Tips and Guidelines for Writing a Self-Help Book for Self-Improvement
I published several self-help books, so I can give you important guidelines with tips to help you successfully write and publish your own book too.
How to Get Started
You need to start with a short bio telling your reader why they can trust you to have some authority on the subject. Just one sentence should do it, and it’s good idea to include this on the back cover as well as in the introduction.
In order to have a great influence on you reader, stay focused on what your title in promising. If you are instructing your readers on solving personal problems, give examples as you discuss solutions.
One of the best ways to inspire someone is to share the struggles you’ve personally had in life. Readers can relate to that if they've had common struggles and will be able to benefit from your book.
Always Keep Notes
Handwritten notes, although useful, still need to be typed up eventually. Keep an ongoing list of snippets of thoughts in files on your computer. You'll find this handy for later compilation into your book.
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 are useful memory ticklers when I'm working on the actual 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 for sharing with your readers.
Think about the events in your life that you found were difficult. What challenges have you had that you overcame? What struggles have you dealt with?
These events can be used as examples 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 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. 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 make the most impact, it should be easy to follow and understand.
As you work on your book, 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, but I would have overlooked it if I had not proof read.
You will find it helpful to proof read your book over and over again. Every time you think you're finished, do another scan. It's worth the effort. Remember that you are writing for the reader. Give them the best.
When I read other people’s books and articles, I sometimes 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 if you write logically, it will help put you above the competition. Discuss one thing at a time. Keep it simple. In each chapter. 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.
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.
Nevertheless, make it worthwhile for those readers who desire to grasp more and learn more. As you proofread, 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 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 when reviewing my final work, realizing it was 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 writing about 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.
If you quote sections from other material, include a reference crediting the author and were you found it. Be professional by using proper APA Citations.1
Create a Book Title That Sells
This is the last thing you need to do. You can write a preliminary title just as a reference before you get started, but you may think of 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 will 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. Give it the attention that it deserves. After all, you wouldn’t want all the time and effort you put into the book to be wasted just because of a cover with a poor title.
Where Should You Publish?
You 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, such as Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing 2, offer online tools that help you create the cover 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 a book your readers will value with self-improvement ideas that they've been looking for.
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.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Glenn Stok