Self-help books have become one of the most popular genres of nonfiction books. At any one time, a considerable percentage of us are looking for some help with a problem we have or a goal that we are working on. Self-help books are one of the important resources that we often turn to to get help from experts. If you have overcome a problem, you may be wondering how you can use this to help benefit others, and the answer could be writing a self-help book.
You can help others by writing a self-help book that identifies a specific problem people may have and provides them with guidance, advice, specific easy-to-implement steps, and ultimately a clear solution they are looking and can work towards to solve their problem.
If you have overcome a problem, then you too could help others with the same issue.
Let’s take a brief look at the steps needed to plan out writing your own self-help book.
Define The Problem
The purpose of any self-help book is to help people resolve a specific problem, so step one is to define the problem you aim to help people solve.
Yes, this may seem pretty obvious for a self-help book, but as well as writing a book like this, it can be easy to get sidetracked and end up discussing and answering other issues.
This can end up with you creating a book that misses answering the original problem.
To avoid this, before writing anything else, make sure you have a very clear, short and to-the-point problem statement.
Write your statement identifying the problem as clearly and to the point as you can. Once you’ve done that, you can add related issues and concerns, but your original must be your number one focus as you write your book.
Doing this as your first step will help you ensure you hit the target during the writing phase.
Explain The Aim of Your Book
Next, write a few sentences explaining the aim of your book. This sounds very similar to defining the problem you will solve as discussed above, but it is slightly different and just as important as your problem statement.
This is important because some problems may be the type that could be fully resolved by providing a step-by-step guide. However, others may be more difficult and can only be improved but not fixed with a text-based guide.
For example, maybe the problem cannot be resolved easily or at all, so your book provides guidance on techniques to manage and control the problem so that people suffering from it can live with it and still function.
Do not rush this phase.
This will help you set the whole tone for your text as you flesh out a complete outline. Clearly define your intentions in a summary paragraph that you will use to guide your planning and subsequent writing.
Show What The Reader Gets
Step 3 is to further flesh out this summary. For this part, detail clearly what the reader is going to get from this book.
Maybe it is in the form of clear step-by-step how-to that they just follow, a guide with thought or written exercises to do or help in the form of other kinds of mental, physical or breathing exercises.
Will they get exercise sheets to print out and fill in, audio downloads to listen to and so on?
Make a list of what you intend to give the reader in each chapter or section to know what you need to create or include as you build your outline and write your text.
After completing the first three steps, you should now have a very clear high-level guide as to what your self-help guide will encompass.
In step 4, you should break that down into a specific detailed outline listing all the sections and chapters you need to create.
For each chapter, write a few lines detailing what you will cover, what action steps you may need to include and how they connect to the subsequent chapter.
This is your opportunity to establish a clear flow for the book so take your time to do this in detail to have a solid foundation to begin writing.
Always keep in mind how the reader will approach this. First, make sure it is laid out and broken up into a very clear structure explaining the problem, then explain your solution and lastly detail the steps of that solution so it is easy for the reader to follow and implement.
Take a Friendly Tone
I am sure we all remember back in school when some teachers had little to no interaction and just lectured at you for the entire class. They were rarely anybody’s favorite class.
When you were writing your book, remember that you are now the teacher. Therefore, use a more casual, friendly tone in this text to make it more approachable.
Write as you would if you were sat talking to and trying to help a good friend. This is the tone that will help people become more engaged in your book and ultimately actually absorb and take action on your guidance.
Writing your book like a college technical lecture will lead you to lose your reader very quickly.
So stay casual, friendly but not so much that people do not take your advice seriously. It can be a tricky balance to achieve, but it is worth the effort of doing rewrites and edits that it may take.
Take the time to have a few trusted reviewers give you honest feedback on your tone and writing style to help you achieve this.
Repeat to Enforce
It has been found that repetition is very effective as a learning reinforcement tool. Repeating information helps us remember it far more effectively than just hearing or reading it one time, for example.
You should use this to your benefit when writing your own self-help book.
To use repetition to best effect, make sure not to literally repeat precisely the same instruction or text. Instead, the idea is to repeat the substance of your guidance or instruction, but in different ways.
You could do this by explaining it again, but with different wording. You could put it in a different format, such as text, then in a table and a third time in a diagram. You could also combine the separate pieces and build them into more substantive guidance as you progress.
Combine all of these and more for the best effect. There are many different ways to achieve this repetition.
As you go through your planning stage, try to plan your book so that you introduce things one at a time, repeat periodically and use them to build on one another as you progress.
Take a look at a detailed article about Repetition And Learning over at Encyclopedia.com
One of the most important things to include as you outline is clearly explained action steps.
The most effective guides are those that are not just a solid block of text, it is those that have steps at crucial point throughout the guide for the reader to put into action.
This is your opportunity, for example, at the end of each chapter, to summarize exactly what the reader should take from that chapter and how best to begin implementing it.
Stories and Anecdotes
Lastly, and I think most importantly, is to avoid making the text very dense.
We already spoke about keeping a friendly tone in the writing style and another way to make your guide easy to use and understand is to include stories and anecdotes.
This will help break up the more serious parts of defining a problem and proposing a solution by including more casual parts.
Even a serious topic can benefit from having some entertaining parts included. So try to include some of these. Just make sure they are relevant to the subject along with being engaging and they will help substantially improve your book.
They are also one of the best ways to include the repetition that we talked about.
Giving someone the specific to-do step and then explaining it again in the form of a funny story will help your readers remember it much more than just repeating it in three or more serious ways.
So there you go, a brief guide to how to help others by writing a self-help book.
Many writers out there feel they have experienced something that could help others but do not think it is possible if they are not a real expert or doctor or something.
You can help others. Use our guide to properly construct your own self-help book and soon, you can be helping others!
Are you writing a self-help book? Let us know how it is going in the comments below.