Tag Archives: outline

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.

Book Outlines – How much is enough?


This question just came up with a novice writer. She is writing her first book and is wondering how much detail to put into the outline.

Eventually, the answer to this question becomes: Use as much detail as you want.

Of course, you can guess that this answer works when you have written a couple of books and can rely on  your experience as a guide. For a novice, the answer is a lot easier and more regimented.

Put just the “must have” items into your outline. Remember that your outline will become your table of content. That means each entry in your outline is just one line – maybe even just three or four words.

For example, if I’m writing an article about the components of an essay, then my outline would have just three headings: Intoduction, Body, and Conclusion.

You can always add more headings to your outline. While you’re doing your research, you might find a huge amount of material for one of your headings and decide to split it into two or more sections. Your research might also turn up information you hadn’t considered that you then decide to include – that would mean adding a new heading to your outline.

Other things like: questions to answer, steps to completing a section, or facts to include get written down after the outline is completed.

I’ve written about this before, and it bears repeating. When your outline is done, copy it and paste it on a new page in the same document. Then take that copy, and use page breaks to put each heading on its own page.

This gives you your outline at the beginning as a table of contents, and the first page for each chapter with the title on it.

Now you put all your questions, research notes and ideas on those chapter pages.

Now, someone might be at the stage where all the “must have” items are in the outline and they have a few other “nice to have” items they want to include. What do you do with those?

Put each one at the end of the outline as an appendix.

You can always move these items into the body of the book later. The criteria for changing something from being an appendix to being part of the book body is that your writing has to flow naturally into the subject of the appendix.

Let’s say you’re writing a book about kitchen renovations. One of your appendices is “How to Choose Appliances.” This is good information to have, but it isn’t a “must have” because lots of people renovate their kitchen without replacing their appliances. 

While you’re writing, your research brings up a lot of information about energy efficiency for appliances and the various types and styles of appliances available for a kitchen.

You can see how this new information will tie in very well with a “must have” chapter on electircal wiring and code requirements. Since it ties in well, you might choose to move the appendix into the body of the book.

Your outline is a roadmap to the destination of having a published book or e-book. You get to design that roadmap, and you can make changes to it as the book develops.

That’s why you want to start with the minimum in your outline – the seeds – and watch over it carefully as it grows.

Does this make writing your outline easier? Let me know by posting a comment.