What makes a great self-help book?

Books can serve a wide variety of purposes from entertainment to education. Self-help books are a specific type of educational book that aims to help the reader solve problems in his or her everyday life.  Common topics include weight loss, social skills, professional advice, and much more. However, just because your book talks about the technique that helped you won’t guarantee the same success for your readers. Remember, you’re writing the self-help book for your readers, not just to document your experience. Here are some suggestions on ways to maximize the effect of your words.

Hook your readers.
Nobody is going to read your book by accident. You need to choose a concise title that clearly communicates that this book is a self-help book. Your choice must also set you apart from your competitors and intrigue your readers.

Choose the right tone. Relatable, accessible, engaging – these are all qualities that a great self-help book must embrace. People who are reading self-help books are looking for ideas, support and encouragement.  As with any book, it is important to be aware of your audience.

Illustrate every tool, lesson, or concept with an example. Equipping people with the right tools or knowledge sometimes won’t be enough. You have to show them how your advice can be applied in their own lives. Imagine handing someone a fishing pole and telling them to come home with dinner. If they’ve never used a fishing pole before, how will they know you’re supposed to cast your hook into the water instead of trying to stab fish from above?

Show, don’t tell.  Tap into all of your readers’ senses. Provide details. There’s a huge difference between saying “Mike gained weight” and saying “This morning when Mike stepped onto the bathroom scale and the screen showed “Error” instead of a number, he realized none of his clothes fit properly anymore.” By creating a situation instead of listing the facts, your reader will be drawn into the scenario and your message will be more meaningful.

Format is king. The easier it is for a reader to spot your main points page to page, the easier it is for you to make your case. Use highlights, quotes, shadow boxes and more to communicate what’s important. A reader’s eyes will be drawn to these sections first. The right formatting can emphasize the one core concept you’re trying to express while the rest of the content on the page can go into detail.

Summarize every chapter with a takeaway. Don’t be afraid to be obvious. Your readers may all be attempting to solve similar problems, but they are not all the same person. Some of them may understand your message and some of them may be totally baffled. Breaking it down chapter by chapter and clearly defining action items increases the chances that your readers will succeed based on your instructions.

Never, ever talk down to your audience. You are trying to inspire these people. Your job is to encourage them, to build them up and show them the right way to do things. You want them to feel happy, upbeat and positive. A negative attitude is the number one obstacle in most people’s paths to success.

Make it entertaining even as you’re making it instructive. Novels aren’t the only books that can be enjoyable to read. If your readers think your book is boring, they are probably not going to read the whole thing. After all the effort you’ve put into your self-help book, you don’t want to be dismissed before they even finish a single chapter.

If you have questions about the self-help writing process or would like to discuss our ghostwriting fees, please let us know, and we can arrange an introductory call today.