The Sideways Table of Contents, or the Future of the Expert Author, Part 2

POSTED ON Dec 11, 2013

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > Self-Publishing, Writing > The Sideways Table of Contents, or the Future of the Expert Author, Part 2

The first part of this article is here: The Sideways Table of Contents, or the Future of the Expert Author, Part 1, and the final part is here: Part 3

It turns out, when you turn your contents page sideways, you reveal the chronology implied in the way you’ve put your chapters together to communicate your subject.

Naturally, you start with basics and foundations, show how those interact with basic principles, then elaborate into the richness of your subject.

If we make full use of this chronology, it can solve a lot of the problems we identified with nonfiction book publishing:

  • A long and expensive development time,
  • Lack of the ability to expose your ideas to an interested market in order to get feedback that’s useful in the creation of the book
  • The necessity to fund all development months or even years before your book starts generating income
  • And for some authors, the lack of any kind of robust author platform from which to launch the book

Looking Inside Your Chapters

Before I get to this solution, let’s take a bit deeper look into the contents of the sample book we’ve been using in these articles.

For instance, here’s the chapter on Yeast broken down into the sections within the chapter. These sections are usually indicated by top-level subheads:

Chapter 3: Mysteries of Yeast

  • How Yeast Works
  • 3 Kinds of Yeast Used in Pizza Baking
  • Care and Feeding of Yeast
  • Make Your Own Yeast
  • The Truth Behind Sourdough

Okay, that’s a pretty typical chapter, divided into sections, each of which is on a related topic. Of course, when we turn the Contents sideways, we’ll have to turn all of these parts of our chapters sideways, too. It might look like this:

self-publishing nonfiction

The influence of the passage of time cannot be overstated in this arrangement. As with the overall scheme of the book, each chapter will show a similar arrangement.

There are topics that must be discussed first if you want your readers to be able to grasp what you’ll be teaching them later in the chapter.

In my example, for instance, you’ll want to thoroughly discuss how yeast works on flour and other ingredients to form a dough that rises before you discuss different kinds of yeast, or how to use it.

These kinds of prerequisites—concepts that must be understood before other, more complex ideas can be built upon them—are common in putting together any kind of instructional material.

Looking Outside the Book

The effect of all this sideways turning business is that we now have an orderly sequence of topics and subtopics that must be presented in a particular order to maximize learning. As the expert, you are the one who can best put this together for newcomers to your field who want to acquire proficiency.

And this whole chronology, implied or directly stated, leads us inevitably to one, non-book conclusion:

Although a book must be completely worked out, totally finished down to the last bit of type on the copyright page before any of it can be delivered to the people who want it, if we disassemble the book into its component parts, there’s absolutely no reason we have to stick to that “all or nothing” plan.

What I mean to say is that there are other ways to get the same result you’re hoping for by publishing your book. And I don’t mean that you shouldn’t publish the book, but that if you look “outside the book” you might find a better way to reach your goals, or to establish goals you didn’t even know you could reach for.

Instruction Really Needs Only One Step at a Time

Suppose you’ve thoroughly outlined your book. You’ve decided what you’ll cover, who it will be written for, and how to go about making it practical and usable for your readers.

Suppose further that you’ve written the first chapter or two. At this point, most authors will still be looking at a long grind before they have anything to show for it. But not those authors who know how to use the modern tools of instruction.

Because your learners only need Chapter 1 to begin with, what’s to stop you from just finishing that chapter and selling it? Conceptually this makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, from a practical standpoint, if you keep thinking of your task as “writing a book” you’re pretty much trapped in the necessity to do the entire book.

But not if you think outside the book.

In the final part of this series, I’m going to show you how this idea can be taken by anyone and turned into a dynamic, flexible, market-sensitive, and profitable enterprise by any author who will just take the time to find out how to do it.

This plan will:

  • cut the time to get your idea to market
  • build your credibility, authority, and author platform before you publish your book
  • put you in direct touch with your most avid learners, and
  • allow you to profit from your work almost immediately, without having to wait out the long book development process

Sound good? It is, and I’ll also show you exactly how I followed this same plan and produced a hugely profitable instructional enterprise of my own.

I know you’re going to want to read that, so check in on Friday for the conclusion.


Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

Liked this post? Share it with friends!

More Helpful Articles