self-help book


Are you trying to establish your brand as distinct from others? A book written by you can serve as a credibility card for your expertise in your field of interest.

 

Branding yourself with a book can help set you apart from experts that do similar work. It gives you a chance to show people what’s different about you, your message, and your methods.

 

To get started, or unstuck if you began writing but ran out of enthusiasm for your book, think about what sets you apart. What’s your story? How did you come to start your business or organization?

 

How did you begin writing and speaking about the subjects you cover? What inspired you?

 

What did you do to go from your lowest point to your highest point of success, whether it’s success in business, managing the challenges in life, parenting, or something else?

 

If I come to your website’s About page, what will I read? What photos of you will I see? If you’re a physician but also a motivational speaker, will I pick that up quickly by looking at the images of you and any other graphics? If you don’t yet have a website, start to build one. I like Wix and find it very easy to use if you know nothing about coding. Some people prefer WordPress or Squarespace or Godaddy’s website builder.

 

Also, think about who will connect with your brand. Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House Publishing, has said that a book for everyone is a book for no one. The truth is that no brand and no book will appeal to every single person. That’s okay: You’ll have a brand and a book that appeals to a defined audience.

 

credibility card expert brand yourself with a book

Brand yourself with a book that serves as a credibility card for your expertise.

 

Maybe your followers will be business owners—in other words, you have a business-to-business or B2B brand.

 

Maybe your followers and fans will be parents who are in a similar situation to one you were in when you began developing your expertise in a particular area of parenting. My book Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Guide to Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues originated when I was desperate to find a book that would answer my questions and give me strategies for parenting a child with sensory issues. The book appeals to parents of kids with sensory issues but also to a secondary audience: professionals who work with these kids. For example, occupational therapists, psychologists, and teachers make up a big part of the book’s fan base. Raising a Sensory Smart Child has served as my credibility card and helped me book speaking engagements and teach workshops on the topic of helping kids who have sensory issues. What’s more, it has helped me to create a legacy book (with the help of my coauthor, Lindsey Biel) and fulfill my desire to make a difference in the world. It feels wonderful to know my book has changed many family’s lives for the better!

 

Another thing to think about when conceptualizing your book is that you need to have enough experience to be able to offer valuable insights and strategies to readers, using stories from your life and your work to illustrate your ideas. I often hear from clients who are eager to get started writing a book that can help other people but haven’t yet done the actual work of researching what else is out there on their topic. They aren’t clear on what they have to offer that no one else does. Put simply, they aren’t ready to write an entire book. They may, however, be ready to write a mini book, start writing and speaking publicly, and begin researching what else is being said on their topic and what has yet to be explored.

 

If you’re an aspiring author who isn’t established as an expert in your field but you feel you do have a fresh take on a topic, think about getting a foreword for your book or teaming with a coauthor who can help you boost your book’s visibility and your brand’s credibility. Many moms of kids with sensory issues did what I did: researched our children’s issues and joined support groups and exchanged ideas, strategies, and insights. However, I teamed up with a professional who treats kids with sensory issues and we got someone with a highly recognizable name and credibility among parents of kids with sensory issues to write us a foreword. I then did original research, including interviewing experts who had worked with teenagers who have sensory processing disorder. I knew that other books on sensory issues that were available had nothing about how to help kids once they reach adolescence. Through doing my own research, I came to know more about this particular topic than many people who were already writing about sensory issues.

 

I wasn’t coaching parents when I cowrote my book, and you don’t have to be a coach or consultant if you’re writing a book on a topic, but it helps if you can draw on stories other than your own. If you want to interview people for your book, where will you find them? How will you disguise their stories to protect their privacy? You can also draw anecdotes from wisdom tradition teaching stories (think of the blind men and the elephant, or the story from Buddhism of the overflowing cup of tea) and from current and historical events.

 

Exercises and action plans that are typically a part of a self-help book are important takeaways readers expect. If you are only just beginning to work as a coach or consultant, you might want your book to be more focused on themes and lessons: You can write a book of lessons, principles, or strategies or a short memoir. Even so, it’s good to have some exercises. You might want to create a quiz or exercises that are unique to you. These could be guided visualizations, meditations, journaling questions, or something else. Here’s an example of a guided visualization a client created and developed a video for that is tied into his messaging about working with the Earth for healing and accessing the wisdom of the unconscious.

 

Finally, as you think about writing your book, remember that people think of a book as a substantial document that also has a shape and structure rather than simply being a long document that got printed and stapled. Begin envisioning what your book will look and feel like as a physical object. Get a sense of how many words you need to write. A typical self-help book has somewhere around 50,000 to 70,000 words, for example.

 

Start typing or dictating into software that turns speech into text and see where you go. How much can you get down before you get stuck on what more you want to say?

 

You might have the basis for a strong book for your brand but need help fleshing out your ideas and expanding on them. Many aspiring authors are used to short-form writing and could use some help turning their ideas into a long-form book. Don’t give up! Get some insights from a professional writer, editor, and consultant who works with authors aspiring to brand themselves with a book. Check out comparative books and see what is out there on the Internet if you do a search for the type of information, strategies, and support people will find in your book.

 

Search Amazon, too. Use keywords but also use questions people might ask, such as, “How do I help my middle schooler do better in school” or “What’s the best way to way to pay off my student loan earlier?” Ask yourself, “Given what’s out there on this topic, why would someone want to hear what I have to say, buy my book, and read it?” If you can answer that, you have a solid foundation to begin branding yourself with a book and firmly establishing yourself as an expert on your topic.

 

Where are you in your writing and publishing journey? Do you need a few tips, a fresh strategy, or feedback on what you’ve written so far? Contact me if you’re feeling stuck and need help: info@nancypeske.com

 

 

 

self-help book


 

Often, aspiring memoir writers ask me how to get started. Do they just hire a ghostwriter and pay for phone time to start telling their stories and getting them into documents? That’s one way to begin, but it is not the only way. I think it’s important to start the writing yourself so you can begin seeing the themes and lessons that you will want to emphasize in your memoir or book of life lessons. Let me offer some writing prompts for you memoir writers who are trying to figure out how to tell your life story.

 

Writing Prompt #1: Write the inspirational story of the moment in your life when you felt the most empowered. Use sensory detail—words that evoke sounds, sensations, visual images, and so on. What did it feel like to be in your body that moment when you spoke your truth? When you walked away from a bad situation? When you felt completely at one with the universe? When you knew you were okay, for the first time in a very long time? When you knew you had achieved success? (This story may end up being at the very beginning of the book.)

 

Writing Prompt #2: Write a story of being a young child playing. What toy were you playing with, and why did you enjoy playing with it? Use sensory detail. What did it feel like to lie on the rug in your family’s living room, or sit on the linoleum in your family’s kitchen, as you played? What were you imagining? What were you feeling? (This exercise can be very effective for drawing out of your unconscious mind a story that tells us something about who you are as an adult, what you value, and what the themes of your story are.)

 

Writing Prompt #3: Tell a funny story that captures your sense of humor. It could be a recent story or an old one from your childhood. Make sure that this story reveals your vulnerability, so that the reader relates to you person to person instead of just seeing you as an expert or leader.

 

After writing these stories, read them aloud. Make any changes to the writing you feel are necessary. Edit these stories as best you can, checking spelling and grammar.

 

Begin to think about what these stories have in common. What are your strengths, weaknesses, and interests as revealed in these stories? What, if anything, do your stories say to a reader about how you overcame challenges? What do they tell people about your personality?

 

All memoirs need a narrative arc. We need to see progress in the story as it takes us from the beginning, through the middle, and to the end. We need to watch you come of age, learn to run a successful business despite humble beginnings and mistakes along the way, grow into a person who has come to peace with your past and developed wisdom and a sense of clarity and purpose, and so on. Think about how you would sum up your memoir in a sentence. How would you describe it using two paragraphs that might be found on the back of the book or on the Amazon page for the book? Look at other books for examples.

 

Once you done some of the writing and started to get a sense of what the central story of your memoir is, think about whether you want to write a memoir, a life lessons book, or a self-help book with takeaway exercises and perhaps even an action plan for developing new habits. Do you want to write a personal history for yourself, your family, and your close friends, and perhaps mine it for stories to use in another book, such as a book related to your business as a speaker and consultant, or in a memoir about one specific time in your life?

 

Whether your plan is to publish the book for yourself and your family and friends, for a larger audience that includes fans of your work as an expert in your field, begin your writing today with these writing prompts for memoir writers. Even if you end up doing a life lessons book or a self-help book, you will be glad you wrote up these stories. Doing so will help you get a better sense of how to integrate your personal anecdotes into the book you want to write. A professional developmental editor or ghostwriter can better help you if you have put some time into writing some stories and putting some thought to the central story of your memoir. You will have an easier time conveying your vision of your memoir once you have written some of the stories, so be sure to get started with these memoir writing prompts!

 

(Do you want to know more about the difference between a developmental editor and a ghostwriter? A ghostwriter actually writes drafts of chapters. A developmental editor works with written material such as rough drafts of manuscripts or chapters. You can learn more about developmental editing by watching my video on cut-and-paste editing, available on YouTube.)

 

 

memoir writing life story life lessons

Writing prompts can help you get started with your memoir or other book that features your story.

 

 

self-help book


In my YouTube video on structuring a self-help book, I described the parts of a self-help book. Each of these parts helps you, the author, to take the reader on a journey, keeping them engaged and oriented as they go through a process of transformation (which is why self-help books are often called transformational nonfiction books). When you divide those parts of the self-help book into chapters, you are likely to end up with more than one chapter per part.

That said, you might find that one of those parts, such as the action plan, just needs to be a section of a chapter. When that’s the case, you probably will have exercises throughout the book.

Self-help books should have exercises for the reader to use to start understanding and applying the book’s ideas and strategies. An action plan in a self-help book gives them an overall strategy for using the individual exercises as well as the strategies over a period of time to build new habits. I’ve worked on books that have an action plan at the end of the book that lays out how to employ the strategies and exercises the reader has learned (an example is Goddesses Never Age by Christiane Northrup). However, the typical place for the action plan is within the book itself after the reader has been set up to truly understand the ideas and strategies they’ll be employing.

Also, consider having a list of takeaway points at the end of each chapter so that the reader can refer back to the key ideas presented in each chapter. 

Here’s a handy guide to the sections of a self-help book and how they can be broken into chapters:

Self-Help Book Contents

 

Introduction: How I Came to Write This Book and Do the Research Plus How to Use This Book/How It’s Organized

Part One, Defining the Urgent Problem

Chapter 1: The Urgent Problem (Don’t Worry—You’ll Solve It Thanks to This Book!)

 

Part Two, History of the Problem

Chapter 2: How You Came to Have This Problem (The History of Your Woes)

 

Part Three, Preparing for Action

Chapter 3: More of What You Need to Know Before Tackling Your Urgent Problem (Trust Me—It’s Important!)

 

Chapter 4: More of What You Need to Know Before Taking Action to Solve the Problem (No, You’re Not Done Learning Yet)

 

Chapter 5: Even More of What You Have to Know Before Taking Action (Be Patient—Each of These Chapters Is Necessary for You to Achieve Lasting Transformation)

 

Part Four, The Action Plan

Chapter 6: The Action Plan (What You’re Going to Have to Do To Transform, Including Exercises You Should Actually Do)

 

Chapter 7: More Details of the Action Plan (More of What You’re Going to Have to Do to Transform, Including More Exercises You Should Actually Do)

 

Chapter 8: The Action Plan in Action (What It Looks Like: Descriptions and Anecdotes So You Truly Understand How to Apply the Ideas and Strategies in This Transformational Nonfiction Book to Your Everyday Life)

 

Part Five, Troubleshooting/Maintenance/Challenging Times

Chapter 9: Troubleshooting When Problems Arise (Somewhat Unusual Circumstances That You Might Face)

 

Chapter 10: Expanding Outward (Maintaining Your New Habits, A Pep Talk to Keep You Going, And Advice on Connecting with Others Who Support Your New Habits)

 

Part Six: Looking Forward (Stay in Contact!)

Resources, Acknowledgements, Appendix, Endnotes Citing Sources, Recommended Reading, Etc., Ending with a Call to Action, Namely, “Stay in Contact and Join My Community” on the Last Page

Of course, you don’t have to have ten chapters. You might have six, twelve, or twenty-three. What’s most important is that the overall structure supports the reader’s journey, or what might be called a hero’s or heroine’s journey, that meets them where they are and takes them where they want to go. They start with identifying the problem (and being emotionally engaged by your book!) to feeling empowered to create new habits and sustain them. The idea is to experience personal transformation and even affect the world in a positive way, applying new strategies to interactions they have out in the community and even connecting with other like-minded individuals who are on a similar path. For example, recently, I worked on a self-help book that ended with advice on how to connect with other women in a sisterhood of support for sustaining the habits promoted in the book—how to communicate with them in ways that support and honor each other, how to overcome old wounds around being betrayed by other women, and so on.)

Readers of self-help books expect to read stories of others who took the journey and had struggles they can relate to. They also expect to receive practical guidance. Your self-help book’s exercises might include guided visualizations, journaling/workbook-type exercises, meditation/body scan exercises, and practical experiments such as trying out a new behavior every day (reciting affirmations, for example).

Now, that last piece about affecting the world in a positive way might sound lofty, but many people want to improve some aspect of their lives not just to alleviate discomfort or embarrassment, or make more money or have better relationships, but to expand on their joy by inspiring and encouraging others, attracting new clients and friends and partners, and improving how things work in our families, workplaces, and communities. Increasingly, I’m finding my clients are putting more consideration into what goes into this last part. Asking readers to join your community by signing up for your mailing list or a group you moderate on your site or on Facebook (such as a closed group) keeps people connected to your brand and participating in a larger conversation and movement. We’re all exquisitely aware of how much the world is changing and how strongly we want to affect it positively. I encourage those of you who are writing self-help to give some thought to what would be in the last part of your self-help book and how you will stay engaged on social media and through a mailing list, speaking events including workshops, and other outreach.

 

"Oh no! I have an URGENT PROBLEM I need to solve! Where is the perfect self-help book for me?"

“Oh no! I have an URGENT PROBLEM I need to solve! Where is the perfect self-help book for me?”

howtostructureselfhelpbookcontentshandyguidepeskewordmasonservices

A handy guide to the six-part self-help book structure with chapters listed.

Was this blog piece and handy self-help book structure guide helpful? I hope so! If you do get stuck, contact me at nancy@nancypeske.com and give me details so we can set up a consultation.

self-help book


Is your resolution to write a book this year?

 

Good for you! I believe that the act of writing a book is in itself an important expression of creativity. You will learn more about yourself and your life by choosing to write a book. It’s a big undertaking but when you break the process down into pieces, it’s less daunting.

 

How to get started writing your book:

 

  1. Conceptualize what you want to write a book about about. If you haven’t already done this, think about what YOU have to say that no one else can say. Have you had an incredible experience, or series of experiences, from which you gained insights that would benefit others? Are you an expert on something? Do you have a different way of approaching a topic or task that you would like to share with others? Do you have a novel in mind? Have you worked out the themes, character, and plot to the point where you’re ready to explore what unfolds as you begin to tell the story?
  2. Conceptualize your hook or title. Imagine your elevator speech—you meet an old friend in an elevator and he or she asks what you’re up to. “Writing a book,” you say proudly. “Really? What’s it about?” is the reply. And you say… (Remember, the elevator doors will open in a matter of seconds. Announce your killer title, title/subtitle combination, or throw out a descriptive sentence that summarizes what your book is).
  3. Imagine who your reader is. Is this person completely unfamiliar with you and your topic, or somewhat familiar? Where is this person in his or her life that your book looks like a must-read? What is this person expecting to get out of your book? It’s really important not to skip this step if you want your book read by more than just your closest friends and family members.
  4. Analyze where your book fits in the market. Tens of thousands of books are published each year. Where does YOUR book fit in? Why would the reader want to buy your book and not another similar book? Do your research and look at what other books are already out there and similar to yours. In fact, search for your title (if you’ve thought of one) on the Internet and in online bookstores. Has someone been using that title or combination words already for a website or a book? Read my article on Comparative Books Lists. Even if you’re self-publishing and not writing a book proposal to get a book deal from a publisher, don’t skip this step of analyzing the comparable books. It will help you become clear on how to make your book stand out from all the others. It’s possible someone has written a similar book but even so, if you have a new spin or a unique voice, your book may be different enough that readers of the other book will want yours, too!
  5. Start writing. Don’t judge yourself as you begin the process. Feel free to try out different voices and approaches. Play around with how you start the book—what would be an engaging way to draw the reader in? Let your creativity flow and silence your inner critic when you’re just beginning.

 

Happy writing!

 

self-help book


Many people have enjoyed reading self-help books but when it comes to writing one, they don’t know where to begin. How do you organize the material?

A great self-help book takes the reader on a journey from problem to solution. Watch this new video I made about how to structure a self-help book into six key sections, then take out your favorite self-help book and look at the contents page. Does it have the structure I’ve outlined here? Does it have a variation it? It never ceases to amaze me how often this structure is used and yet no one talks about it!