October 9, 2006

Bookcraft 2.0: The 90% Rule of Repurposing Content

published this at 11:33 am

Content Always Wins

books

When I left you on Friday, an editor friend and I were on our way to Milwaukee to meet with Phil to make a bookmap from the rough cut of his book. The rough cut had been built on a set of criteria that made choosing content from his archives an easy decision-making process. I outlined those criteria in Archive Mining: How to Get From Working Book Title to Rough Cut Content. Now, it was time for a finer cut. Armed with 5 categories of pages, I was sure that we’d sort them into 7 or 8 chapters and make a bookmap. That was the plan.

Because our topic is timeless, we can be flexible about schedule. That gives us even more room to focus on what’s best for the book. Here’s what happened.

We didn’t make a bookmap.

I was wrong about 7 or 8 chapters.

The plan went out the door early on

because

To make a great book, the content must win. Always.

Making the Finer Cut

In order to make that finer cut, we needed a finer set of criteria. Again, we turned to black and white rules — that crucial tool for sorting intellectual gray questions efficiently.

We made two black and white “gating rules.”

A simple definition of what the book would do — Every entry, story, or example would offer a practical application for the reader.

Every written bit of content had to meet the 90% Rule of Repurposing Content.

We read aloud each piece, if it failed on either point, without question it was out.

What is the 90% Rule of Repurposing Content? It’s a rule that I made up.

The 90% Rule of Repurposing Content

When my job was finding product to repurpose for the U.S. market, what I realized was that people could repurpose anything. I had to curb my enthusiasm for finding the cool product inside everything that came my way. So I made the 90% rule. This is it.

It’s not worth repurposing, if it’s not 90% already there.

I’m lethal about applying the 90% rule. You should be too. Why?

If the content you’re picking up is not 90% there, it’s easier, faster, cheaper, and would be of higher quality to make a new one from scratch.

Where We Are Now

The two rules we made — must have an application and must be 90% there — served us well as we went through the rough cut pages. Sorting was both quick and painless. We read aloud each page and found agreement on those two points every time.

That freed us to concentrate on how the pages fit with each other logically. We discussed which groupings worked best and what to call them. In the end, we found that we had a four part book, not the 8 chapters I had predicted. Once we removed what didn’t belong, a closer look at the content said so.

Go figure.

Now I’m off to make a bookmap for Part I of a four-part book. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

–ME “Liz” Strauss
If you’d like Liz to help you find or make a book from your archives, click on the Work with Liz!! page in the sidebar.

Related articles
Bookcraft 2.0: Find a Book in Your Archives the Way a Publisher Would
Bookcraft 2.0 Archive Mining: How to Get From Working Book Title to Rough Cut Content
Bookcraft 2.0: How Many Words Does It Take to Make a Book?
Bookcraft 2.0: Why No Bound Book Has 666 Pages and Get Your Free Blank Bookmap

Filed under Business Book, Content, Strategy/Analysis, Successful Blog, Writing | 10 Comments »


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10 Comments to “Bookcraft 2.0: The 90% Rule of Repurposing Content”

  1. October 9th, 2006 at 5:09 pm
    Deep Jive Interests » What Bloggers Can Learn From: Battlestar Galactica said

    [...] 1. Be substantial: The characters on Battlestar Galactica are fascinating, deeply flawed and human (or human-appearing). They’re also some of the most compelling characters to watch on television. When crafting your own posts, are you writing anything of substance — does your style have any verve? The content of your posts is critical, with both what you say and how you say it. Everyone’s guilty of contributing to the endless echochamber (yours truly included) from time to time; but the only way you’ll grow your readership is by contributing original, fascinating posts of real substance and worth.  Make your posts more than just a headline and a quote.  Explain what your position is — with evidence.  Take a stand, and explain it with flair.  Break some news, and go the extra mile with the interview.  Be substantial. [...]

  2. October 9th, 2006 at 8:03 pm
    ann michael said

    Liz –

    I love the 90% rule! Having worked in publishing for a while and specifically on repurposing print content into other media formats, I can tell you (as you know!) that it’s rarely followed.

    Content creators want all their content to be used again even when it doesn’t make sense! It’s illogical to them that starting from scratch can sometimes be more time and cost effective and result in a better product!

    We would have saved a lot of time and money if we followed the 90% rule!!!

    I’ll have to send some people to this post!!!

    Ann

  3. October 9th, 2006 at 8:09 pm
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Ann,
    It was sooo much fun to look at so many things. I just HAD to come up with something to keep my appetite in check. I understand EXACTLY what you’re saying. Though I didn’t love my stuff like that, it’s easy to get in the habit of thinking that to use it over is always the best choice. But it’s NOT.

    YOU ARE SO RIGHT. Knowing when you could write a new one in 10 minutes, but it will take you 3 hours to fix this . . . some folks need to stop to breathe. :)

  4. October 10th, 2006 at 7:25 am
    katiebird said

    Liz, I really like your 90 percent rule. I don’t have any experience with writing books. But, I have learned that sometimes it’s faster to ditch a rough draft (keeping maybe only the topic sentence) of a memo or post.

    (Good Morning!!)

  5. October 10th, 2006 at 7:27 am
    ME Strauss said

    Hi Katie!
    Good morning!
    That 90% rules seems to be a winner with folks. It has done a lot of deciding for me, I know. I have other little rules. I’ll have to start sharing them too. :)

  6. October 10th, 2006 at 7:29 am
    katiebird said

    I love rules — there are so many things that actually require decisions and thought. If I can lean on a rule here or there to make it easier, I’m all for it!

  7. October 10th, 2006 at 7:33 am
    ME Strauss said

    In editorial, where most of the decisions are judgment calls, it really helps to decide early where to draw the line to get them out of the gray into the black and white. You can’t imagine the time and unneccessarily redundant conversation it saves to draw up a few project-based rules and definitions.

  8. October 10th, 2006 at 7:37 am
    katiebird said

    It actually sounds very much like my weight-control plan. I don’t eat between meals and I don’t take seconds. So I’m always asking myself, “Is this a meal?” & “Have I already eaten”

    I could have saved myself A Lot of grief if I’d invented these rules when I was young.

  9. October 10th, 2006 at 7:38 am
    ME Strauss said

    Same sort of thing, exactly!

  10. December 14th, 2006 at 9:43 pm
    Liz Strauss at Successful Blog - Bookcraft 2.0: Writer, Book Editor, Copyeditor — What Do They Do? said

    [...] Related articles Bookcraft 2.0: Book Research at Amazon, the Data Giant Bookcraft 2.0: The 90% Rule of Repurposing Content Bookcraft 2.0 Why Read the Date Archives Not the Categories? Bookcraft 2.0: How Many Words Does It Take to Make a Book? [...]

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