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How to Write a Self-Help Book in Six Steps
Developing Your Bestselling Book Idea

How to Write a Self-Help Book in Six Steps

If you are a professional, a blogger, or want to build expertise on a topic, then writing a self-help book can bring you new clients, income, and opportunities. Plus self-help books can make positive change in readers’ lives—helping them overcome challenges, live healthier lives, be happier. In the grand scheme, I like to think of self-help books as a small contribution to making the world a better place. 

Writing a self-help book can also make the author’s life better. If you’re a blogger or consultant a book can be an income stream. Or if you are offer a service to clients, a self-help book can be a tool that educates the reader on how and why to take the next step and work with you. And when a book solves a pervasive problem or alleviates widespread suffering, authors can create large platforms that include public speaking, consulting, and media exposure. 

Think about some of the recent game-changing self-help books. For example, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is one I can’t seem to get enough of (it seems no one else in the world can either). This book not only turned an organizing consultant from Japan into a first-world-wide phenomenon, it became the basis of several other books, her Konmari Method licensing program, and now a Netflix series. 

Another awesome example is You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. (I love her because I heard she used to be a ghostwriter.) There’s a combination of elements that make this self-help book stand out. The author’s voice (not all voices can get away with using the word ass in the title) attracts the target reading audience and solves the specific kind of malaise that burdens this everyman. And the author has built upon this platform with another book, speaking appearances, and even a writing class. 

But writing a great self-help requires planning and commitment. And especially when you have other responsibilities, like a family or a job, writing a self-help book requires some time management as well.

I’ve worked on many self-help books as a ghostwriter and developmental editor, and one aspect of a great self-help book’s power lies in the simplicity of its structure. They don’t require any special literary tricks. In fact, they are quite formulaic. And once you understand that formula, writing a great self-help book is much easier. 

The writing process is kind of formulaic as well. Here’s how to write a self-help book, broken down into six steps.

1. List all your ideas you want to include in the book. 

What stories are you going to tell? What lessons did you learn? What strategies are you going to teach? What examples are you going to give? Start by listing everything you want to include in your book—all the topics, examples, anecdotes, and strategies you plan to include. Let your mind go on this, and brainstorm as many ideas as you can. You aren’t making any final decisions. Remain flexible and open-minded; you will probably change things around once you actually start writing and researching. But making this list will help you see all your thoughts in one place and give you a different view of all those ideas you’ve had in your head for so long.

2. Develop an irresistible book idea. 

Every time I’ve worked on a self-help book with a client, they may have an idea what they want to include in the book, but the book concept itself isn’t as tight and sharp as it could be. 

Honing your idea means looking at what you have and considering other books similar to yours that already exist in the marketplace. What makes your book different? It also means getting clear on who your ideal reader is, what that person is struggling with, and what exactly they’ll gain from reading your self-help book and taking your advice. All this is the foundation of a great self-help book.

3. Organize your ideas and information into a process that will lead your reader to a specific, desirable result.

Once you’re clear on the results your reader will get from reading your book, then you can start outlining your book. Going from a list of brainstormed ideas to a working outline means organizing your material into a process that leads the reader, one step at a time, to that desired result. 

So where do they start? And what comes next? And when you look at your list, what ideas belong together? This is how you start to build chapters.

4. Draft your self-help book.

When we’re talking about how to write a self-help book, or any book, drafting is the heavy lifting part of writing work. Drafting involves lots of time at the computer, and often lots of research. Getting the first draft done can take forever. But lots of authors get this part done pretty quickly. Your pace will determine how much time you can devote to writing and how productively you use that writing time. 

One aspect of writing self-help is that you can create or use established formulas for writing solid chapters, and then repeat that same formula for every chapter in your book. This makes drafting a little easier because it’s like filling in the blanks. And for me, getting all my ideas drafted before I really start revising helps me get it done faster. 

5. Revise your self-help book.

When you have a first draft written, revision comes next. This is part of the writing process and not something an editor can do for you. Revising your self-help book means reading it and editing it for style and content. 

You want your self-help book to be written in a consistent voice, and you have to make sure the words on the page move the reader through the book from start to finish. No one wants to read a boring self-help book. Revise with this in mind.

6. Get feedback on your self-help manuscript. 

When you’ve gotten to the point where you’ve done all you know how to do to improve your manuscript—or you know there’s more to fix, but aren’t sure what to do next—it’s time to get someone to read it. 

This can be hard because asking someone to read your book is kind of a big favor, unless that person is a colleague or writer-friend with a manuscript to swap. And if you don’t have a writer-friend who can offer constructive feedback, then hiring an editor will be the perfect way to get help on your work-in-progress and improve your writing skills. Once you have some good feedback on your manuscript, you can finalize revisions. 

And if you need help, you can always contact me about editorial services. Click here to request a free consultation...

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