While I was at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference a week and a half ago, I went to dinner with a colleague and agent Jodie Reins. During the course of our conversation, I happened to mention one of my many book projects. Jody exclaimed, “That’s not just a book. It’s a system!”
“A what?” I asked.
Your Nonfiction Book as a System
She explained that my book idea had within it the makings of a system, a process or steps that could be applied over and over again in many areas or to various subjects. As such, the idea was not just one book idea but many book ideas wrapped up in one.
In fact, my book project did have four distinct steps. I happened to have applied them to writing about life. She showed me how I could take those four steps and write a series of books that used the same system, or process, to help people write about work, crisis, relationship, parenting—almost anything.
Brilliant! I would have never thought of that in a million years.
Create Systems, Not Books
As you create your next book idea, think about developing a system first. Consider coming up with steps or ways that have universal application. Then apply them to different potential readers. If that doesn’t work for you, develop your system for a particular type of reader and problem, and then brainstorm the additional types of readers who might also benefit from using this process for additional problems or in additional situations.
Creating systems, not just books, allows you to expand the scope of your idea—and your book—into multiple books. This means you can:
- Apply the same system to many problems or topics
- Expand the scope of your series to many types of readers
- Write for a wide variety of markets
- Place your books in more than one category
- Create a series
- Increase your earning potential
- Write many books by repurposing one manuscript
Writing System-Based Books
Once you’ve written your first system-based books, you’ll find it easy to write the subsequent ones. You need to do market research to get familiar with the different readership you plan to target, its problems, desires and focus. Then you rewrite with the new market in mind so you provide that ideal reader with the appropriate benefits.
The bulk of your book—the actual system—stays basically the same. The examples you use and the problems you address likely change based on market and ideal reader.
Turning Your Books Into Series
I suppose you could turn almost any book into a series. A former agent of mine suggested I rewrite How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time for different markets. I could do so, and I’ve considered it. The question is: Do I want to do so, or would I rather go on to my next book? You’ll have to answer the same question. And do these new markets make good targets? If so, you can easily rewrite and create a series, basically turning one book idea into many rather than starting from scratch.
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