Effective Organization for Nonfiction Book

When organizing your book, you want to think about chapter order, whether you want to use sections or not, where and when to use headings, and how to connect paragraphs and ideas together.

 

Chapter Order

 

 

Organize your chapters by theme or by progression, depending on your topic. If concepts build on each other and need to be done in a certain order, then go with progression. Otherwise, focus on grouping like-themes together.

 

When you group by theme, you may consider grouping the chapters in sections, though you do not have to.

 

You can also group do both: progressive and themes. So have thematic sections, and then the chapters within each section are in progressive order.

 

 

 

 

 

Compare the original chapter and subheadings order to the edited chapter and subheadings order in a how-to book:

 

Original
Chapter 1: Put Together a Launch Team
▪ Email
▪ Private Facebook Groups
▪ Public Facebook Page

Chapter 2: Reaching Out to Your Network
▪ L-6 Months
▪ L-3 Months
▪ L-30 Days
▪ On Launch Day
▪ L + 1 Day
▪ L + 2 Days

Chapter 3: Publicity
▪ Local Publicity
▪ Local Radio/TV Shows
▪ The pitch
▪ Pitching to Influencers
▪ Keeping Track of It All
▪ Kickstarter Promotions
▪ Where We Went Wrong

Chapter 4: Reward Levels

Chapter 5: Running the Numbers
▪ Phases
▪ Idea Phase
▪ Pre-Prototype Phase
▪ Prototype Phase
▪ 80 percent solution phase
▪ Ready Go-Go- Phase (100 percent phase)
▪ The Video
▪ A ton of subsections
▪ Promotions
▪ Calculate Your Kickstarter Goal
▪ Talking to Vendors
▪ How to Find Vendors

Chapter 6: Campaign Descriptions

Chapter 7: Preparing for Launch
▪ Research and Back Active Campaigns
▪ Launch Team Contributors
▪ A Week before Launch
▪ Day before Launch

Chapter 8: Post Campaign
▪ Prepare for Handoff Points
▪ A Word About Distributors

Chapter 9: When Things Go Wrong

Chapter 10: Stretch Goals

Edited
Section 1: Where are you at?
▪ Chapter 1: Phases (Used to be in the reward levels chapter)
▪ Idea Phase
▪ Pre-Prototype Phase
▪ Prototype Phase
▪ 80 percent solution phase
▪ Ready Go-Go- Phase (100 percent phase)

Section 2: Marketing and Promoting the Kickstarter Campaign
▪ Chapter 2: Putting Together a Launch Team
▪ Ask People to Join Your Launch Team (used to be after choosing a platform)
▪ Choosing a Platform (made a new heading to group these under)
▪ Email
▪ Private Facebook groups
▪ Stay in Contact
▪ Chapter 3: Public Facebook Page (made it its own chapter, as it didn’t relate to putting launch team together)
▪ Chapter 4: Reaching out to Your Network
▪ Kept all the same subheads
▪ Chapter 5: Publicity
▪ Connecting with Influencers (created this heading to group subtopics together)
▪ Find them
▪ Build a relationship with them
▪ Make the pitch (split the content of this section from influencers to local publicity)
▪ Time to get the word out
▪ Local Publicity
▪ Find local radio/TV shows to contact
▪ Make the pitch
▪ Kickstarter Promotions
▪ Where we Went Wrong

Section 3: Putting Your Campaign Together
▪ Chapter 6: Reward Levels
▪ Chapter 7: Stretch Goals (Used to be one of the last chapters, but it is part of creating the campaign)
▪ Chapter 8: The Video (Used to be a subsection in “Running the numbers.”)
▪ Used the same subheadings but created a few more
▪ Chapter 9: Campaign Descriptions (Used to be after “running numbers”)

Section 4: Calculating Costs and Working with Vendors
▪ Chapter 10: Vendors (Used to be subsection in “Running the numbers”)
▪ Finding Vendors (Used to be after contacting vendors)
▪ Contacting Vendors
▪ Items to Note
▪ Chapter 11: Running the Numbers (Used to be after Rewards and before Campaign Descriptions)
▪ Promotions
▪ Calculate Your Kickstarter Goal
▪ Price Your Rewards
Section 5: Preparing For Launch
▪ Chapter 12: (all the same content)
 
Section 6: Post Campaign
▪ Chapter 13: If You Didn’t Reach Your Goal
▪ Chapter 14: If You Did Reach Your Goal
▪ Touch Base with Your Points of Contact
▪ Prepare for Handoff Points
▪ Gearing up for Shipping
▪ Chapter 15: When Things Go Wrong

 

 

 

 

The edited order took both a thematic and progressive approach.

 

Since creating the product through all the phases is the first thing they need to do, I moved that from the original chapter 5 to chapter 1.

 

The order for the original first three chapters were perfectly progressive in nature, so I kept them in the same order, but grouped them thematically underneath a section heading. The only chapter change I made here was to create a new chapter since the content about a public Facebook page didn’t relate to putting together a launch team, so it didn’t make sense to have them in the same chapter.

The original chapters 4 through 6 were in a random order. The order didn’t seem thematic or progressive.

 

Since chapters 4 and 6 were pieces of the actual campaign, I grouped them in a section about creating the campaign. I also pulled in the original last chapter of the whole book (“Stretch Goals”) into this section since it is also part of creating the campaign.

Chapter 5 (“Running the Numbers”) was originally quite long, and the video section gave tips on creating and making the video, which had nothing to do with running the numbers. So I made the video section its own chapter in the “Creating the Campaign” section. 

The rest of the sections in chapter 5 were about numbers, then vendors. I grouped them in the next section, but switched the order since they needed to know the vendors they were using to accurately run the numbers.

The original chapters 7 through 9 were progressively in order. I just split chapter 8 into two since it had two distinct topics with subtopics in it. 

 


 

Various Leveled Headings

 

 

Not all nonfiction books will need headings and subheadings, but most could benefit from them.

Headings are a quick way to transition between significant ideas. Sure, you could write a transition, but then that requires a lot more words, and this could bog down the reading experience.

No one wants to continuously read sentences showing the connection between the ideas before getting to the new idea.

So headings help!

 

 

 

 

Consistency with headings isn’t as rigid as to say every chapter has to have headings or headings shouldn’t be used in any chapter. Consistency means that it is mostly the same.

 

If only one chapter doesn’t need headings, see if you can make it a subsection in another chapter because it is awkward to not have headings in only one chapter. You want your readers to get used to the book’s format.

 

It’s fine to have a few chapters without any headings in a book where many chapters do have headings. So don’t put in headings in a chapter that doesn’t need it just because other chapters have it.

 

Essentially, the majority of the chapters should follow the same format, but it is okay to have a few outliers.

This applies to the levels as well. If only one chapter goes four levels deep with subheadings, see if you really need that fourth-level heading.

But it’s fine to have some chapters go three levels deep and some only go two levels and/or one level deep.

 

 

 

 

You do not need to use a heading, no matter how clever and cute it is, to separate paragraphs discussing the same idea.

Yes, typically, every paragraph contains a new idea, but you only put in subheadings when you have a significant new idea.

In the example book above, the chapter on putting together a launch team had the heading “Ask People to Join Your Launch Team.” Several tips were given on how to ask people, but it was unnecessary to have a heading for each tip. They all had to do with the “ask.”

 

But it was necessary to create a new heading called “Choosing a Platform” because the original was a bit misleading.

 

The original:

 

Put Together a Launch Team

 

  • Ask People to Join Your Launch Team
  • Email
  • Private Facebook Page

 

Edited version:

 

Put Together a Launch Team

 

  • Ask People to Join Your Launch Team
  • Choose a Platform
    • Email
    • Private Facebook Page

 

With the original, it suggested the author wanted you to use both email and private Facebook page when putting together your launch team, but in this case, the author gave pros and cons for each method and tips on using them, so I created the subhead.

Let’s look at another example from that book.

Original subheadings in the publicity chapter:

 

  • Local Publicity
  • Local Radio/TV Shows
    • The pitch
  • Pitching to Influencers
  • Kickstarter Promotions
  • Where We Went Wrong

 

Edited version:

 

  • Connecting with Influencers

 

  • Find them
  • Build a relationship with them
  • Make the pitch
  • Time to get the word out
  • Local Publicity
    • Find local radio/TV shows to contact
    • Make the pitch
  • Kickstarter Promotions
  • Where we Went Wrong

 

The publicity chapter began with information about the importance of publicity, then it started discussing finding and building a relationship with influencers without any sort of transition or heading. All of this came before the “local publicity” heading.

Since the author had a heading for when he discussed local publicity and Kickstarter promotions, it made sense to also have a heading for influencers.

He did have a heading for pitching to influencers, but it came after the local publicity portion. So his publicity chapter discussed influencers, then local publicity, then back to influencers, then Kickstarter promotions.

I grouped all the influencer content together and added the appropriate headings.

 

 

 

 

You want to nest headings appropriately. If content underneath a given heading strongly relates to content under the previous heading, you may consider nesting it.

 

In our example publicity chapter, the author had these two headings assigned the same level:

 

  • Local Publicity
  • Local Radio/TV Shows

 

Since local radio/TV shows are a type of local publicity, it makes more sense to nest the second one.

 

As mentioned earlier, if you find yourself nesting deeper than you have in previous chapters, question whether you need the heading at all.

This is where transitions can come into play. Earlier I mentioned how no one wants to continuously read transitional statements/sentences, but that doesn’t mean never use them.

Use transitions between sub-topics under a given heading rather than continuously nesting if all the headings are unnecessary and over the top.

 


 

Transitions

 

 

Transitions help readers follow your train of thought and flow into a new idea or subtopic without getting whiplash.

In our how-to book, the author has the following subtopics under the “email” heading: why you would want to choose email as your platform, how to make the email entertaining, what length it should be, and adding a link.

It was not necessary to have headings for those, as each topic was only a paragraph or two. Plus, that email heading was already quite nested (the structure below shows it was a fourth level heading).

 

Heading 1—Section 2: Marketing and Promoting the Kickstarter Campaign

 

  • Heading 2—Chapter 2: Putting Together a Launch Team
  • Heading 3—Choosing a Platform (made a new heading to group these under)
    • Heading 4—Email

 

So instead of using headings to transition between the subtopics in “email,” I helped the author craft effective transitions.

 

Previous subtopic: why choose email

New subtopic: how to make it entertaining

Transition: If you choose email as your line of communication, you need to make them entertaining to read.

 

You can use single-one transitions like “first,” “next,” “also,” “therefore,” etc. But those type of transitions are usually connecting sentences, not paragraphs or topics.

When you are switching to a new subtopic, it is better to use effective transitions. I wrote an entire blog on effective transitions, so learn about that here.

 


 

Conclusion

 

 

A well-organized book helps your reader follow your ideas. It also makes the reading experience seamless.

Just like how plot holes can take a reader out of a novel, lack of headings, transitions, and/or random chapter order, can pull a reader out of your book.

You want to clearly organize your book to avoid reader whiplash and temporary confusion.

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