October 9, 2006
Liz published this at 11:33 am
Content Always Wins
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
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.
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.
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