How To Write a Self-Help Book

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—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.

Find a Problem that You Can Help Solve

someone wondering how to write a self-help book

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 it is that 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?

In order 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 actually 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 needs, desires, and motivations? What’s going on in his life right now? 

You need to take a step back and think about the situation from the perspective of the person who is having a problem.  Ask yourself, “How would I feel if I had to live with the same problem that 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?”

You need to understand your 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 tone and mood of the book. These will also allow you to know how you can best position yourself to reach this audience and write a persuasive book that works.

Identify Your Solution and Why It’s Effective

Don’t write a book about how to live a healthy lifestyle without offering any concrete advice on how to eat better and get more exercise. Or write a book about the latest trend in technology and fail to provide any real-world 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 are going to 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 book to be taken seriously, you can’t just write list of self-help tips for readers to pick and choose from. Rather, you should provide THE SOLUTION that readers will be able to apply immediately, no matter how much or how little they know about their problem at the time of reading.

When you present your solution, make sure that your reader feels that it is the most efficient way possible. It can be very powerful for the 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 looks like. 

Brain Dump

If you want to write a great book, you need to get rid of all the stuff that just gets in the way of writing. Brain dumps are very useful 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 the space of 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 book? Is it knowledge? A better understanding? A solution to a problem? 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.

If you want readers to gain something from your book, what’s in it for them? What are they going to get out of reading it? Is there a tangible outcome that you’re going to 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 really want, and list everything that you want them to achieve when they read your book. This will help guide you while writing. It’s also something you can go back to once you’re done with your first draft to see if your book delivered what you wanted your readers to get from you’ve written. 

Write Down Every Question You Need to Answer

When you write a self-help book, you have to answer a lot of 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.

Research

A good writer does not write just from his experiences, knowledge, and emotions. He does his homework first. You have to extensively research 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

If you’re going to write a self-help book, it is a must for you to look at what’s already been written on the subject. You can learn more about a topic from other sources than you will form your own writing. Also, people will be comparing your book to what’s already been written, which can give you insight into how you can be better than those other books.

What are the best 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 really helpful to use someone else’s 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, spend some time researching the most popular 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. If you’re going to differentiate your solution, you need to be clear about the differences and why they’re important. You need to know everything about them so that you’ll know what works and what doesn’t work. That way, you’ll be able to figure out what differentiates your solution from the others.

Your book needs to be better than the ones that are 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 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 your solution if it’s different 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 a great title. It may seem like a very minor detail, but when it comes to creating titles for 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 to avoid falling into the trap of writing a piece without any idea where the post is going to end up. In essence, an outline is a road map for your book.

A well-written outline gives you structure, so you can follow the flow of your ideas better. By following the structure, you can identify the topic of the chapter, 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 advice comes from self-help author Dr. David R. Hawkins, who says (in her book) that many authors spend years perfecting their manuscripts. He recommends instead that you write one horrible draft, then gets it out there into the world. From there, the revisions will be a lot easier.

When you’re first 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 is going to 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 to just get started and to 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 will understand your own mind better. You’ll find that you have more confidence and can start sharing the insights you’ve discovered.

Tips

Assume the reader knows nothing

This principle is called the “assumption of ignorance,” which means that readers who are being persuaded should be expected to have no knowledge of 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 when they are not 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 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 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 in Dan Pink’s book Drive, where he used stories from his own family to demonstrate how his ideas could be applied in other people’s lives. He also included examples from the lives of others.

Proofread

Your initial draft is the result of intense thinking and concentration. After you’ve finished the first draft, you need to spend some time thinking about 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 also need to 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 book once it gets published, you should start with the feedback of those who are already interested in what you’re offering. Feedback is very important for any author. It tells you what you need to work on to make your book better.

You can solicit feedback from beta readers. How do you find beta readers? You can reach out to people who are following your social media accounts, blog, or website. Chances are if they are following you, they are interested in your niche and in 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 getting negative feedback. However, this is necessary if you want to release a book that is truly helpful and well-written.

Also, make sure to thank the beta readers for the time and effort that 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 overall content of the book. 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’ll 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 make a list of 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, get rid of 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 book is complete, it goes back to beta readers for the 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 audience.

Last Revision

After you put your 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. 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 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 book content.
  • Layout the book.
  • Get a foreword for ultimate credibility.
  • Publish it.
  • 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.

Additional Resources

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 and gain media attention.

How Do Authors Get Paid: Wondering how you can earn from your book? 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 best-seller in the self-help niche.

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