• John Lim

MF 233 : Structuring your book like “building blocks”

Updated: Apr 14

On this episode, I break down the structure of a book and why you should think of it as “building blocks.” More at www.bemovingforward.com.

Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above. Moving Forward is also available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Spotify.

Part 1: Poshmark overweight shipping

This week, I’m going to revisit Poshmark to share another first for us. Last week, we had our first big bundle sale. As a refresher, bundle sales are when customers place two or more items into a bundle (a virtual shopping bag) from your store. The advantage of purchasing from a bundle for a customer is that they only have to pay one shipping rate for multiple items. For a seller, it allows him or her to send all purchases in one package while maximizing sales.

We’ve had bundle sales in the past but mostly small items such as shoes mixed with standard items such as dresses.

Last week, we had a customer purchase three premium dresses: two wedding and one formal. This was a large order and presented us with a new and interesting situation we had not encountered before: overweight shipping.

Poshmark uses a standard flat rate shipping label for packages. The upper limit is 5 lbs, which is perfectly suited for nearly every item you might sell on Posh, be it a jacket, suit, dress or shoes. The label also works with most bundles combining small and large items.

However, sometimes you may have a situation where your item exceeds 5 lbs. In our case, this bundle weighed closer to 10 lbs.

In this situation, we learned that Poshmark has a feature that allows you to request a larger shipping label. You go into your sale on the app, click a button to access a menu and choose request additional shipping label. From there, you can select from a range of shipping sizes. The highest is 10 lbs, which is where we landed.

We got the new label which came immediately into our email account, put it on the box, and shipped it as normal with no trouble at all. The one catch to know is that if you end up needing an oversize label, the cost of shipping will be on you, the seller.

In the end, the cost of shipping ended up being worth it and can be seen as part of the “cost of doing business.” For you current and future Poshers, you may want to check out the oversize label prices in case you have any heavier items or you end up with a heavy bundle scenario. Take this into account when negotiating price.

For more on Poshmark, check out episodes 202-221 and the Poshmark roadmap.

Part 2: Structuring your book like “building blocks”

Now that we’re moving into the middle of the mini-series, we’re going to start looking at some of the technical details for writing your book. Up to this point, we’ve focused on the concepts of outlining and ideation, story arcs and drafts – talking and writing it out. Last week, I covered how to get over writer’s block.

Today, I want to look at a different kind of “block” and take a dive deep into structure. First, take any book off your shelf and flip through it. Notice what you see. A book is not simply the manuscript but contains a lot of pieces and components: copyright notices, forewords or dedications, and some books have a table of contents. In the back, you may find acknowledgments, author bios and more.

As you’re writing and refining your manuscript, start thinking of it as an actual book with all of these pieces or “building blocks.”

Below, I’m going to outline components and strategies to build those blocks using some of the writing tools I covered a few weeks ago.

Scrivener

As I mentioned on episode 230, Scrivener is a fantastic drafting and formatting tool for self-publishing. Scrivener comes with several templates including ones for fiction (for you novelists) and non-fiction, which is what Making Fake Star Trek is (don’t let the word “fake” fool you!).

When you open one of these templates, you’ll find a lot of the components already set up, including what’s called the “front matter,” which includes a page for copyright, foreword, dedication and sometimes, a blank separator page. At the bottom is where the “back matter” can go where you would put acknowledgments, bios, etc. Note: lately, I’ve seen books with acknowledgments at the front of the book so block placement is flexible.

Scrivener has two basic components: folders and documents.

Folders

Think of folders as containers. These are organization tools that earmark chapters, parts or sections of your manuscript.

You can set up your manuscript template any way you like. Some writers use folders for each chapter and have one document per folder or several to subdivide the chapters into chunks. Other writers, like Andy and me, use the folders as “parts” with many documents per part as individual chapters.

How you organize and subdivide your book is entirely up to you. Scrivener folders and docs are extremely flexible and can be tailored to big chunks or granular bites. I recommend using a format that helps you stay on track and task with your daily or weekly writing goals, keeps you organized, and works logically with your ideation outline according to BME (beginning-middle-end).

Word

If you prefer to do your writing on Word, I still recommend using a similar setup to Scrivener. I don’t recommend using one big blank document for your entire manuscript much less all of the building blocks. Books are big creatures. If you put everything into one document, you may be setting yourself up for unnecessary frustration and confusion in the later editing stages.

Use folders, either on your desktop or on OneDrive to segment your book, either by part, chapter, section, whatever you decide. Then use many documents within each container (folder), which can be the chapters themselves or parts of chapters.

Homework

As you continue writing your manuscript, start thinking broadly about the structure of your book. In fact, start picturing your manuscript as a book with all of the building blocks we just covered. Create a building block format on Word using folders and documents or use a Scrivener template.

Scrivener

Scrivener (available for Mac, Win, IOS) is a book writing program that auto formats for self-publishing on Amazon’s KDP and other platforms. It’s a great tool with rich features that allow co-writers to collaborate through Dropbox. Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve but I’ve been a fan since 2017 and have talked to many authors who use it as their go-to. If you’re interested in Scrivener, you can use the coupon code MOVINGFORWARD to get 20% off your purchase (for Mac or Win). It’s a one-time license fee and available for Mac, Win, IOS.

Note: this section contains affiliate links and coupon codes for which the author may receive some compensation.

Part 3: What I’m reading

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion (**). My third Simsion book after The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect. The protagonist is Adam, British IT freelancer who also moonlights as a bar pianist. While on assignment in Australia, he happens to meet Angelina, a famous TV actress, who also happens to be in an unhappy marriage and complex family situation. The two engage in a whirlwind affair that ends abruptly when Adam has to leave. The two part ways despite having strong feelings and move on with their lives. About two or three decades later, they reconnect by email and Adam visits Angelina, who is married to her second husband, has a different career and several kids. The book explores the “what if” question of whether you can go back and rekindle an early love and the messy consequences that can ensue in trying to answer that question. The concept is intriguing but the execution wasn’t as effective. The characters were self-indulgent, selfish and I wasn’t rooting for any of them. The book is overall a disappointment, especially compared to the far superior Rosie series. Simsion does have a talent for descriptive prose and the book is also filled with easter eggs for those who love classic songs with its own Spotify playlist.

Books by John

  1. Check out my Amazon author profile for my books.

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