process has worked for many others—and, if you’re willing, it can work for you too.

If you’re ready to get your book out of your head and into a final, professional, and published form, let’s start a conversation.

 

 


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Dismantling Writer’s Block Part 2: The “I Can’t Write” Myth

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From Non-Writer to Non-Fiction Author

Kids are natural storytellers. They draw pictures with a clear narrative—even if it’s silly. Then they staple those pictures together and create books for fun.

If you stand still long enough, the little kids in your life will tell you all about their friends, family, and hobbies in surprising (and sometimes exhausting) detail.

Which means that whoever you are, you were born with the ability to create and tell stories. But for many of us, someone or something made us feel like we didn’t have the talent to write a book. We lost the joy. We lost confidence in ourselves.

Perhaps you:

  • Could never figure out how to diagram a sentence
  • Didn’t understand the five-paragraph essay
  • Grew up around people who didn’t use proper grammar
  • Went into a “non-creative” field like accounting, medicine, or (in my case) computer programming
  • Heard someone say your writing “lacked promise”

Whatever the cause, too many of us call ourselves “non-writers” for all the wrong reasons.

But if you’re reading this, you’ve probably thought: “I’ve gained some life experience. If I knew how to write it down, people would want to read it.”

As The Book Professor®, I believe almost anyone can write a compelling book with a little help. My team and I help non-writers create high-quality non-fiction books all the time! All you need is:

  • A message to communicate
  • The willingness to follow our process from beginning to end

It’s not easy, but if you’re a non-writer who wants to be an author, it’s worth it.

Your Idea Is the Key (Not the Grammar!)

A great non-fiction book is more than a collection of well-ordered paragraphs. It’s the story of someone who has lived life, encountered a problem, and figured out how to solve it. It’s valuable to readers who have similar problems themselves.

This “big idea” compels readers to turn pages. That’s why the first book-writing stage — “PLAN” — is crucial. In it, as your coach, I help pull the idea out of you.

During the PLAN phase, we create your BookMAP™. This isn’t an outline. It’s the process by which we figure out what the book is going to be. During this time, we determine the book’s purpose, audience, and content. (More about BookMAPs™ here and here).

When it’s finished, you’ll have everything you need to craft your first draft. And guess what? You don’t have to be a “writer” to get this far!

First Drafts & The Crucial Ingredient

Once you have a BookMAP™, you’ll know exactly what you’re going to write. Now it’s time to get it out. This stage in the process, called “PRODUCE,” requires a lot of hard work.

But here’s the good news: We’ll fix any mistakes or other issues later. The goal of the first draft is to get your story and wisdom down on paper. And do you know what the crucial ingredient to a well-written first draft is?

You!

Readers won’t be satisfied if you keep them at arm’s length. They want to get to know the real you and see all along the way.

As a coach, I work with our authors weekly. During the PRODUCE stage, I give them tools and tips to infuse their first draft with individuality.

For example, one tip I share is this: Be honest. Let the real you shine through on the page. We can always remove some of it later if you feel like you’ve gone too far, but you’ll be surprised how much you will keep.

I also teach this technique: Use sensory language. Tell us what you see, smell, hear, feel, and taste. Do it as concisely as possible, but don’t hold back. If we need to, we can cut some of it later, but we can’t shape your final draft until you have a first draft.

The “Secret” of the Professional Writer

The next time you’re near your bookshelf, grab your favorite book and find the “acknowledgments” page. As you read it, you’ll discover the secret of every professional writer.

Nobody writes a book alone. Coaches and editors pulled your favorite book out of the author. They made suggestions, changes, and fixes throughout the process. This “great writer” even had a team who fixed grammatical errors, punctuation problems, and mistakes of all kinds.

During the third book-writing stage — “POLISH AND PERFECT” — you will go through a series of exercises to edit your first draft. This is where the magic happens! You will see your ideas, expressions, and experiences come to life and will be astonished at what you accomplished—as a non-writer!

You and your team at TheBookProfessor.com work through your manuscript. Together, we make sure it will stand shoulder to shoulder with anything in the marketplace.

But too often, beginning authors are afraid their first draft will lose its authenticity.

Nothing could be further from the truth. You keep “you,” but the prose becomes tighter, more precise, and more powerful as you go through draft after draft after draft. Then, your coach (me) and a copyeditor provide that extra bit of expertise you’ll need to cross the finish line.

But you are in charge the whole time.

For example, one client of mine, Terry Lammers, wrote a brilliant book that Forbes called one of the “best books to help entrepreneurs grow a business.”

He’s a business expert—not a grammar expert. He worked with me and our copy editors to make his prose grammatically correct.

However, that didn’t mean he abdicated his role as the author. He knows his subject better than anyone. If an edit didn’t resonate with him, he had the power to reject it. (And he did. Often!)

Another client, Beth Standlee (People Buy from People), was born and raised in Texas. When she saw an editor changed the word “daddy” to “father,” she changed it right back! She said, “I’ve never once called my daddy ‘father!’”

I want to help every one of my clients create a book that meets the highest possible standards. A bunch of us work together to get it there. But the author, in the end, is always in charge. What he or she says goes!

Are you a non-writer with a non-fiction book inside you?

Do you want to write a non-fiction book, but you’re:

  • Not sure how to start
  • Stuck on your first draft
  • Afraid you don’t have the discipline to finish
  • Unskilled as a writer

Would you like to get help from someone who can encourage, instruct, and guide you through a time-tested process that results in a marketable book?

If so, you can create a book that stands shoulder to shoulder with the best on the market.

If you’re ready to get your book out of your head and onto the page, let’s start a conversation today.

 


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Five Books Every Entrepreneur Writing a Book Should Read

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This book originally appeared on bookbaby.com

As venture capitalist James Altucher says, “… having a book is the new business card.” In addition to displaying your expertise in a given field, publishing a book can bring you personal and business credibility.

Business leaders engage in a host of activities designed to propel their careers, improve themselves, and promote their businesses. Writing is the most powerful of those activities — even though it has little to do with increasing sales or impressing investors. And I’m not talking about emails or blog posts — the most influential leaders in business commit significant chunks of their schedule to writing and publishing their own books.

There are many reasons why, but here are three of the most critical:

1. Personal credibility

Having a published book gives you credibility as an expert in your given field. With your book in hand, doors that were once closed seem to magically open — people simply pay more attention to what you’re doing and saying.

2. Business credibility

If you’re running a business and you publish a good book, your business becomes more credible, too. It lends an air of legitimacy to your enterprise and even pays dividends in helping you establish connections with potential clients and business partners.

3. Brand clarity

Publishing a book that defines and details the core principles and mechanisms of your business crystallizes what your company is all about and how it can create value for outsiders. It can also help clarify your company’s mission internally.

That said, writing and publishing a book  is not easy — even for seasoned and talented business executives. It demands diligence, grit,  research, and preparation.

If you’re an entrepreneur, business owner, or anyone embarking on a mission to write a book, here are five books about self publishing you should study before setting pen to paper.


writing a book Authorpreneur

Authorpreneur: Build the Brand, Business, and Lifestyle You Deserve. It’s Time to Write Your Book.

Jesse Tevelow is an entrepreneur and author whose work has appeared in Businessweek and Forbes. His book, Authorpreneur: Build the Brand, Business, and Lifestyle You Deserve, is built around one key principle, summed up neatly by the author: “Giving yourself an edge requires playing a different game. Writing books is the new differentiator.”

This book is divided into two sections. The opening chapters detail why entrepreneurs should write, along with how to go about researching and selecting a topic.

The second section gets more specific, providing guidance about how to prepare outlines and eventually take your book to market.


writing a book Book Blueprint

Book Blueprint: How Any Entrepreneur Can Write an Awesome Book

Author Jacqui Pretty is the founder of Grammar Factory, a publishing company that has helped over 100 entrepreneurs write and publish their own books.

But don’t fret,  this book is not a 200-page advertisement. Rather, Book Blueprintserves as a step-by-step framework for writing a quality book quickly, providing a blend of technical practicalities that every good book demands. It also serves up fair helpings of inspiration and encouragement that can benefit any writer.

 


writing a book APE

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur — How to Publish a Book

Guy Kawasaki was one of the original hires at Apple, serving as the brand’s first chief evangelist. Today, he’s a brand evangelist for Mercedes Benz, a keynote speaker for premier business conferences, and the author of 13 books.

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur — How to Publish a Book, co-written with Shawn Welch in 2012, remains one of his best — and one of the best books for executive writers, period. It’s full of practical, realistic solutions for overcoming hurdles in the writing process as well as strategies and tips for wading into the world of self-publishing.

APE is also noteworthy for Kawasaki’s introduction of the concept of the “karmic scoreboard,” the notion that what you create and release into the world will eventually come back around to either haunt or glorify you. With that backdrop, he urges the reader to really think about why they want to publish a book. The goal, he suggests, should be founded in kindness, generosity, and the intellectual enrichment of others.


writing a book Writers Process

The Writer’s Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear

Anne Janzer is an award-winning author and writing coach who has worked with hundreds of high-tech business leaders around the world. In this book, she shares insights into the writing process that she’s found to be prescient in helping her clients write more effectively. Her work is grounded in science and seeks to explain how our brains function and how we can more purposefully generate moments of brilliance and productivity — as opposed to writer’s block and procrastination. Writing and publishing books demands a unique mindset. The Writer’s Process details exactly what that mindset looks like.

The book received high praise upon its release. In a review, Seth Godin proclaimed, “The Writer’s Process delivers research-based, hands-on, step-by-step wisdom that can help you wrestle with the lizard brain. Certain to help thousands of would-be writers write.”


writing a book 5 Steps

5 Steps to Self Publishing

While it might be a bit presumptuous to put my name alongside these great writers, I’m adding 5 Steps to Self Publishing to this list because of the unique purpose it serves.

The world of self publishing is awash in information about — what else? — self publishing. I’d argue there’s too much information available. This tidal wave of text inundates new writers and many find themselves paralyzed by the sheer volume of information, unsure where to start.

I wrote this guide to help aspiring authors cut through the glut of opinions, information, and misinformation. It addresses the essential issues every author must work through on their self-publishing journey. It might be a good place to start if you’re just beginning this process.

Is publishing your book a requirement in achieving your personal and business goals? Maybe not. But it certainly helps.

One person who can speak on that is James Altucher, the famous hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and podcaster. He has founded or co-founded more than 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr. He’s also the best-selling author of acclaimed business books, including Choose Yourself, and he believes that self publishing was a critical component of his success.

“Every entrepreneur should self-publish a book, because having a book is the new business card,” Altucher says. “If you want to stand out, you need to show your expertise. Publishing a book is not just putting your thoughts on a blog post. It’s an event. It shows your best curated thoughts and it shows customers, clients, investors, and friends what the most important things on your mind are right now.”


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How one “non-writer” became a Forbes-recommended business author

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Developing a One-of-a-Kind Perspective

Terry Lammers grew up working in his parent’s wholesale fuel and lubricant business. Based in Pierron, Illinois—a town of about 600 people—Terry stocked shelves and drove trucks while still in high school.

He studied accounting in college and gained some early business experience, then went back to work for his parents’ company. He says in his book, “It was just me, my mom, my dad, and two trucks.” When he came on board, their year-to-date sales were about $750,000, and his parents couldn’t afford to pay him a salary.

He used what he learned in college and business to help the company turn things around. They acquired a competitor, Bone Oil Company, and rebranded the business TriCounty Petroleum.

After that, Terry said, “We were off to the races.”

Under his leadership, TriCounty acquired several more fuel companies. Terry trademarked his own brand of lubricants and eventually grew the conglomerate to over $42 million in sales. With three young kids, he and his wife were able to retire early—a dream come true!

Soon, however, Terry grew bored. “After I sold the company,” he said, “I had no idea what I was going to do next! You can only hunt and fish so much.”

Eventually, he went to work for Regions Bank and learned how lending institutions value companies, assess balance sheets and cash flow, and determine risk.

After three and a half years, he and partner Steve Denny launched Innovative Business Advisors. Their firm specializes in business valuation, acquisitions, and consulting. In his work with clients, he’s developed a unique communications style that resonates with others.

Terry said, “Business owners have told me they do what I tell them because I’m honest, clear, and not arrogant.”

With a lifetime worth of experience, he wanted to find a way to package his advice—along with his unique voice—in a book. But there was a problem.

Terry had no writing experience at all.

Writing for a Non-Writer

“In the back of my mind,” Terry said, “writing a book was a bucket-list item,” but he didn’t know how to get started. He got some unexpected advice while speaking with a plumber he met at a networking event.

The man said, “You just have to sit down and write about eight chapters and you’re done!”

Terry decided to sit down and to write his book about mergers and acquisitions, and he started with page one, just the way the plumber had said. Before he knew it, he was lost. He Googled the phrase, “book coach” and found Nancy Erickson, The Book Professor®.

Terry signed up for The Book Professor’s® Executive Group Mastermind and Publishing Program. But when he learned it would be a year-long process, he said, “I didn’t like that!”

He soon came to appreciate that time. As a non-writer who had failed in his first attempt at writing a book, he was now making real headway.

Capturing a Unique Voice

As Terry worked through the structure of his book, he could see that the process made sense. “I think it’s brilliant,” he said. “We started with our BookMAP™. You map the whole thing out, then bullet-point how you want each chapter to flow.”

The next phase of the process is called Write without Ruts, and Terry wrote the entire first draft of his book in about three months.

“Every Sunday evening,” he said, “I’d write two chapters. But every day I had my BookMAP™ in front of me. Since everything I was going to write about was all mapped out, I would think about the book all week long. When it came time to write my chapters, it really was like ‘getting it out.’”

Although Terry had no experience writing, he found himself with a first draft that actually worked.

But then he found himself in the midst of the Polish and Perfect stage, and that put his patience to the test.

Terry said, “Polish and Perfect is the painful part. I had to read the book several times. I had to read it out loud. It was like getting tased!”

He worked with both Nancy and the team’s copy editors, and Terry found he had a challenge to balance his unconventional manner of speaking and grammar with what would make for an interesting and readable book.

“One of the things Nancy teaches is to be very direct in your writing. Don’t say too much. Get it tight. I tried to be funny and conversational, but sometimes that just meant too many extra words. The editors whacked the hell out of it!”

Still, he felt like he was in control. As an expert in finance, he needed to educate the team’s editors on some of the terms and phrases he used. But if he was concerned that the editing process would strip away his unique voice, his friends and family responded differently.

“People tell me all the time, ‘I can hear you talking in the book.’ The editors didn’t take out the quizmacal [sic] things I say.”

In particular, he has a chapter called “Your Bankability.” Although “bankability” is a real word, Terry hadn’t heard it used in his circles. It had a great ring to it, and when his business partner Steve Dean read the book, he said they should name one of their key offerings “The Bankability Method.”

A Finished Book

For Terry, the book is part of building his brand as an expert in acquisitions. It was important to finish in a timely manner, and he credits The Book Professor’s Executive Group Mastermind with keeping him accountable.

 

He said, “While I was writing, I met a lot of people who said they were writing a book too. And you know what? They’re still writing their book, but I have a finished book.”

Terry published his book, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: Everything You Need to Know to Buy or Sell a Business, in 2017. Recently, it was listed by Forbes writer Rhett Power as one of “The Best Books to Help Entrepreneurs Grow a Business.”

Power’s review of the book echoed what Terry and Nancy had worked so hard to achieve:

“In a straightforward, authentic style, he walks you through the many options you have for your [business]. By the end of You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know, I felt like I had an entertaining, informative workshop.”

You can purchase Terry’s book, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: Everything You Need to Know to Buy or Sell a Business here.

You don’t have to be a “writer” to become an “author”!

Have you dreamed of writing a book but don’t think of yourself as a writer? Or do you have something to say but are stuck and can’t get it out?

The Book Professor® helps people who aren’t writers become authors. Whether writing a book is a life-long dream or something you must do to move your career forward, there’s help for you.

Learn more about how you can work with The Book Professor® and Nancy Erickson, click here.


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Dismantling Writer’s Block Part 1: The Lone Genius Myth

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Book Writers: Do You Think It’s Best to Go It Alone?

Perhaps you’ve seen some variation of this scene in a movie.

A man is sitting at his typewriter (why is it always a guy?), unshaven, half-drunk, and clattering away like mad. There are empty wine bottles and teacups strewn all over the room. Crumpled papers overflow the trash can. In anguish, he stops typing, tears out the sheet of paper, and rips it to shreds.

Sound familiar?

Movies like these have done us a great disservice. They’ve given us the “Lone Genius,” a class of people who spend their days struggling through their book without any help. Though it’s true that authors spend most of their writing time alone with the page, this is only part of the picture.

That’s because books are too long and too complicated to be written without a community of helpers. All authors (including this one) need those who can keep them on track, lend helpful feedback, and even give them a swift kick in the backside when needed.

The myth of the Lone Genius is behind a lot of unnecessary writer’s block.

Authors need a Book Mastermind. Here’s why.

A Book Mastermind Keeps You Accountable

Here’s an unfortunate truth. If you’re the only person holding yourself accountable to write your book, you probably won’t finish it.

It’s not because you have nothing to say, you lack discipline, or that people don’t need what you’ve written. It’s simply this: No one is waiting for you, so it’s easy to put your manuscript off.

The solution? Join a group of like-minded writers.

I put together The Book Professor’s® Executive Group Mastermind and Publishing Program so that every week, writers know they have an online appointment they must prepare for. Everyone will be turning in the same assignment, and if you’re part of that group, you’re highly motivated to come to the call prepared. It’s that simple.

If that were the only reason to take part in a Book Mastermind, that would be reason enough for most of us to reach out for help. But there’s more.

A Book Mastermind Includes People with Complimentary Skills

You have a unique “Zone of Genius:” your training, your giftings, your experiences, and even your tastes. It’s your gift to the world, and it will permeate anything you write.

What’s great about a Book Mastermind, however, is your book benefits from other people’s Zone of Genius as well.

In a recent Book Mastermind, we had a wonderful group of men. They all got excited about each other’s work even though they had very different backgrounds.

One of our writers, a marketing expert for podiatrists named Rem Jackson was stuck on the title for his book. Mike Kitko (read his story HERE) was in that group as well. Mike’s an Executive Coach who knows next to nothing about podiatry. But as Rem was talking about the ideas he was presenting in his book, Mike blurted out something like, “Do you know what would be a good title for your book? Podiatry Prosperity!”

At that moment, it didn’t matter who came up with the idea. The title was perfect. Because Rem Jackson was participating in a group with someone outside of his Zone of Genius, he received exactly what he needed.

A Book Mastermind Gives Generous Feedback

Too many of us have been in writing groups where we received ego-driven, soul-crushing feedback from a teacher, a family member, or a friend. I’m afraid it happens to most of us, and I’m sorry if it happened to you.

However, that’s not the experience we’ve had in The Book Professor® Book Mastermind Groups. They have consistently been positive, encouraging places to write a book.

There’s a reason for that.

If you’re a member of a Book Mastermind with authors who intend to be a source of hope and help for their audience, then they’re generally people who want to be a source of hope and help to everyone — including you. When they offer feedback, it’s in the same spirit that drives them in everything they do.

A Book Mastermind Session Can Be Great Therapy

Every Book Mastermind I’ve been a part of has become, to some degree, a group therapy session.

I’ve worked with a woman whose book told the story of how she survived severe abuse. Another woman wrote about how she made it through her husband’s suicide.

Mike Kitko (the Executive Coach I mentioned earlier) was an alcoholic in a mutually destructive marriage. He had to tell about how he devastated his own life and hit rock bottom.

When people write about experiences like these, they have to relive them. In every Book Mastermind I’ve facilitated, its members surrounded, protected, and validated those writers as they told their truth.

It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the process.

Authors: Do You Believe in Magic?

Recently, one of our Masterminds included an author whose book contained a description of her life in an abusive and alcoholic home. Reading it to the group required extreme vulnerability on her part.

When she finished, I asked the group if they had ever experienced something similar. Everyone in the group had. I could hardly believe it.

Now, you don’t have to be spiritual to take part in Group Coaching. But let me say this.

I do not assemble Book Masterminds by curating people of similar backgrounds. I simply put people together who are available and ready to get started on their books.

But it seems like Something — or Someone — has put each of those groups together. Each one has a synergy I couldn’t have created if I tried. People with similar or complementary backgrounds, temperaments, and experiences end up working together every time.

Are You Ready to Leverage a Book Mastermind to Get Unstuck?

If this sounds like what you need to get yourself out of your writing rut, you may want to join The Book Professor’s® Executive Group Matermind and Publishing Program. Writing a book is a long journey, and this is a great way to have all the benefits of a Book Mastermind gently guided by our time-tested process.

In Module One, we take you “From Concept to Concrete Plan.” This is where, as a group, we learn how to figure out precisely what it is you have to say. Lots of personal revelations surface, and with each others’ support, by the end of sixteen weeks, you have a BookMAPTM to follow as you write. It’s the BookMAPTM that actually allows you to prevent writer’s block.

Module Two is called “Write Without Ruts.” During this part of the process, you get to write the first draft of your book without going back and fixing it up. Every week, you’ll listen to other people share their first drafts while you share your own. It’s intense, revelatory, fun, and exhilarating.

Module Three, “Polish and Perfect,” we get your book to the finish line, making sure that every word is in its place, that every line sings, and that every scene works. We need each other during this part of the process because it can get tedious. Our Book Mastermind is the place where we remind each other how important the work is, how special the book will be, and how great it will feel to share it with the world.

If you want to learn more about The Book Professor’s® Executive Group Mastermind and Publishing Program, or you’re ready to sign up, CLICK HERE.

 

 


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