The trouble is with self-help books, a lot of people tend to buy them in a moment of desperation or optimism, then never ‘get around’ to reading them. The following are five tips to help you get started in writing a warm, effective and informative self-help book which your target audience will not only buy, but actually want to read.
- Read other self-help books.
Before you begin writing a book of any kind, it’s always an idea to research the market. Read more obscure self-help books as well as popular ones, and don’t just stick to reading ones written on your chosen subject. Which ones are more effective and why? Is it the style of writing? The information? Is it very insightful and thought-provoking? Remember, the best writers are the best readers, so during your ‘market research’ really look out for what is and isn’t… well, helpful!
- Do your research before you begin writing.
Even if you have first-hand experience of your subject and have encountered a lot of knowledge and wisdom throughout your own journey, you will still need facts in order to write an effective self-help book. If you’re aiming to help with mental illness, such as depression or addiction, you may need to do some medical research about common and typical symptoms, statistics regarding sufferers or the arguments for and against certain treatments for the illness at hand. This will give your reader confidence that you are knowledgeable about your subject and have taken the time to truly understand it.
- Share yourself.
Your book has to be informative and educational, but it also has to be personal; your readers have to be able to connect with a part of you in order to use your advice to help themselves. Relay anecdotes about your experiences of your chosen subject; use humour; be honest. This can make all the difference between a rather rigid and formal self-help book which educates but doesn’t really offer any personal or emotional support, and a colourful, enjoyable read which your readers will get something great out of.
- Be a friend to your reader.
With self-help books, it is always best to keep your tone light and informal. Although you may be handling pretty serious subject matter, write your self-help book as if you were writing to a troubled friend. Don’t act superior in knowledge or experience to your reader, or be overly blunt or insensitive in your encouraging them to help themselves. Be supportive, be patient and be gently persuasive. Make them believe that they can help themselves.
- Make sure the tone and style of your book is appropriate for your target audience.
This fifth and final point is very important. If you’re writing a self-help book about friendship troubles for teenagers, you want to keep your style sharp, humorously cynical and appear knowledgeable about current and relevant teenage issues. If you are aiming it at chronic pain sufferers, write in a sympathetic and understanding, but practical and non-patronising, manner. If you are writing from experience as most writers of self-help books do, you might find it fairly easy to work out the appropriate tone and style of your book; ask yourself, how would you like a self-help book to speak to you? What would you find the most inspiring and supportive?