So many people want to write and publish a book these days, but don’t have the confidence to actually do it, don’t believe in their abilities, don’t know where to start, have their doubts and fear failure, think others will make fun of them and no one would take their new endeavor seriously.
Well, guess what?
You can do it.
Even if you’re not a writer, or an expert in any field, or even if you don’t really like reading.
Truth is, everyone carries at least a few books in his head. We’re complicated individuals, have been through a lot, are one of a kind with our own reality, fantasies, dreams and fears.
And if we decide to share that with the world and present it in a way that the publishing industry will approve, we can even make a fortune and keep creating books.
Never before has it been so easy for anyone to self-publish an eBook.
All you need is a laptop and a PayPal account. That’s what you need for any kind of initial digital business by the way.
A lot of effort, time and patience will be needed, though. Unless you decide to hire someone to write it for you. But then you won’t have written a book of your own.
First of all, you need to realize that you’re able to do that. You may start from zero – with no experience, no information on how to do it, not knowing what to write about, and not being sure whether you’ll ever finish it. But that’s okay.
As it is with every other process, you’ll need to breathe deeply and just focus on the first step. Once you take it, you can move onto the next.
Writing a novel is a hard thing. They’re long, you need to follow the plot all the time, to make hundreds of notes and remember many little details that will need to be mentioned again later in the book.
Also, it’s not an easy thing to sell as people aren’t directly looking for it, and don’t actually need it.
But if you’re a newbie, just want to try things out, have something to share with the world, want to see if writing is your thing, or else, the right direction for you is personal development.
The self-help industry is a big thing, and people will always have the same issues discussed in the books so there’s a market for that in the future too.
Also, it’s the easiest gender to write.
You may think that it’s not your thing now simply because you haven’t tried it, or because you’ve seen these 12-step programs that promise to change your life and let you refind the inner self and think they’re a scam.
But there’s much more to self-improvement than that.
Here’s some of the stuff you can discuss inside your first work:
50 Self-Help Topics Everyone Can Write About
1. goal setting;
2. unleashing your potential;
3. changing your habits;
4. doubling productivity and beating procrastination;
5. organizing and prioritizing your day;
6. improving your relationships through acceptance and compassion;
7. learning how to be grateful;
8. changing your approach to life;
9. getting over the past and embracing the future;
10. getting things done in less time;
11. taking responsibility for everything that happens to you;
12. making money online;
13. finding your purpose in life;
14. making peace with yourself;
15. replacing negative thoughts with positive ones;
16. learning how to avoid distractions and focus on what’s important;
17. dealing with anger and anxiety;
18. curing depression;
19. living a healthy lifestyle;
20. doing what you love for a living;
21. creating freedom in business and life;
22. having morning and evening rituals for maximum productivity and success;
23. how to stay consistent;
24. finding motivation;
25. becoming emotionally independent;
26. turning your whole life around with one action every day;
27. the characteristics of happy people and how to become one;
28. how to build self-esteem and be super confident;
29. time management;
30. unleashing your creative genius;
31. making wise choices;
32. making plans and creating strategies for everything;
33. being purpose-oriented;
34. leaving a great legacy;
35. finding inspiration in daily life;
36. learning how to simplify everything;
37. dealing with rejection;
38. managing your money;
39. practicing self-control;
40. increasing your willpower;
41. improving your memory;
42. stress management;
43. learning to say ‘no’;
44. noticing and taking opportunities and making the best of what you have;
45. overcoming shyness;
46. how to stop being lazy and learn to take action;
47. spiritual development;
48. how to forgive;
49. dealing with grief;
50. fixing relationships.
Of course, you’re not an expert on almost any of these. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have the experience and knowledge to publish a whole book on the subject (after an extensive research).
The idea is to identify one or more of the problems people have and try to help them by giving them the needed information, step-by-step plan on how to fix it and what to expect, encourage and inspire them.
Fortunately, all of the self-help topics above are evergreen. So if you write a book now on any of them, it will be applicable a decade from now.
By the way, here’s a good place to mention what a proper page number would be, as many are curious about that first.
Well, I have to tell you that 10,000 – 25,000 words is the acceptable range for personal development eBooks these days.
That’s nothing, seriously!
If you’re a blogger, it’s like 15 – 20 different posts. Which you can actually write as separate articles and then combine into a book.
That’s because people’s attention span is really short, they need to be entertained and get bored easily. That’s why you need to keep it short when it comes to theory and defining their problem in the beginning of the book. And then dedicate some pages to practical advice and exercises, real life examples and lists of steps they can take.
If you can make it to 40,000 words, good for you! But you don’t really need to. 20,000 – 30,000 is perfectly fine for a writer who wants to cover every single aspect of the chosen topic.
So here’s a quick guide on how to write and publish a self-help book:
Preparation: What to Do Before Your Start Writing Your Self-Help Book
1. Choose a topic.
2. Be specific.
With so much competition, and people who don’t really know what they’re looking for, you need to be clear what your book is about and need to choose a small niche, not a whole field.
Too many books have been written already on confidence – hacking it, improving it, etc. But if you want to be more specific you can write for women/men/workers/students/writers/business owners/etc.
That will help you stand out from the crowd and will let you be found from these exact people.
3. Think of a headline (you may change it later).
It should be:
• clear and to the point;
• SEO-friendly (meaning it should include keywords people are looking for already, so that you can be sure there’s a certain demand for this exact topic);
• it has to show people what the book is about and what they can expect from it;
• must be written in a way that evokes emotions (use power words).
4. Write a subheading.
5. Create the outline of the book.
Make a list of its main parts, chapters and their sections.
Even write down some main keywords and phrases that will later tell you what to write about in each section.
6. Know exactly who you’re writing for.
Make a profile of the ideal customer.
7. Define the problem, pain or desire this person has and let your book solve it.
That’s also what you’ll focus on when promoting it.
The best way is to really try to get inside the head of the potential reader and think like him. Then your call to action, sales page, copy, description of the book, introduction, etc. – they will all be written directly for him.
8. Make a list of important questions connected to your topic and let different parts of the book answer each.
9. Do your research.
Read a book or a few, and many, many posts before you start writing.
While reading, take notes. They will later be the foundation of new ideas and inspiration.
You can’t rely solely on your knowledge and experience. They are what will make the book unique, of course, but you also need to know what experts say, how others see the same thing and what step-by-step guides they offer.
Don’t forget to check forums, comments on blogs, Quora, Reddit and other social media channels to see what the people you’re targeting are complaining about.
Because it’s one thing to try to guess what their biggest problem is, and it’s completely another to hear it from them.
So use different sources, then combine some information and remove other stuff you don’t need.
Writing: Getting to Work and Unleashing The Writer Within
That’s the hard part. Or at least it’s what scares people the most and the moment they lose hope and want to give up. Well, if not now, maybe after they’ve written a few (or 10-20) pages.
But that’s not the case.
For me, for instance, it’s the most pleasant part.
And I know many people who say they hate writing, simply can’t do it and find it dreadful, but who haven’t actually tried to just put pen to paper and start writing without thinking too much.
The main problem with people who don’t sit down and write the book they claim they want to publish, is that they are scared – afraid of failure, afraid of disappointing themselves and others, afraid of getting bored and leaving an unfinished project behind, and the consequences after that.
But that’s ridiculous if you think about it!
You’re doing this mainly for yourself. Then for all the people you may touch and hopefully help. Then for the chance of making a decent income.
So forget about others, forget about failure. It’s not really an option.
True failure comes only when we give up.
And if you keep writing, even if it’s not good, you’re still on the way to success.
As for some people’s desire to create a bestseller, that’s quite a mission considering the number of books that are being published every single day, the inability to do proper book marketing without any money, etc.
But you’ll still be a published writer and will help and inspire people, no matter how good or bad your book is. As long as it’s useful, to the point, the result of hard work and vision, and as soon as it’s edited and formatted correctly, it will be out there.
So, my point here is, start writing once you’re done with the preparation part (which can take less than 3 days).
Here are some basic rules to follow:
10 Writing Tips to Help You Be a Better Writer
1. Use shorter paragraphs.
Each must present one main idea – otherwise it gets confusing and harder to read.
2. Include quotes, interesting intros, personal stories, statistics, examples, exercises, etc. to keep things interesting.
3. Don’t think about editing while writing.
4. Set a daily goal.
If you don’t push yourself a bit, you’ll never finish the book.
There are so many unpublished books (great ones probably) all over the world that have been waiting for years for their authors to find the momentum and get back to them…
Don’t become one of them! People need your book. You can change someone’s life with it.
And the best way to have some discipline and organization is to set deadlines and have a daily number of words/pages or a set amount of time that you should spend writing no matter what.
Some people know what their most productive part of the day is. My best advice for them is to include 30-60 minutes of writing in it and commit to it every day.
Others may want to finish just a section of a chapter each morning. Or write 1000 words throughout the whole day.
Whatever it is, set a goal and stick to it. The first 3 days will be hard. But in time, you’ll let go of that resistance and will be able to write for longer periods of time without feeling tired or overwhelmed.
5. Avoid wordiness.
6. Always go for the simple choice.
Don’t use difficult or longer words. You don’t really want people to open Google and look up a word while reading, right?
7. Prefer short sentences.
8. Always keep your ‘why’ in mind.
You wanted to write that book for a reason in the first place. So define your purpose (be it helping others, making money, starting an online business, wanting to be able to call yourself an author, etc.) and always think of it when you feel upset, lose motivation or don’t know what to do next.
It will be your driving force.
9. When writing, speak directly to the reader.
10. Summarize each chapter in the end.
That’s a great way to remind people of what you were talking about as some of them may have got distracted, to emphasize on the most important points in the chapter, and to share some final thoughts before moving onto the next one.
Here are some tips from the experts to check out:
10 Fast Ways to Become a Better Writer (Even When You’re Burning the Midnight Oil and Can’t Afford an Editor Just Yet)
34 Writing Tips
How to Write Better: 7 Instant Fixes
How to Write a Bestselling Book This Year — The Definitive Resource List and How-To Guide
The Alchemy of Writing — Tips from a Non-Fiction and Fiction Pro
Editing and Proofreading: The Art of Being Your Own Critic
It’s time to be realistic, admit your mistakes and fix them. Also, there will be times when you’ll feel like something must be there, but in fact it’s just too much and half of the text needs to be removed.
Let’s define the difference between these two processes first, as they are both an important part of the whole writing-and-publishing-a-book process.
The Difference Between Editing and Proofreading
Editing (which goes together with formatting – adding colors, styles, fonts, sizes, links and other features) includes reviewing and changing your text so that it’s correct grammatically, makes sense, is to the point and all unnecessary information is deleted, and that the quality is increased.
Proofreading, on the other hand, comes after editing. It’s when you’re reviewing the final draft of the book and want to make sure that it sounds and looks good and there are absolutely no errors.
It’s a good idea to give the copy to an editor, as no one can do a better job than him. But it’s not hard to do it yourself either, if you’re serious about self-publishing.
You just need to spend a lot of time fixing mistakes and rereading the whole document (which can get quite boring and exhausting).
So here are some tips and rules to follow about each of these processes:
Editing & Formatting
Through the years, after following many publishing guidelines and trying to answer the requirements for a digital product to be accepted and readable on all devices, I’ve made a list of the main changes you need to make to your manuscript.
My way is to write on a Word document, then save it as PDF and either sell it on my site, or on a publishing platform (Smashwords in my case which also distributes to Apple, Kobo and Barnes and Noble; but the best option will always remain Amazon as they are on top of the eBook market).
So let’s say you just wrote whatever you wanted on a Word document and are now ready to edit.
I won’t give you screenshots or explain where the different options and buttons in Microsoft Office Word are, as that’s not the main purpose of this article. So if you have your doubts and aren’t familiar with using Word, you can look everything up – there are plenty of videos and articles for beginners.
Here are some important steps to take in order to be able to sell your product to everyone:
1. Copy and paste the whole text in a simple Text document.
Save it. Then paste it to another Word document, which you’ll now save as Word 97-2003 Document.
Now, go to it and that’s where you’ll make the changes. You can delete everything else (but it’s a good idea to keep the Text document just in case).
2. Turn everything into Normal style and set its parameters.
One of the most important things to remember is that you won’t be editing directly the text of the document (except for bold and italics later). For this purpose we’ll use the Change Styles option, and will create one Style for the body of the manuscript, one centered style for different parts of the book like front matter, motto, etc. And 2-3 heading styles for the different sections.
So let’s dive into it:
As for the font, you can’t go wrong with Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri. A good idea is also Tahoma, Verdana and Garamond.
Just be careful not to mix many different fonts. Choose one for the Normal style now (which is the body text), and one for headings, subheadings and front page (which will be in another style that we’ll create later).
Read more about the fonts that convert better, what users prefer and other statistics here.
The best font size is 12. So stick with it. You can use 11 too, or 13 or 14. But keep in mind that when reading on Kindle for example (Amazon’s eBook reader) you can choose your own size and even change other parameters.
But 12 is still the preferred one.
There are two main types of paragraphs: the block paragraph (mainly used for non-fiction) and the first line indent.
Both should never be mixed in the body or elsewhere.
There’s a chance you can use the block paragraph method for the body text and then the first line indent for the front and back matter. But what I’ve always been doing and has worked well for me is to stick with the block paragraph throughout the whole book.
That means that you’ll set these parameters in the Normal style now, and then when creating the next styles, they will be based on Normal (there’s a drop down menu to choose such an option).
So when you’ve opened the window where you’re able to modify the Normal style, you click Format and then choose Paragraph.
And in order to make it block paragraph method, you’ll need to do the following:
In the indentation section, choose Special: None.
For spacing: Before: 0; After: 6; Line Spacing: Single.
3. Find and Replace.
Now’s the right time to find some extra spaces you may have created by clicking the Tab, or the Space button more than 1-2 times.
That may cause your text to appear on different pages or to be completely messed up on a certain device.
Here’s how to fix these:
Press Ctrl+h so that the searching box appears on the screen.
In the ‘Find what’ field write ^t and ‘Replace with’ nothing (it means you should leave it blank).
Then in order to check for 4 or more consecutive paragraph returns (which is considered a mistake in the whole document and won’t be allowed for uploading and publishing by some of the major retailers) do this:
‘Find what’: ^p plus 4 spaces.
‘Replace with’: ^p .
Do this for 3,2 and even 1 spaces. Then when proofreading you can add one whenever needed (after a heading for example so that it can stand out).
4. Create a new style: Centered.
It must be based on normal (which means it’s using the block paragraph method, centered, check the Automatically update box, use a bigger font size (and a different font if you want) and use it for the Title of the book (and whatever else you’ve included on the front page like copyright, author name, subtitle, etc.)
5. After the front page, and after each chapter, add a manual page break.
And add a paragraph return before and after it, just in case.
6. After the front page, add ‘Table of Contents’.
Do it manually, just write down all the chapter and section names, each on a new line.
Later you’ll make it clickable with bookmarks and hyperlinks so that everyone can go to whichever one he wants instantly.
On how to do that, check online as it’s different for each version of Microsoft Office, and it would be much easier with screenshots.
7. After each chapter, add ‘Back to top’.
That’s another thing you’ll want to make clickable so that everyone can go back to the beginning of the book.
8. Chapter headings.
There’s already a ‘Heading 1’ style so you can just go and change some things there.
My advice is to keep the color Automatic (which is black). Make it bold, centered and bigger.
Go to Format/Paragraph and use the block paragraph method.
Now apply it to each chapter heading.
Do the same with subheadings by changing a bit the ‘Heading 2’ style.
9. Add a back matter.
Call it something like ‘Acknowledgements and Contact’.
Give credit to external sources, say thank you to people, give links to your others books or your blog. Tell them where they can find you on social media and how they can contact you (give email address).
Give credit to photographers if you’ve used images. And so on.
10. Save it as a PDF file.
Now your job is to read the whole document again, and again, and again.
That’s right! 3 times!
Just to be sure.
Be really careful the first time as you’ll have to look for all kinds of mistakes – grammar, punctuation, formatting errors, spelling. And if something’s wrong or just can be improved a little, go back to the Word document and fix it.
In the end, save it again as PDF and you’re ready.
Some more tips on editing and proofreading:
• read it our loud;
• don’t edit while writing;
• try to see it from someone else’s point of view;
• make it understandable;
• use bold, italics and underlined to present important points;
• after proofreading 3 times, send it to a friend (or a few) and ask him to give honest feedback;
• leave the work for a few days, then go back to it with a fresh perspective;
• eliminate distractions while doing that and be completely focused.
The best advice I can give you here is to publish your book on Amazon.
First, you need to get familiar with the requirements of Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
Here are the guidelines: How to make books available for the Kindle platform
And here’s a post on Lifehacker explaining the whole process.
Of course, that’s not your only option.
There are many other retailers in the industry, and way too many other small sites where you can try and present your product in front of new audience.
But if you’re after the money, get on Amazon. That’s where your book is directly shown to every person who wants to buy eBooks and read online. And you’ve got a pretty good chance of seeing it become a bestseller if you follow some steps and strategies and promote it well.
The other thing you can do is to sell it on your website. I’m using WordPress and have built an online book store with the eCommerce plugin called WooCommerce. It handles all the work for me and I accept payments with PayPal. But the promotion is all in my hands. And people may never hear about my books if I don’t find ways to get them to my site.
That’s why most people prefer Amazon – the people you need that may potentially become your customers are already there.
Marketing: How to Promote Your Self-Help Book to Maximize Revenue
So I think I covered everything important you need to know about outlining, writing, editing and publishing your self-help book.
Now it’s your turn!
That’s not the end, though, if you’re planning to be an independent author.
You can make a site, a landing page where you can either send people to Amazon or sell it directly there.
You can make a book marketing campaign and collect emails long before you’ve published it. And then on the day of the launch, you let people know so that they can get it. That can end up in many sales on day one, and if you’re on Amazon that will put you on top of the list in your category.
The book marketing process is long, boring, and usually starts weeks before the date of the launch. Some authors prefer to let people know what they’re working on, before they’ve even started writing.
So in the digital world, as long as you have an idea, you can ask people whether they would pay money for it, how much and what they would want to find inside the book.
That’s a huge strategy, of course, and takes a lot of time and effort.
I wrote this post more for the average (newbie) writer that wants to see what self-publishing is all about and whether he’ll have any success.
So here’s a list of actions you can take to promote your book and let more people hear about it:
eBook Promotion Checklist
1. Consider offering it for a preorder at a lower price and let fans know that it’s a special offer for them and in a few days you’ll raise the price to normal.
2. Make a good twitt about it and embed it (assuming you already have a decent following). From then on add 20-100 new followers each day that are in your field, and give a link to the book to those who follow you back asking them to check it out and share it if they like it.
3. Post it on Google+.
4. Post it on many communities there connected to writing, reading, book promotion, kindle, self-improvement, etc.
5. Tweet quotes from the book.
6. Post it in Facebook groups with a nice description and maybe a coupon code (or just make it free for the first 1-3 days to catch people’s attention).
7. Post it on every other social media you’re part of.
8. If you have a blog (if not, here’s how to start one quickly):
• write an initial post before you’ve finished writing the book and talk about the main topic of it, while letting them know that you’re preparing something special and they should stay tuned;
• if you have a newsletter, give them an incentive to subscribe by telling them that they will be the first to know when your book is out and will also receive a discount coupon;
• make 2-3 more posts to create buzz, but also make them informative so that your readers can see you have something important to say on the topic and can crave more;
• on the day of the launch, create a sales page (list all the benefits, how it can help people change their life, why they can trust you, what they can expect to learn from the book, why you wrote it, etc.);
• put it in the sidebar with a simple but irresistible call to action;
• reveal a chapter from the book in the form of a post;
• encourage your blog readers to review it;
• after some time write posts like “X Things I Learned from Publishing My First Book”.
9. Create targeted Facebook ads.
10. Join forums on writing, reading and self-improvement.
Add a link to your book in your signature, and start becoming a part of the community by posting interesting stuff.
And if you have the chance, mention your book. But don’t give links or talk about it all the time as you’ll appear spammy and not only will people never answer, but you can also get banned.
11. Create a FB group. Now you’re an author and need to take care of your brand.
12. Research book bloggers who might want to review your book. Email each one with a well-thought email and a copy of the book (for free, of course).
That’s not all.
There are probably 100 other actions you can take right now to make your book (even if it’s upcoming) popular. It’s all up to you.
I just wanted to emphasize on how important the marketing aspect of the whole process is and how you can’t go without it.
Two things I didn’t talk about are the price (there’s really no right answer about that and you’ll have to check how your competitors are doing to see what works best), and the cover of the book (I make it myself, but you can use a software, a designer or just buy a nice image.)
Here are some more things about writing and publishing your self-help book you should keep in mind:
• I want to say it one more time – you don’t have to be an expert, you just need to know more than the average person.
And even if you’re starting from the bottom and are completely unfamiliar with the topic you want to write about, you can still do your research and create a great book. (But it will take a lot of reading and thus more time.)
• To make it unique, write about your own experience.
Mention things you’ve seen, heard and read that can be helpful. Share your opinion, be creative and think of ways the reader can put all this into practice.
• Add a nice, friendly, informative introduction in the beginning of the book.
Say who you are, what’s your story, what made you write the book, how you came up with the idea, how it’s different from the other self-help books out there and how it can help the reader.
But keep in mind that the person has probably already bought the book, so it’s no place for trying to promote it. Just let him know what he’s going to read and how he may benefit from it.
• People are all about quick and useful info that they can use immediately without too much effort.
Keeping that in mind, you can break everything down into small actionable steps. Tell them exactly what to do each day, where to start and what to expect.
• Love every part of the journey.
All the aspects of the process of writing and publishing a book are a journey, an adventure you’ve decided to take that has a purpose, it’s meaningful and this way you contribute to the world.
Also, the moment the reader opens your book, is the moment you’re taking him on a journey. He’s now on a quest to a better self, following the path you created for him, learning what you know, listening to your opinion and spending an hour or a few of his day to see how you can help him.
Appreciate that. His time is limited and he can’t take it back. So it’s your duty to make it count.
Don’t forget that while writing, or even editing and promoting.
It will help you feel content even when on the verge of giving up.
If – instead of doubts, fears and insecurity – you’re full of gratitude, peace and joy, your book will turn into an inspiring reading.
It’s your turn now!
Get that pen and draft that outline, think of a title, start reading articles on the subject, or else. All these are easy first steps you can take in order to set yourself up for the writing sessions in the following days.
What do you have to say about that?
Now that you saw the whole process of self-publishing, do you think you can do it or does it feel like too much work?
If you want to check out my books, there’s the one on how to have more self-esteem through hacks and smart and simple techniques.
I’ve published an eBook on writing in the morning as a part of your morning ritual, another on the habits of the mind we can develop that can help us succeed in life. Also, a book on living in the present moment and embracing happiness by letting go, gratitude and simplicity.
PS, If you want to get that guide on how to write and publish your first book in a PDF file so that you can go back to it whenever you need, join the free newsletter in the form below. It’s one of the freebies you get (together with a few other practical eBooks that can’t be found anywhere else).
Full-time freelance writer. Lifestyle designer.
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