Author Guidelines for Writing a Self-Help Book That’s Influential
Okay, so you have an idea for a book to help others, based on what you've learned from your own struggles or challenges that you’ve overcome.
I published a self-help book, so I can tell you what you need to know. This article is not about my book. It’s about what you can do with your idea.
I'll give you important guidelines so that you can successfully write and publish your own inspirational book too.
What to Discuss in Your Book
One of the best things to write about in order to inspire someone is to share the struggles you’ve personally had in life.
Readers can relate to that. If they can benefit from reading a comparison of common struggles, they will be intrigued and they’ll want to continue reading.
Always Keep Notes
You probably already have a lot of thoughts on your subject and maybe even wrote sections of it, hopefully in files on your computer. I say that because this is the most advantageous. Handwritten notes, although useful, still need to be typed up eventually.
You’ll never know when something you’ve experienced will become useful for explaining an issue you need to elaborate on. I write notes about lots of events in my life and how I feel about them. I find these notes useful for simply giving me ideas for articles to write.
When I was working on my book, I found that the notes I kept throughout time were a goldmine for me. Sometimes when we write something down, it either validates our true feelings or shows us where we might have gone wrong. These thoughts are tremendously useful when shared with a reader in an inspirational book.
Apply Self Enlightenment
Think about the times in your life when you had difficult times. What challenges have you had that you overcame? What struggles have you dealt with?
Use these events to discuss what you had learned and what you did to achieve success. Elaborate on it to teach your reader the same lessons you’ve gotten out of it.
Explain what went wrong and what went right. Discuss the reasons why, and what you personally learned from it. Don’t talk down to the reader, but rather, discuss these events in the first person. That is, talk about it as your own interpretation of your inspiration. Share it, and the reader will take it for what it’s worth without feeling intimidated.
Clearly Organize Your Thoughts
You’ll need to concentrate on making the topics of your book well organized. In order to get the most impact, it should be easy to follow and to understand.
As you continue writing, you’ll find the need to move things around. After I wrote an entire chapter about a particular subject in my book, I realized that I referred to something that I did not yet explain. In my head I knew what I was talking about, but I realized that my reader would be lost. All I had to do was move one chapter before the other. You probably will find yourself doing that too.
Ask yourself if you’ve clearly made your point after completing a section or chapter. Remember to proofread often. This is not a job just to be left for last. You may discover things you need to elaborate on or explain in a better way.
I read a lot of other people’s books and articles. I often notice that the author went off on tangents. I might be unique in the way I think because my background is computer programming, so I tend to keep my thoughts flowing logically. For this reason it bothers me when a writer loses me because they started talking about one thing and suddenly, in the middle of it, they go onto another topic before making their point.
I’m telling you this because I think it can help put you above the competition if you write logically. Discuss one thing at a time. Keep it simple. Start with an introduction to what you want your reader to grasp, and then make sure you give them what they expect in as simple terms as possible. If you don’t do that, I’m sure you will lose some readers.
Of course there will always be those who don’t even notice that you went off on a tangent because they aren't really paying attention as they read. People do that. I do it sometimes. They're just scanning.
Why chance it. Make it worthwhile for those readers who grasp every word and nuance. Proofread everything and watch for the way you explain things. Is it consistent? Did you give the reader some expectation of what you’re discussing and suddenly find yourself talking about something else?
Make sure you catch those mistakes. You can always use the content. You just need to move things around and keep each individual thought in it’s own place, or it’s own chapter.
Eliminate Useless Content
When I proofread my own work, I sometimes find sections of text I wrote that are either redundant, or just not clear. In some cases it doesn’t even fit in. It happens. When we write we are concentrating on what we’re writing and not thinking about the way it comes across.
That's okay while writing. Let the creative juices flow. However, when finalizing the book, it’s important to catch anything that doesn’t work. Either do some more editing or take it out. I had deleted many sections of content that I've written, thinking I would use it in my book, but later decided they were just fluff. You don’t want fluff. Trust me.
Do Your Research
The most important thing is to be correct with everything you say. If you’re getting into something that you’re not sure about, don’t invent some bizarre explanation.
Look it up. Do a Google search and educate yourself. You’ll become an authority on the subject and your readers will take notice and appreciate you as an author.
Create a Book Title That Sells
This is the last thing you need to do. You can write up a preliminary title just as a reference before you get started, but you’ll come up with a better title after you have completed your book. This is because you’ll be able to write a title that reflects clearly what to expect from the book.
The title needs to sell the book. It needs to attract attention. A good title is very important for marketing purposes. It should include keywords that relate to the subject. Most importantly, your book should provide the information that is promised by the title, or you will have disappointed readers and you may get poor reviews.
If you use a publisher, they have personnel who develop a title that focuses on marketing as well as explaining what the book is about in a catchy way. However, if you are self-publishing then this is all up to you. So give it the attention that it deserves. After all, you wouldn’t want all the time and effort you put into the book to go to waste just because of a cover with a poor title.
Where Should You Publish?
I’ll just explain this briefly since this requires an entire article dedicated to the subject. You basically have two options:
- Let someone do it for you. You can pay a publisher to create the print image of the pages and design the cover art. Do a Google search for publishers and do your due diligence to determine their honesty.
- You can do it yourself. I use Microsoft Word, which has all the tools needed to format a book. You’ll need to be able to design your own covers, including the spine. Any image editing software should suffice. Some self-publishing companies offer online tools to easily create the cover art online, and automatically calculate the width of the spine based on the number of pages.
If you decide you want to self-publish and create your own book, I wrote a detailed discussion for you in another article: How to Properly Format and Self-Publish Your Book.
Remember the important details.
- Use your own life’s lessons to teach others.
- Keep notes of events that occur to get ideas for content.
- Stay focused and organize your content in a logical manner.
- Eliminate unnecessary sections of content.
- Do research when required to be sure you give your reader correct information.
- Check it, and re-check it, with repeated proofreading.
- Create a marketable title that sells.
Soon you’ll be a published author helping others with an inspirational book your readers will cherish and appreciate.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Glenn Stok