The one where I explain my process for outlining a non-fiction book.
Hello, it's Martine here. Welcome to episode 58 of the podcast.
You might have been looking at the title of this episode thinking, "Martine, this isn't a writing podcast. Why are you telling us how to write a brilliant book outline?"
That's a really good question.
The thing is, if you run a business, pretty much everything you do starts with writing, whether you write blog posts, copy for articles. You might write a business plan. You might write an email newsletter. Everything you do starts with writing. It's such an important skill.
I've blogged about this recently. If you'd like to read the blog post, hop over to martineellis.com/challenge.
Incidentally, I started my list of things I do in my business that start with writing. Without giving it much thought, I came up with:
That was without giving it much thought at all.
The other thing that used to take up a lot of my time in terms of writing was transcribing these podcast episodes. Thankfully, I now outsource that to a company called Rev and you'll find them at rev.com.
Clearly, writing is a really important skill in business. Strangely, unless you are running an author business, it's not often you practice this skill. Am I right?
I figured we could all do with a little bit of help developing our writing skills.
In the blog post I mentioned a moment ago, you will have seen that I'm running a writing challenge in my Facebook group, The Lightbulb Club. If you're not a member, hop over and join us. We'd love to welcome you. Just put this URL into your browser: thelightbulb.club, and that will redirect you to the Facebook group.
This challenge kicks off in September. What I'm encouraging you to do is write every day. Sounds easy, doesn't it?
Actually, it's quite tricky to develop a habit of writing. However, doing a challenge is a great way to try to develop a habit of writing because you'll have the support of everyone else doing the challenge. We've got lots of great people who plan to take part.
You can read all about the challenge and find the guidelines if you hope over to martineellis.com/september-writing-challenge. There will be links for everything in the show notes for this episode. You'll find those at martineellis.com/58.
Let's get back to the title of this episode: how to write a brilliant book outline.
It's my intention to write the first draft of an ebook during September. I'm aiming for a thousand words a day, so I'll have 30,000 words by the end of the month.
That's the plan.
That's a decent length for a short ebook.
It sounds like I'm not the only one aiming for an ebook during September, so I thought it would be a good idea to share my book outlining process.
Given that we've only got a week to go before the challenge starts, now would be a really good time to outline your book project.
I should point out at this stage that I am writing a non-fiction book. However, if you were writing fiction, an outline is still a really important part of the process. I've not written fiction before, but I'd like to think that a similar process would apply to fiction as well.
Here's what I do.
I grab a big piece of flip chart paper, some sticky notes, and a pen. This would also work well on a whiteboard or any surface that you're happy to attach sticky notes to. I like to use a flip chart or a whiteboard because I can write on that as well later on if I want to.
I give my book a working title. It's not the final title. It's just a title that encompasses the subject of the book, just to give me some focus.
Then I brain dump absolutely everything onto sticky notes, one thing per sticky note. All of the things that I associate with my working title go on a sticky note.
This process might take 30 minutes. It might take a couple of days because I might leave it rest and then add things as I think of them. Work in whichever way you like.
When I think I've got everything out of my head onto sticky notes, I spread them out and start grouping them together into topics. The sticky notes that have things in common go in a group.
This is the good thing about using sticky notes is obviously you can pick them up and reposition them. If I just wrote my brain dump on a piece of paper or a whiteboard, it's quite hard to reorganize things because you have to cross them out and erase them.
Once I have everything grouped together, I take a look at them and work out if they make suitable chapters. Typically, they do because you're grouping like with like.
After that, I put the chapters in some form of order. Depending on the type of book I'm writing, I might come up with a working title for each chapter as well.
When I'm at this stage of the outlining process, I tend to find that more topics come out of my head and then they end up going directly into the correct chapters. It's a really interesting process to go through.
You might want to start ordering your chapter contents at this stage, so looking at one chapter at a time and putting the topics in a logical order.
By now, I'm ready to start working digitally. I'll do one of two things. I'll either put the outline as it stands into a Google Doc and then tweak it a little bit and make sure I'm perfectly happy, or I'll open my writing program, which is Scrivener, and I'll put the outline straight in there. I'll set up the chapters and I'll use the topic list as notes.
Incidentally, if you haven't used Scrivener before, it's a fantastic writing tool. It's not very expensive. I'll make sure there's information about it in the show notes. There is a bit of a learning curve associated with Scrivener. You do have to invest a little bit of time working out what everything does, but I've done a great course on it called Learn Scrivener Fast. Again, I'll link to that in the show notes. It's highly recommended.
If you're not ready to invest in fancy book writing software, then that's totally fine. A Google Doc or a Word document or whatever you want to use is going to work absolutely fine. That's my book outlining process.
If you've already written a book before, I'd be very interested to hear your process and whether it's similar or different to mine. Do let me know in The Lightbulb Club.
Before I wrap up this episode, I wanted to share a couple of quick tips to help you approach the September writing challenge.
My first tip is to try to write at the same time every day. For me, that's going to mean getting up an hour earlier than usual and writing it in the morning.
Pick a time when your energy levels are correct for the writing process. For me, first thing in the morning works well because my brain is switched on, but I'm not ready to do anything that involves a huge amount of physical activity, so writing is perfect first thing in the morning. This might not be the case for you.
Make sure you have a reward lined up for every day that you complete the writing challenge. For me, it's very simple. It's a nice cup of coffee. Decaffeinated, I should add, but still it's an enjoyable treat nonetheless. Rewarding yourself will really help in the formation of your writing habits. You can read more about habit formation in my blog post that I mentioned earlier in the episode.
Another tip is to use the 'don't break the chain method'. This is a great way to form a habit. I'll link to some information about it in the show notes and I'll have a free printable for you to download to help you with this technique.
Make sure you check in with The Lightbulb Club group on a daily basis. I will be posting daily reminders for you to update us about your writing, how you did on that particular day. By checking in with the group, you're going to not feel alone in the process and you'll have a chance to see how everybody else is doing. Generally, I think it'll really help your motivation.
Finally, if, like me, you're planning to write the first draft of a book over September, then make sure you are only writing in September. Make sure you are not editing. Writing and editing uses two different parts of the brain, and so if you do both at the same time, you are just not going to be as productive. Just write a messy first draft. That's what first drafts are supposed to be: messy. Editing happens later on in the process.
If you are writing something different during September, for example, a series of blog posts, then, of course, you are going to need to do some editing during the month. However, do try to use the messy first draft, edit afterwards approach if you can because I have a sneaky feeling it's going to improve your efficiency.
Okay, that's all for me today. I hope you've enjoyed the episode and I hope you're excited about the September writing challenge. I will see you in the Lightbulb Club. Thanks for tuning in.
This episode was sponsored by The Lightbulb Academy. Find out more at thelightbulbacademy.com.
The one where I report back on my Squarespace experience, six months later.
Hello and welcome to episode 57 of the Lightbulb podcast. Today we're talking Squarespace.
This episode is a follow up to episode 34. If you've not listened to episode 34, then I really recommend you do so. It's called "Moving from Squarespace to Wordpress to Squarespace".
In episode 34, I explained that I'd been hacked multiple times within the space of a week when I was using Wordpress. Just to be clear, that's Wordpress.org, the self-hosted version of Wordpress.
Honestly, when I recorded that episode six months ago, I was really genuinely stressed. I really felt very upset about my website being hacked, and it genuinely made me a bit panicked.
The first hack was bad enough, but then it happened four more times I seem to remember. By the end of that week, I was ready to move on to something entirely different.
That's when I decided to go back to Squarespace.
Six months later, what's the verdict?
I'm pleased to say I am still in love with Squarespace. I am a massive fan. In fact, I'd go as far to say I love it more now than I did six months ago. I'm going to explain why that is in a moment.
I just want to reiterate a point I made in episode 34 before I crack on with telling you all the reasons why I love Squarespace.
That is many new bloggers are told by experienced bloggers that Wordpress.org really is the best option for them. In fact, the only option really if you want to be a serious blogger.
This is wrong. This is entirely wrong.
Everytime I see this advice given, and the person asking for the advice is clearly not a technical person, I feel very frustrated. That's why I think it's important to get the message across.
Wordpress is a great platform. I'm a techy person, but I still struggled with this hacking situation.
I want to reiterate the point that Wordpress isn't your only option and that Squarespace is a totally viable choice.
I don't think there's anything wrong with brand new bloggers getting started on a free service like Blogger or Wordpress.com.
But when you feel ready to take things up a level, yes you've got the option of Wordpress.org, but if you're not sufficiently confident on the technical side of things, or you want to use a completely different platform, then I would say go Squarespace.
Okay, back to reasons why I love Squarespace.
Firstly, it is way more flexible than I ever realised. I know this because I've managed to build an entire membership site on it.
Squarespace has a password-protected page facility, but it's not quite sophisticated enough to accommodate a membership site, so I have used Sentry Login in order to secure the site. I'm really happy with the functionality of The Lightbulb Academy.
I'm going to be launching on the 1st of September, so I'm looking forward to getting some feedback on the site to see if there's anything I need to improve. That's the first reason why I adore Squarespace is you can do virtually anything with it.
Just to make sure that I'm not totally one sided with my appraisal of Squarespace, there is something missing from it. That is a forum feature.
Now you can use Muut to create a forum on your Squarespace site, but you won't have single sign-on. That means your forum users will need to have a separate Muut account. It's separate to their Squarespace account, so that's not particularly smooth.
I'm really hoping this is something Squarespace improves in the future.
The icing on the cake would be if Squarespace had the capability to do the job that Sentry Login is doing for my membership site. I do believe this is on the cards from what I can see in Squarespace's answers forum.
All of that being said, the password protection feature that they do have within Squarespace is definitely good enough for creating a protecting resources area on your site.
This is something I've done as a lead magnet.
When people sign up to my VIP email list, which you can do so at martineellis.com/VIP, they get sent the password for the resources area. That works perfectly well.
I use the Pacific template for my website, and it's definitely one of the best ones. It enables you to have nice long sales pages with different sections.
If you are looking at moving to Squarespace, this is a great template to get started with. Don't be put off by the fact that the sample website is a burger bar, or a restaurant, or something like that. It is a really good template.
It's also possible to create beautiful landing pages in Squarespace.
I use their cover page function for this. The cover page function is great because it gets rid of your horizontal navigation at the top of your site, and really is all about the words, the images, and a call to action.
I use ConvertKit for my email marketing and I have had to hack around a little bit in order to recreate the lead box style registration field.
If you click on a button on a cover page, what I really want to happen is a box to pop up, and then you put your name and email address in that.
That is not as easy as I'd like it to be in Squarespace. However, I've got a great hack for making that work, and I will link to it in the show notes. It's somebody else's tutorial, it's not my own, but I refer back to it every single time.
You have the option to inject code into areas on your website with Squarespace.
I've done this most recently because I added a Conversion Gorilla bar to my website advertising The Lightbulb Academy. It's so easy to do this.
Yet another thing I love about Squarespace is the block setup. If you've not used it before, it's worth doing a free trial just to see how the blog setup works.
By this, I mean if you were creating, for example, a blog post, you could have an image block, then underneath that, you have a text block, and you might have a video block.
The whole thing is built on a block basis, and it's so easy to use. You can drag and drop things where you want.
They have a spacer function, so if you want to maybe make a picture look narrower than it's supposed to be you can pop a spacer either side.
It's quite hard to explain all of this audio style. This is the time when I think a video podcast would be much easier, but if you like the idea of Squarespace, please do consider giving it a try.
I am absolutely well and truly in love with it. I don't see myself going back to Wordpress anytime soon.
I think the icing on the cake for me is that I found I got more comments on my blog posts and podcast episodes with Squarespace than I did with Wordpress.
I'd always been slightly worried about the SEO element of Squarespace, but it seems that that's all working perfectly fine, so I'm super happy with it.
Okay, that's all for me today.
All that remains to be said is please, please, please hop over to the thelightbulbacademy.com if you are interested in what I'm doing with my membership site.
If you are somebody who has a creative hobby that you want to turn into a business, or you're a blogger and you're really ready to monetize your blog, The Lightbulb Academy is for you.
I'm launching on the 1st of September, 2017. On the sales page at thelightbulbacademy.com you can just pop your name and email address in there and I will send you a note when we're open for business.
Thank you so much for tuning in. I hope you'll join me next week.
The one where I share ideas for monetising existing content by creating digital products.
Hello and welcome to The Lightbulb Podcast. It's so good to be here.
I am back after a week's holiday. This is my first week off the podcast all year, and I had a lovely week. I spent it in Devon and did lots of relaxing, and it was fabulous, but it is, of course, great to be back.
Today, I'm going to answer a question that was asked a short while ago in my Facebook group, The Lightbulb Club, and the question is this:
How can I make money online with the bare minimum of effort by monetizing existing content?
What a fantastic question. I'm looking forward to answering that in a moment.
Before I do, though, I just wanted to give you a quick update on my membership site, The Lightbulb Academy.
I have set a date for launch. You will be seeing and hearing more about The Lightbulb Academy on the 1st of September 2017.
I'll be opening the virtual doors at that point, and I will be accepting a very small number of beta members or founder members at a lower rate than I'll normally charge, and they'll be grandfathered in at that rate.
The idea is that those select few will be my first members, and they will help me test the site, hence the lower fee, and shape what it's going to look like in the future, so it's a really exciting opportunity.
If you'd like to be informed when the doors open, just hop over to TheLightbulbAcademy.com and sign up there, and I'll send you an email, and you will be the first to know.
Okay. On to today's episode, how can you make money with minimal effort by monetizing existing content?
Well, this episode is one for the bloggers and content creators really, because, in order to monetize content, you need something out there already. This assumes you've got some content online, or if not online, hidden away somewhere.
The way to do this with minimal effort has to be through digital products. I love digital products, because you make them once, and then you have the opportunity to sell them over and over again, and that sales process can be completely automated.
The effort with the digital product is very much front loaded. Now there is effort involved. I can't pretend that you can make a digital product in your sleep, however, if you're basing your digital product on existing content, all you're really doing is tidying that content up and perhaps adding a little bit to it.
Because the sales process is automated, then there really isn't a huge amount of effort involved.
The only thing you will need to put effort into is letting people know that this product is available to them, so we're looking at marketing.
There's a bit of effort involved in making the product but not much, then you get to plough your efforts into sharing this great product with the world.
I have four digital product ideas for you:
This works particularly well if you have a series of blog posts or a number of blog posts on the same topic, and you can take that content and compile it easily into an e-book. That works really well.
All you really need to do is make sure that the various posts flow into one another and perhaps package them up with an introduction and a conclusion, and there's your e-book.
I ended up going with Teachable, but that was only to do with payment platforms and the fact that I live in Guernsey.
I actually was really impressed with Thinkific, and I think they've got a lot to offer.
When you're producing an online course, chances are you're going to want to use video, maybe a PowerPoint or a Keynote presentation, and you might record your voice over the top of those slides.
You don't actually need to show your face on a video for online courses. I think this is a bit of a misconception, and a lot of people, certainly based on the chat in The Lightbulb Club, are a bit nervous about putting their face on video, and I understand that. You don't need to for an online course, you can be slide based.
If you're going to take that approach, I highly recommend ScreenFlow for recording your videos. It is a Mac only product. I'm sure there will be equivalent PC products available.
If you're going to create an online course based on existing content, my top tip for you is to try to appeal to all different learning preferences.
You'll have video in the presentation for the visual learners, and also people how like to learn by listening can benefit from the videos, but also consider having an audio download available for those that want to consume your content as a podcast, maybe on their daily commute.
I would highly recommend getting anything you produce transcribed, so there's a text option, and for transcriptions, I use Rev.com. They're very reasonably priced and very quick with their turnaround as well.
People love printables, particularly if they look nice, and they're something you want to print out over and over again.
People love printables that help with organization.
Perhaps you've produced some printables as content upgrades on your blog. If you have, maybe there's a way to package up a variety of printables and sell them as a bundle.
Because you have given them away for free previously, you might want to chuck in a couple of additional printables just to really up the value of your product.
If you're looking for a bit of inspiration, hop on to Pinterest and search for printables, and you'll see the sort of thing that is really popular.
Swipe files are examples of scripts or templates or text for emails, for example, that you could essentially copy and paste and then tweak to make your own.
I'll give you an example. I have always struggled with writing sales pages, so a swipe file of the ideal text for a sales page would be something I would definitely purchase.
I've purchased product in the past that was a huge bundle of swipe files for emails you might send to clients, difficult emails, that sort of thing. There were hundreds of these email templates, and they were absolutely fab, and I've used them on various occasions.
Swipe files take minimal effort, because invariably what you are selling is something that you've created in the past, so you're just packaging them up, tidy them, and you've got a digital product.
I can recommend a few tools to help you with your digital product creation.
In terms of selling it, you can use the commerce part of your website if you are a Squarespace user.
I hope this advice has been helpful. If you've never created a digital product before, then go for it. What's the worst that can happen?
If you want more advice, or you want to get some feedback on your ideas, then join The Lightbulb Club, my Facebook group. We're a nice, chatty, friendly bunch and always up for giving some constructive feedback. You can find the Facebook group at thelightbulb.club, just type that into your browser, and you will find us.
Okay, that's all for me today. Thanks so much for tuning in, and I hope you will join me next week.