Self-help books are HUGE right now. All you have to do is walk into the closest bookstore or library to be convinced of this fact; books on beauty, diet, meditation, mental health, and other self-help topics routinely grace some of the most prominent displays. But your readers are not the same as other authors’ readers … so how do you write and publish a book that will move them?
We have a couple of ideas!
The first step to writing a successful self-help book is to know your competition, and to know your competition you’ll need to read widely in the genre. What kind of self-help book appeals to you? A celebrity lifestyle book, for example, tends to read as equal parts memoir and dietary regimen. That’s great … but there are lots of other models! There’s an entire subgenre dedicated to lifestyle books written by doctors (actual practicing medical doctors, that is) and they are entirely different. So too are the more topical, exploratory works that blend creative non-fiction with self-help elements. Run your hand along a library display or the health and fitness shelf at your local bookstore, and you’ll find dozens of self-help models you might consider for your own book.
Next, you have to consider how to plan for the long haul. After all, self-help is a lifelong pursuit, and it is fitting for the genre that writing one of these books will take a while. Gather your information, put it into practice, and live the experience you’re writing to endorse. Your readers will find your book compelling and authentic if they feel convinced that you’re not simply posturing but embracing the lifestyle you advocate that they too should choose! As much as or more than any other genre, self-help books require the reader to believe that what they’re seeing on the page belongs in their life, and can be achieved by tenable, easy-to-replicate steps. Once you know how the strategies you’re writing about feel from the inside, a process which is bound to take a while, you’re in the perfect position to write about them!
This is a niche genre … so plan accordingly. Plan to reach a small, targeted audience. And in order to reach that audience, you’ll need to know exactly who they are. You can’t rely on general feelings of affinity (“I love all fiction!” “I love all romance books!”) to sell a self-help book, as picking one of these up and trying it on is less like buying and trying on new clothes and a lot more like completely changing everything you eat or think and do. Most people who love science fiction are perfectly happy to buy twenty or thirty books in the genre a year, but people don’t tend to experiment with their lifestyle with remotely the same frequency. They do, however, tend to give other people self-help books as gifts on a regular basis. Knowing this is half of the battle later on down the road when it comes to marketing, but in the short term it’s helpful for determining what does and does not make it into your book. What would you want out of a gift? Something purely functional, or something with bright and glossy images to catch the eye?
Lastly, find a publisher who knows how to market and sell self-help books. We mean specifically, not just as yet another generic addition to their non-fiction publications. Take a look at their online catalogues or bookstores (ours is at www.OutskirtsPress.com/bookstore!) and check for a variety of non-fiction subgenres, including health and fitness, cookbooks, memoirs, and more. The more subgenres are represented, the more likely it is that this publisher knows how to appeal to those small, targeted audiences and can help you along the way! And of course, it’s also vital that you speak with the publishing company in person to verify that they are everything they say they are, as well as expert in the field and excited about your specific book.
And there you have it: several important ways to hone your craft as you draft your next self-help book! To see our staff picks of amazing self-help books from many of our published authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here.
Would you like help choosing your best self-publishing option? Connect with Outskirts Press now in whatever manner is easiest for you: