The largest non-fiction category these days is Self-Help. Do-It-Yourself Improvement.
Is that because Americans don’t want to ask others for help or is it because the experts are pumping out self-help additional streams of income?
I’d guess a little bit of both. Looking at the blog challenge participants, health and wellbeing are a huge cross-section of bloggers. I find that heartening, if not always interesting. I’m not cynical enough to believe these folks and other self-help writers are in it for the money but rather they have experienced improvement in their lives and want to share it with others.
Evangelism isn’t just for the faithful. 😊
What makes a good self-help book? I’d suggest equal parts knowledge and heart.
Begin with the problem, clearly define it, and if you’re wise, SHOW it instead of telling it. This might be your personal story, or a client’s. It isn’t enough to indicate the problem, you must also illustrate the life impact it has; what the problem costs the reader, how the zest of living is diminished by the problem.
Then you need to envision the reader. This is what your life would be like with the problem solved. Insert your renewed life here as the model for the reader to achieve. Once that’s established, hop into your way-back machine and give us an idea of your journey. We all have problems, something clicked in you to change things. What was it? Why did you decide the journey was worth it.
Now that the reader is on board, envisioned and ready to start their own journey (and if you have gotten them there, you haven’t done your job), start taking them through the process. Anticipate the turn-back points and insert a story of perseverance and reward to keep your ready moving.
Be careful here! Too technical and you lose the reader, not technical enough and you have the same problem. Highlight your own discoveries as you work through the process. At the end of each chapter or section, take the reader’s temperature with questions or quizzes. If forms, templates, and lists are necessary, include them! Infographics are gold, they give a visual means to understand the words.
Once you’ve delivered them to the promised land (the end of the book), make sure they have next-steps. This may be more of your stuff (additional streams of income), a workbook or journal, an introduction to others on the journey, whatever is appropriate.
As the writer, remember, what’s in it for the reader is what was in it for you at the beginning of your journey. If you don’t have a journey, you don’t have a book.