February 25

E-Books – Create an outline


An outline is the roadmap for getting from blank pages to a finished book.


The outline is made by deciding how you want to organize the information. Here are the four most common outline methods:

1.      Alphabetically

2.      Process Steps

3.      List

4.      Q & A


Every outline should include a Table of Contents and chapter divisions. Together, these make it easy for readers to find information in your book. Now let’s look at some specifics for each outline type.


Alphabetical Order

This means using letters, in alphabetical order, to arrange and present information.


The dictionary is the obvious example of alphabetical order. Another example would be arranging a cookbook with “A” for asparagus soup, “B” for beef stew and down to “Z” for zucchini bread.


The primary guide to choosing any letter arrangement is that it must make sense to the reader.


Process Steps Outline

This is a common approach for how-to books. Whether the subject is goal setting, selling a house, or re-finishing furniture, each follows a process with distinct steps that can be described.


This outline type is more likely to result in the use of sub-divisions within chapters. There is often more than one way to accomplish each step of a process – just as there is more than one way to set up an outline. Those options are what give you the sub-divisions.



A list outline is useful for information that doesn’t need to be organized in any particular order. A great example is Jon Kremer’s self published paperback book 1,001 Ways to Market Your Book (now in its 6th edition at www.bookmarket.com).


This method gives you a series of chapters that are capable of standing alone. That makes it easier to both write and read because your reader can start with any chapter, and and you don’t have to worry about connecting the chapters.



A Q&A, or questions and answers, outline is often associated with someone who has a great deal of experience with a topic. The author lives and breathes the topic, and can simply make a list of questions, write out answers to each, and the result is an e-book in Q&A format.


The defining characteristic of this type of book is that the author has the answers to the questions. It is also very easy to write and to read.


One way to develop the material for a Q&A book is to use an Ask Campaign.


An Ask Campaign (a.k.a Probe Campaign) is based on asking people what their questions are on a particular topic. Where a Q&A approach says “here are the questions I have answered throughout my career,” the Ask Campaign says “here are answers to questions you submitted.”


Writing from Your Outline

The outline is the roadmap for your e-book. Keep it handy while you are writing.


Here’s how you use your outline to write your book:

1.      Type the outline in Word.

2.      Add four pages in front of the outline. These are for the title page, copyright page, acknowledgements and dedication. (You can always delete or add pages as necessary.)

3.      Put “TABLE OF CONTENTS” in a boldface heading at the top of the outline.

4.      Add a page break at the end of the outline.

5.      Paste a copy of the outline (minus the TOC heading) onto the new page.

6.      Set the typeface for the copy into bold. These will become your actual section headings.

7.      Use page breaks to spread out the section headings and sub-headings.

8.      Now, writing the e-book is a matter of filling in explanatory text under each heading and sub-heading.


The best way to fill in the spaces under each heading and sub-heading is to use the outline for filing all your research notes. Then you recompose your research notes to make each chapter.


Come back for the next article. That’s when I’ll be covering how to do your research and fill in your outline.


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