There’s a reason why authors write self-help books: they make up the majority of nonfiction bestsellers. There’s a huge, ever-growing market of people who seek answers to their problems and would love to have someone tell them how to fix them.
When you write a self-help book, you’re helping people solve something in their life—not only that, but you’re also positioning yourself as an expert in your niche. But have you ever thought about how that process works?
In this guide, we’ll walk you through every step of the writing process of how to write a self help book—including how to get started, find your voice, organize your content, and finish strong—so you can create a book you’re proud to share with the world.
Table of Contents
Find a Problem that You Can Help Solve
Most self-help books are written by well-intentioned people who have an idea for a book but no clue about writing one. So what do you do when you’re faced with a blank page and the need to write?
You can start by asking yourself what you want to solve. When you’re looking for a problem to solve, you need to ask yourself what it is that you want to help people with. What is it that you have the ability or knowledge to make an impact with?
To be successful in writing a self-help book, you need to solve a problem for real people. This is a crucial point.
Find something that you know a lot about and can share your experience and knowledge with other people. It’s important to pick something that you can make a difference with. The more you know about a problem, the better you’ll be able to help people.
When you’re able to answer the question, “What is the one thing I can do to help people?” you’ll be off to a great start.
Determine Who Your Reader Is
After identifying what problem you want to solve, think about the person who is having the problem. What are his own needs, desires, and motivations? What’s going on in his life right now? Do they need help with self esteem? Are they seeking help with social network? Or maybe they want to know how to become highly effective people?
You need to take a step back and think about the situation from the perspective of the person with a problem when thinking of a self help topic. Ask yourself, “How would I feel if I had to live with the same problem these people are facing?” “Why am I struggling with this?” “Why do I need to solve this?” “What can I achieve if I overcome this?” Once you answer questions like these, you can write a first draft that can affect your reader directly.
You need to understand your target audience. When you do this, you’ll get to know what they want and what their needs are. Once you know these, you can set the mood of the book, provide specific examples, and form a conversational tone. These will also allow you to know how to best position yourself to reach this target audience and write a self help book that works.
Identify Your Solution and Why It’s Effective
Don’t write a self help book about how to live a healthy lifestyle without offering practical advice on eating better and exercising more. Or write a self help book about the latest trend in technology and fail to provide any real-world and actionable advice on what people can do right now to make it easier to work with all those new gadgets.
If you’re writing a self-help book, your job isn’t just to provide knowledge or insight. You should, more importantly, be offering a solution. In other words, the readers will want to know how they can use the information or knowledge you’ve provided to solve a problem, resolve a situation, or accomplish a task.
Your book should be THE ANSWER to the problem you have decided to solve. If you want your self help book to be taken seriously, you can’t just write a list of self-help tips or personal anecdotes for readers to pick and choose from. Instead, you should provide THE SOLUTION that readers can apply immediately for self improvement, no matter how much or how little they know about their problem while reading.
When you present your solution, ensure that your target reader feels it is the most efficient way possible. It can be mighty for the target audience to get to know your story and then have you tell them why your approach is better than others. If you do not believe in your solution, why should anyone else?
The good news is that if you’ve done your research, then you know what your solution for self improvement looks like. You’ll be able to provide attention grabbing solution based on your personal experiences about the same topic and same issue that can make your readers feel good and improve in the best way possible.
If you want to write a self help book, you need to get rid of all the stuff that just gets in the way of writing. Brain dumps are handy for doing just that.
Here’s how they work. A brain dump is a brief list of everything you know about a topic. You think about everything you know about the subject in 10 minutes or less.
When you’re finished, you take a moment to reflect on what you’ve written, ask yourself a few questions, and rewrite it. This process helps you make sure you’re only listing the information that really matters. It can also help you figure out what you need to know next.
Here are some of the things you can write down during your brain dump.
What Do You Want Readers to Gain from Your Book?
What is it you want people to get out of reading your self help book? Is it knowledge? A better understanding of the subject matter? A solution to a problem? A thirst for the need to know? Your goal isn’t just to write a great book and leave it at that; it’s to make a difference in people’s lives and even inspire different people to want to write about their personal experience for the first time.
If you want readers to gain something from your self help book, what’s in it for them? What are they going to get out of reading it? Is there a tangible outcome you will get them to accomplish once they’ve finished reading it? If you’re writing a book about how to lose weight, what will happen once someone has finished reading it? Will he go on a diet or a fitness plan?
These questions help you think about what readers can gain from reading your book.
You need to find out what your readers want and list everything you want them to achieve when they read your book. This will help guide you while writing. You can also go back once you’re done with your first draft to see if your book delivered what you wanted your readers to get from your writing.
Write Down Every Question You Need to Answer
When you write a self-help book, you must answer many questions for yourself and others. Make a list of all the questions you would like answered. This is a great way to organize your thoughts. It’s a good idea to do this before you begin writing. You may have a lot of thoughts in your head, but not everything will come out on paper if you dive right into writing.
The questions that you write down on the list will be a good indication of what your book will cover.
A good writer does not write just from his personal anecdotes, experiences, knowledge, and emotions. He does his homework first. You must extensively search online or offline and gather data about the topic you want to write about. Otherwise, you might not be providing your readers with reliable information.
Look for What’s Already Published Out There
To write a self-help book, you must look at what’s already been written on the subject. You can learn more about a topic from other sources than you will from your writing. Also, people will be comparing your self help book to what’s already been written, which can give you insight into how you can be better than those other self help books.
What are the best self help books on the market today? What’s being used? What do they talk about, and how do they sell? What can be said about your topic that hasn’t been covered before? How much has already been said? What are the points of agreement and disagreement? What are the reviews, and are there any major criticisms of them?
It’s always tempting to try and reinvent the wheel, but it’s beneficial to use someone else’s book idea to get yourself started. If you can take advantage of a well-written, popular book, the odds are good that you can benefit from the wisdom and knowledge that has gone into its creation.
So, before you start writing, research the most popular self help books to help you get started. You will get inspiration or words of wisdom from them.
Know the Difference Between Your Solution and Other Available Solutions
The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that your solution is the only solution available. There are tons of solutions out there already. You need to know what they are, how they work, and how your solution differs from theirs.
There are a lot of similarities between these solutions. You must be clear about the differences and why they’re essential to differentiate your solution. You need to know everything about them to know what works and doesn’t. That way, you’ll be able to determine what differentiates your solution from the others.
Your self help genre book needs to be better than the ones already out there. If you have a solution that no one else has shared before, then great! It’s always better to have an original book idea than to have a rehash of something that someone else has already done. But if what you have is something that is an improved or easier way of solving a problem than what’s already published out there, then that is also great.
Your solution needs to be unique so that you can stand out from everyone else in the market. Differentiating your solution is important because people will more likely use it if it differs from those they have already tried.
Come Up with the Perfect Title for Your Self-Help Book
When the book you write is about self-help, one of the most important things you can do to get people interested in your book is to come up with great self help titles. It may seem like a minor detail, but when it comes to creating titles for self help books, it can be a challenge to make it great.
It’s often the first thing that people see. The title is the first impression you can make on someone who might be interested in reading your book. A good title should draw attention to what the book is about while simultaneously creating intrigue around itself.
For tips on how to come up with a book title, Alinka Rutkowska (Leaders Press CEO) wrote a great guide.
Structure Your Book
Outlining your content helps you avoid falling into the trap of writing a piece without any book idea where the post will end up. In essence, an outline is a road map for your self help book.
A well-written outline gives you structure so that you can follow the flow of your ideas better. By following the structure, you can identify the topic of the chapter titles, and you can also see where your ideas are heading.
Your outline will also help you get your creative juices flowing.
Write the First Draft
This actionable advice comes from self-help author Dr. David R. Hawkins, who says (in her book) that many self help authors spend years perfecting their manuscripts. Instead, he recommends that you write one horrible draft, then gets it out into the world. From there, the revisions will be a lot easier.
When starting out, it’s easy to feel like your writing skills are inadequate. You might also begin to doubt yourself and fear that what you’re about to share will be terrible and nobody will want to read it. But don’t worry: it will be okay. Just get your thoughts out on paper and see how they look.
You don’t have to write perfectly. The main thing is just to get started and keep at it. Don’t worry about your grammar and spelling. Just write, and don’t be critical of your writing.
The more you put your thoughts down in words, the more you understand your mind better. You’ll find that you have more confidence and can start sharing the insights you’ve discovered.
Assume the reader knows nothing
This principle is called the “assumption of ignorance,” which means that readers being persuaded should be expected to not know the subject they’re reading about.
If someone buys a book on investing or how to start a business, it’s reasonable to assume they don’t know a thing about these topics, but it’s also reasonable to think that they’re willing to learn more once they pick up a copy.
People want to make decisions without feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or confused. You’ll never persuade someone to do something they don’t understand.
Give your readers something to do
We know that people are motivated by results, so if your self help book doesn’t deliver those results, you’ll lose readers. In the case of a self-help book, there needs to be an element of “do it” in the message. You can do that by suggesting ways for readers to put the concepts and advice in the book into practice.
A great example of this in a self-help book is the book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. It’s written by Mark Manson and is full of actionable advice for people who want to stop worrying about things that don’t matter. This book is meant to be a “f*ck it” kind of read for people who are fed up with the status quo and need help getting back on track.
People are more likely to remember a book they’ve read if they can see how it applies to them.
Include real-life examples
This will make the material more relatable to readers. A great example is Dan Pink’s book Drive, where he used stories from his family to demonstrate how his ideas could be applied in other people’s lives. He also included real life examples from the lives of others.
Your initial draft is the result of intense thinking and concentration. After you’ve finished the first draft, you need to consider what you want to change in the content and why. It helps to know where the weaknesses are in your writing.
Aside from improving your content, you must also proofread it before sharing it with your readers. You need to take the time to correct all the grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes, and other errors that may be present in your first draft.
Get Feedback from Beta Readers
If you want people to read and buy your self help book once it gets published, you should start with the feedback of those already interested in what you’re offering. Feedback is very important for any author. It tells you what to work on to improve your book.
You can solicit feedback from beta readers. How do you find readers? You can reach out to people following your social media accounts, blog, or website. Chances are that if they are following you, they are interested in your niche and what you have been saying.
You can also get feedback from friends and family. This makes sense since they will be willing to read your work and give you some critical feedback. Just keep in mind to get help from those who can be objective.
Warning: you should be ready when doing this because you might get hurt from negative feedback. However, this is necessary if you want to release a book that is truly helpful and well-written.
Also, thank the beta readers for the time and effort they put into reading your work.
Edit, Revise, Trim, and Clean Up Your Book
Once you’ve gotten feedback from your beta readers, use their insights to re-evaluate the self help book’s overall content. If they loved a chapter but had one or two small gripes, you may be able to improve on it. If they hated it, you’d have to go back to the drawing board and think of a new approach.
What did you learn from reading the feedback? Did you receive any negative comments about your book? If so, what were they? Were there things you didn’t anticipate being critiqued on? Did your voice resonate with your readers or not? Were you able to present your solution in a way that was easy for the readers to apply?
By answering these questions, you will learn that there are things in your book that could have been done better. Your book has to be good enough for someone else to read, so revise your book based on the common feedback you received.
Not all of the feedback you get will be beneficial, so make a summary of them and pick out the most common concerns they raised. You can also list all the things you’d like to change. After that, revise.
Revising is a time-consuming but necessary part of the writing process. As you go through the editing process, address the points you got from the reviews, eliminate unnecessary or redundant content, reword passages that may not make sense, and improve sentence structure.
Once you’re done with all the editing and revising, ask yourself, “Is my new version more compelling or less compelling than the original version?” If your answer is the former, then your changes are for the better.
Get the Second Round of Feedback
When the self help book is complete, it returns to beta readers for a second round of feedback. They can offer insights on what worked well for them and where they may have gotten confused, which will help you refine and improve the book to be more useful to a future wider and built in audience.
After you put your self help book out there, you don’t want to be surprised by a lot of bad reviews, so it’s important to polish your book as much as you can before you publish it through traditional or self publishing. When you revise your book, you make it better. There’s no other way to look at it.
But you don’t have to aim for perfection. Revising a book is an endless process. You will always find things to improve if you keep looking for them. Just set a deadline for the last round of revision and get your book out there. You can always publish a revised version in the future if necessary.
What’s Next After the Book is Done?
Is the self help book finally done? Yayyyy! The hardest part is over, and the next steps should be fun. Here are the rest of the things you need to take care of after writing your self-help book:
- Design your book cover.
- Insert graphics or pictures in your self help book content.
- Layout the book.
- Get a foreword for ultimate credibility.
- Publish it through self publishing or traditional publishing.
- Market your book.
You don’t have to do all these things. If you can afford it, get professional help. You can also ask help from friends or negotiate for x-deals.
How to Get a Book Published: 20 Ways(#6 Will Shock You): After deciding to write a book, aspiring authors usually ponder whether to self-publish or aim to get published traditionally. The thing is, there are more than two options.
How to Host a Book Signing: A book signing event is a great way to market your book and sell copies. It also allows you to build some buzz on your self publishing journey and gain media attention.
How Do Authors Get Paid: Wondering how you can earn from your book through self publishing or traditional publishing? This article covers how you can get paid when published traditionally, as well as how you can earn if you self-publish and the other income opportunities that await you as a published author.
Let’s have a chat and discuss how you can turn your thoughts into a Wall Street Journal/USA Today bestseller in the self-help niche.