If you’re writing a book on your expertise, you’re coaching the reader and the quality of your coaching is what sets your book apart. When you plan your book, treat each subheading within a chapter as a coaching section: what does the reader need to learn and what do they need to do? This fail-safe structure will help you hit the bull’s eye, every time. For well-rounded coaching, each section should include these four things:
WHAT: Topic: This introduces the section clearly: let your readers know exactly what they’re going to discover. This might be one sentence or the whole first paragraph. In this blog post, it’s the first paragraph.
Even if your section heading says what the topic is, make sure that you include this in the first sentence or paragraph: every section needs an introduction.
WHY: Explanation: This is the meat of the section, where you explain the concept, the situation, the background, the main points. This is “WHY” in two senses. First, why are they going to take this step this in their business, their life, their relationship, whatever your book is covering. Second, why are you telling them this? You need to sell your reader the information: what happens if they don’t follow this advice? In this blog post, each pointer has its own WHY, as the first sentence or two after the words in bold.
WHO: Example(s) or case study / Research / both:
We’re humans, so information immediately becomes more meaningful to us when we can put it in a human context. Your examples and case studies show us how this works out in relation to real people. These examples should be…
- relevant to your audience (if it’s for multiple audiences, use a mix of examples)
- from your training & clients / research: showcase your expertise and experience
- based on problems (usually): examples of people already doing something right can be tricky: they show us the right way but not how to turn it around
- happy endings: show us the way to success! Even if it’s a negative example of what not to do, follow that with what should have been done instead
- unpacked: if it’s not 100% obvious, unpack the example for us.
In most cases, it’s easier to start with the explanation and then give an example. When the subject is more abstract – for example, a relationship dynamic – it’s easier to start with the example, then unpack it and move into the explanation. If you’re explaining a process, then you might run the explanation and the case study together, referencing the case study in each stage of the process. If you have a number of small points, you might want to give an example of each. In this blog post, I’m giving an example at the end of each pointer, using the post itself as the example.
Specific advice: How To. This is the take-home / to-do. Make sure you tell people what to do and how to do it. For example, what is “Prioritise each day’s tasks” – now I want to know how. Should I be prioritising by which is most urgent, which one I most want to do, which one is most income-producing, which one is gold time? Should I make a list on paper or is there a better way? How much time should I spend on it? Give specific guidance; offer tools where you can. This is what sets your book apart from the others in its field: the quality of your advice.
Remember that you are the expert in this, not your readers, so beware of offering “masterclass” advice, which is pitched above their skill level. For example, in a book on time management, “Organise your time” is masterclass: your reader doesn’t know how and that’s why they’re reading the book. A good touchstone is to think of the client who’s worst at this: how would you walk them through it? If your advice works for them, it’ll work for everyone.
In this blog post, I’ve given you a checklist for your examples and a useful touchstone for how to pitch your advice to your reader’s level. I’m also giving clear, staged instructions throughout.
Print out this structure and stick it above your desk, for every time you write a blog post or a section of your book. Each one will be substantial, well-rounded, well-organised, and most importantly of all, helpful. And that’s what sets you apart.