If this is your first stab at writing a self-help book, it’s unlikely that you will have the skill set to produce a manuscript that will be able to compete with un curso de milagros on the market. This is not meant to offend or discourage you. I strongly encourage you to write your book! But I also want you to be realistic about the fact that writing a book requires skills that needs to be learned.
It makes sense if you step back from your situation for a moment. Was the first cake you ever cooked so great that you were ready to have your own cooking show? Was the first picture you drew so fabulous that you hoped to see it in a national art museum? Think about the first time you tried to dance. Were you ready for Dancing with the Stars?
So what are the skills you need to learn to write a competitive self-help book?
1. How to assess the market to tell if your book idea will sell
Just because you want to write a particular book doesn’t mean that anyone else wants to read it. A savvy author knows how to scope out the book market to see what the buying public wants to read next. Notice I said “next”.
Readers all ready have access to the current books on the market. If yours says pretty much the same thing, with minor differences, your book will unlikely be a bestseller. Your job as an author is to look beyond the current moment and write a book that, once it’s written and published, will be fresh, new and innovative.
2. How to clearly identify your readers
If you’ve read any other articles on writing, I’m sure you’ve heard over and over that defining your audience is of utmost importance. That’s what I’m going to tell you, too. First-time writers (myself included) are notorious for wanting to reach a broad audience. Picture a bookstore in your mind for a moment. Can you picture a bookshelf that is labeled “Broad Audience”? No, because it doesn’t exist.
Picture your book on one, and only one, of the shelves in the store. The person who would go to that shelf is your audience. Focus in on that person and no one else.
3. How to structure your book to best communicate your message
A well-written self-help book is not a flow of consciousness. You’ll find a lot of poor advice online these days telling people to write ebooks quickly, without editing or proper structure. I’ve recently seen a service that tells customer to download their blogs so they can be turned into books. If you have a large number of subscribers who already know who you are and are ready to buy from you, perhaps your book will sell.
But your book will not be able to compete in the traditional book market. You might think that there are a lot of poorly written self-help books on the market today. And your may be right. But it’s important to realize that books published through publishers have had the input of numerous publishing professionals such as structural editors, copy editors and proof readers and had numerous revisions before going to press. The cover design and copy were discussed by marketing, sales and promotional professionals. A lot of effort and know-how goes into every book. These books are your competition.
4. How to illustrate your message with compelling stories
One of the major differences between a manual and a self-help book are the stories used to make the message come alive to your readers. Simply saying, “First, do this. Next, do that.” is insufficient for a bestselling self-help book. In fact, the way I am writing this article is not a good example of how to write a self-help book. I’m talking to you, but I’m not illustrating my points with stories. If you’re writing like I am now, you’re not writing a high-quality book. You’re writing a short article in a particular online style. Learning how to tell a great story that emotionally engages your reader is an integral skill of self-help book writing.