Before we go straight to writing, I want to show you a tool to help write to your audience more quickly. First, let’s define what I mean by prototyping.


Prototyping for books is the activity of creating a table of contents or an incomplete version of the book being authored. Think of a prototype as a draft version of your book that allows you to explore your ideas and show the intention behind your content structure or the overall design concept to potential audience members before investing time and money in authoring content the audience may not value. It is much cheaper to change a book early in the authoring process than to make changes after you write the book. So, consider building prototypes early in the process. Prototyping allows you to gather feedback from potential audience members while you are still planning and designing your book’s content.

Free tools allow you to prototype and fail fast as you search for customers. Free tools can also make your experiments smaller in impact, learning about what audiences value and will pay for with little to no costs.

I use mindmaps to prototype books. I’ll define a mindmap as:


A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. A mind map is hierarchical and shows relationships among pieces of the whole. It is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those. [1]

Mind maps also have the benefit of helping create a fast prototype of your book for getting feedback. Here is the process I use for nonfiction books.

  1. Create your book structure in your mind map.

  2. Include the major topics (chapters) and their children (sections or topics).

    Figure 1. Prototype Mind Map Example
  3. Make an empty book prototype *.adoc plain text file.

  4. Add your book title and author attributes.

    = AsciiDoc Authoring: How To Make Books For Free (1)
    :author: Kevin Lanham (2)
    1. Book title and optionally a subtitle after a colon

    2. Author attribute and author name. Note there are no empty lines between the title line and the attribute lines below it.

  5. Copy the map’s central node, for example "Book Prototype", and paste into your empty AsciiDoc book text file. It will all the sub branches and copy them too as shown in the following example.

    = AsciiDoc Authoring: How To Make Books For Free
    :author: Kevin Lanham
    Book Prototype (1)
        Idea A (2)
            Sub-idea A1 (3)
        Idea B
            Sub-idea B1
            Sub-idea B2
        Idea C
            Sub-idea C1
    1. Remove the mind map title

    2. Replace single tab with two equal signs

    3. Replace two tabs with three equal signs

  6. Note how the Freemind paste of the map indents the child nodes nicely so you can see the hierarchy from the mind map.

  7. Change the indents to the correct number of equal signs so AsciiDoctor can assign the right title hierarchy.

  8. Now add a table of contents attribute.

    = AsciiDoc Authoring: How To Make Books For Free
    :author: Kevin Lanham
    :toc: top
    :toclevels: 2
    == Idea A
    === Sub-idea A1
    == Idea B
    === Sub-idea B1
    === Sub-idea B2
    == Idea C
    === Sub-idea C1
  9. Use AsciiDoctor to render the prototype file to HTML or PDF.

    1. Use the rendering instructions in another part of this book.

    2. My prototype folder looks like this when done.

      Figure 2. Prototype Files in my Folder
  10. Show the result to a potential member of your intended audience for some feedback.

    1. Point out the title page.

    2. Point out the table of contents.

    3. Tell them that the book has not been written yet, so you’d appreciate their feedback on the scope of the contents just based on the table of contents.

      Figure 3. Prototype First Page
      Figure 4. Prototype TOC Page

The free mindmapping/prototyping tool I use I’ll describe in the next section.

1. Definition from Wikipedia at

Line By Line

Here a Little, There a Little, Layer by Layer.

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