Season 1, Episode 7

Nail Your Book Idea in One Page

Be sure to grab your copy of the Book One Pager now!

Notes from this episode:

In today’s episode, I’m sharing a tool that I call the Book One Pager.  It’s basically a way to whittle your book idea down into one page so you can see what it is, what’s missing, what you need to work on, what you love, and maybe what you want to change. 

If you have multiple book ideas it’s also a great way to figure out where you want to focus.

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Hey, everyone. So I thought I would talk today about a tool that I use sometimes with clients who have multiple book ideas. And they’re trying to figure out which one to focus on. Or sometimes it’s a client that has one idea, but they’re just really struggling to pin it down and get it into, into the simplest terms possible. And so this is an exercise that I go through with them. And it’s, I called the book one-pager. And it’s basically putting all of everything that has to do with your book, everything that’s really important about your book into one page. And then you can print it out, and you can put it up on your bulletin board. Or you can make it into a pretty graphic and hold on to it on your computer, or, you know, whatever works for you. But it’s really about honing in on everything that’s really important about the idea, but in, in a simple way that can fit generally on one page. 

So I thought I would walk you through the 10 elements of the book one-pager, and you can follow along, I’m also going to include a download that you can grab that you can actually write on and edit and, and that kind of thing. But I’ll take you through what the core elements are. And then you can spend some time with it on your own. 

So the first element of the book one-pager is, what is the title of your book. So you may go through dozens of title ideas over the course of your book project, you might land on one that you absolutely love, only to have an editor have a different idea. So what is the name of your book? So I should really sum up the idea. If we’re talking about nonfiction here, quite often you’ll also have a subtitle. So what’s the core idea? And maybe what’s the supporting idea? So that’s number one, what’s the title of your book? 

Number two, is what’s the genre of your book. Now, if you’re a regular listener to this podcast, you probably know that I focus on nonfiction books, I also kind of specialize even more so in prescriptive nonfiction. So there’s narrative nonfiction. And prescriptive narrative would include something like a memoir, to have has more of a story behind it. And prescriptive nonfiction would include things like how-to and self-help books, there’s a lot of, of what I work on. So what’s the genre of your book? If you’re a fiction writer? You know, are you writing historical fiction or writing fantasy? Are you writing women’s fiction, literary fiction, that kind of thing?

Question number three. This is one that is very, very important. And who is your ideal reader? describe her in one sentence, I would like you to include some demographic information about her, like, How old is she? Maybe Where does she live? And, and you just kind of like, describe her and why this book is, is for her. And then some sub-points under there. 

Question number four is about this ideal reader. I want you to dig into her a little bit more. What is it that keeps her up at night? Like what is most important to her? You know, maybe she’s a mom, and she really cares about nutrition for her kids, and you’re writing a lifestyle cookbook on that topic. So what keeps your ideal reader up at night? What are they really what is really, really important to them? 

And related to that, the fifth question, this also ties back to your ideal reader. And what is the message she really needs to hear from you. So again, with the example of the lifestyle cookbook, she is passionate about nutrition for her children, she’s, you know, up all what’s keeping her up all night is she’s just totally overwhelmed. There are so many choices out there. And there’s all these different experts saying this, that and the other thing and maybe when she cooks something from these experts, her kids won’t even eat it. So What message does she need to hear from you? Maybe your book solves all those problems and it simplifies and breaks through The complexity and the science that she feels overwhelmed by and presents to her a simple path to feeding her family in a nutritious, healthy way that is also not going to be utterly overwhelming. Just an example. So that’s your ideal reader. 

So heading into question number six, this one is super important. What is the point of your book? What is the argument that you are making? In your book? What is the key takeaway that the reader will experience? After reading your book or even reading the jacket copy of your book, say, you’ll want to be able to communicate that idea there. Sometimes I talk about the point as if your book was a TED talk, if your book idea was a TED talk, what is the one core idea that you would narrow down to for those 15 minutes. So maybe, if you’re writing that lifestyle cookbook, there are three pillars that make up nutritious food for your family that the kids will also eat, and you are going to, you are going to share that specific solution, you’re going to share the solution to you know, nutrition, a nutritious lifestyle, a healthy lifestyle for your family that isn’t overwhelming, something like that. So what is the point of your book? Why should it be out in the world? What is the argument that you’re making? What is the what is the key takeaway for the person who picks up your book in the bookstore or literary agent who receives your query? What changes when the reader finishes reading your book? What is the point of your book? 

7 And that one, kind of leads to why you are the one to write it? So question number seven, is, why are you uniquely qualified to argue this point? And I don’t mean, like, necessarily, you know, do you have as many degrees? Or do you have, you know, a doctorate in a particular topic? I mean, what is your life experience? What is your lived experience? What are your, your broader qualifications? So if you are writing a lifestyle cookbook, and it helps, you know, harried moms, feed their kids in a nutritious way, without the kids like throwing the food back right at them, then maybe what you bring to that is, you are a mom, you have been blogging, about nutrition, nutritious eating for families for the last seven years, and you have a following of X number of people, and you have some additional certifications, and maybe you coach moms, and you have coached X number of moms, and you offer some courses on these topics. So you have a particular expertise in this area. So those are some of your qualifications. And then I think what you also need to know within the why you is why you the person I just described versus somebody else who might have similar qualifications. What is what is it about you? You know, what is what is something about your particular approach, that’s, that’s different or unique or particularly necessary in this moment in time?

You know, I think a lot of times what agents and editors are looking for is to fill a gap that has, has developed because of, you know, topic and cultural conversation might be shifting, conversation is shifting, and there isn’t a book out there yet on a particular topic. Maybe you because of your particular expertise, and background can feel that and that is why you and that’s baked into here. One more thing is, you know, what’s the impact that you want to make this book with this book, so you know, your passion for the topic, your passion for toddler nutrition and why you’re new, maybe something about your particular background that led you to this, this area and You want to get this book out there for a particular reason, because you know, there’s all these moms out there who are struggling with that same issue. 

So that’s number seven, why you number eight. This is where I get to do a little bit of research with you. Head on over to Amazon, or maybe your own bookshelves. But this is the comp titles. So they’re called comparative titles, or sometimes called competitive titles. But these are other books that are, that are in the same family as yours. So sometimes we think of comp titles as books that might be physically shelved in the same area as your book. So it’s books that also probably the same reader would read. If you liked this, then you also might like that. So I want you to come up with a list of minimum five, you know, 10, maximum, so kind of maybe five or six, is what you’re shooting for comp titles. And these books should be recent, they should be traditionally published books, some books that are, you know, available and distributed, not just as an E-book, but you know, through a traditional publisher, these books should be within the last five years or so the newer, the better. And, you know, again, a similar person to your reader or your ideal reader herself, would pick up your book, and probably also has a few of these books on her bookshelf already. So they share an affinity. And that’s another thing about the publishing industry is a lot of times, we’re looking for that truly unique idea, or, you know, we’re selling our idea as sewn unique. No one’s ever written about this before. But in fact, the publishing industry is pretty, pretty old-fashioned in this way. They actually like to see some history on, on that topic selling, they don’t want to take a complete bet on that topic. But if they’ve seen books about family, nutrition cookbooks and that lifestyle been selling like hotcakes in the last couple years, they in fact, will be more interested in hearing about a new take on that topic than on something like totally net new. So when you’re thinking about your comp titles, don’t worry if other books are in fact, quite similar, that’s not a bad thing. So you’re looking for things that kind of on the same vein, but you of course, are bringing a new, fresh, different angle to that topic. So that’s number eight comp titles. 

Number nine, I’d like you to write up a little three-sentence summary on your book. So this is it’s, it’s, it’s it includes the point of your book, but you know, it includes the beginning, middle, and end of your book. So you know, what is your book argument? What is it? What does it give to the reader? And, you know, generally, what are you delivering, in that in that overall book, sometimes we call this the arc of the book. So maybe it’s where, you know, the reader comes in, and how what they learn from your book, so they come in feeling overwhelmed, they are so passionate about their children’s nutrition, your book gives them these tips, tools, recipes, and particular foundation for how they think about how they feed their family. And in and then return they feel so much, so much more ease, because they have they have a plan now, and they have a wonderful array of recipes, they can draw on that kind of thing. So summarize your book in about three sentences, I’ll say you can go up to five. So a short paragraph on your book. 

And last but not least, question number 10 is to draft a brief table of contents for your book. So this is not a step-by-step outline of every single thing you’re going to cover. But rather what if you know thinking about your book in terms of chapters as a real book, you might pick up in a bookstore and flip through, what are you covering in this book. Maybe you’re starting with some sort of introduction or prologue that set some context for your idea, some, some history around how you came to this, this topic where you are particularly experienced and an expert in this in this topic, why should they care about this idea? And so maybe, maybe there’s some sort of introduction like that. And then what are you laying out? In the book? What is the idea that you’re arguing for? And how are you doing so if you think your book might have be broken into different sections, or take some sort of, kind of unconventional approach, you know, map that out, but at the very least, you’re identifying what is like the topic or the theme that you’re covering in every chapter of your book. So probably starting with some sort of introduction, maybe you have 10, 12, 15 chapters, maybe they’re broken into three sections for some particular reason. Maybe if you’re the lifestyle cookbook, author, you have some context setting, and you have some a section about nutrition and, and a section around how you, you know, your philosophy around cooking and eating and feeding your family. And maybe you then have the third section, which is the recipes themselves. So think about what your table of contents is for this, this future book, and draft that maybe that’s on the back of your, your book one pager, because you might need a little more space there. But the idea is to get it all in one place. And hopefully, you know, after doing this exercise, you’ll feel like you have a better handle on your book. 

Maybe there were some questions that threw you and lead you to say, Hmm, this book idea might not be the right one. But that other book idea I’ve been toying with, I’m having a really easy time answering those, these questions for that book idea. So that could be a signal to you. If you’ve been feeling like your book ideas, sort of this amorphous thing that’s hanging out in your head, and you haven’t really been able to wrangle it, hopefully this gives you that, that, that wrangling opportunity to really see in one page, what really is this book, so you can grab a copy of the book one-pager, you can download it on the episode page, so you can go to So that is the number one and the word pager and you can grab that. That download there and I’d love to hear how it goes for you. 

Feel free to email me. Let me know what you uncovered or unlocked or struggled with. And hopefully, you’ll have a one-pager to put up on your bulletin board or wherever you like to, to place things to remind yourself what matters to you most, which is staying committed to your book project. And now you have a one-pager all about really what you what your book is, and I wish you luck in bringing it into the world.

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