How to Write a Self-help Book
A self-help book must be complete. It must include all the information the reader will need to acquire the skill you’re teaching. For example, if the first step of systematic desensitization is to learn relaxation techniques, you need to teach relaxation techniques first.
To effectively teach skills, a self-help book must proceed step-by-step. Put the first step first, the second step second, and so on. Don’t leave out any steps.
Include only as much theory, history, and motivational writing as the reader needs to understand and acquire the skill at hand. A few sentences of inspirational or motivational writing can help, but keep your focus on the practical and factual. When you have the option of explaining a complex theory or giving a simple instruction, give the simple instruction. If you must discuss theory, give a brief, clear explanation.
Many of our books are double-targeted: they’re meant to be read by both general and professional audiences. The best way to reach both groups is to write your book directly to the client—to the person with the problem you’re writing about. Use simple language and a supportive tone. Mental health professionals buy our books for the same reason laypeople do—because our books are clear, simple, and complete. Professionals report that they prefer our step-by-step approach over the abstract material usually offered to the professional audience.
Assume your reader knows absolutely nothing about your subject. Explain every step so that a person who is completely uninformed can follow your directions. After each instruction or exercise, ask yourself, “Could I do this if I’d never been exposed to any of these concepts or methods before?”
Procedure for the Average Book
These are the stages the average book goes through on its way to publication:
- You submit a proposal (see “How to Submit Your Proposal”).
- An acquisitions editor pitches your book to the publication committee for evaluation.
- Once your book is accepted, you and your editor choose due dates to review and develop six chapters, along with a final manuscript deadline.
- We send you a contract. You sign and send it back.
- Your acquisitions editor and an experienced developmental editor evaluate up to six chapters for organization, tone, content, and clarity. Feedback and comments are sent to you, including specific suggestions. Because we are passionate about the quality of the books we publish, we tend to devote more time than most publishers on the editing stages.
- During the developmental editing process, we provide you with an exact word count to help you reach your plan book length.
- After the first six chapters have been reviewed, you complete the remaining chapters, applying the global aspects of earlier feedback to produce an effective, clear, and helpful book.
- After completing the manuscript, you send us (via e-mail) the table of contents, acknowledgments, dedication, chapters and appendices, references, illustrations and graphic elements, and proof of permission to reprint or adapt material if necessary. Your entire manuscript (including the references list) should be typed and double-spaced in Times New Roman twelve-point font. Use one-inch margins and number the pages consecutively. If there are any illustrations, we need them in both hard copy (printed format) and electronic format if possible. Please do not send original copies.
- Your manuscript is assigned to a copyeditor. You will be in contact with a copyeditor for several weeks as the book is edited. Please plan to be readily available to the copyeditor during that time. Let us know if you plan to be traveling or otherwise unavailable for more than a few days during the twelve weeks after turning in your final manuscript.
- You return the final manuscript, and we typeset it and send you page proofs.
- You approve the page proofs and return them to us; we make final changes and send the book to the printer with the cover and illustrations.
- The printer sends us proofs and we approve them.
- The printer prints the books and ships them to us.
- Once we have a completed manuscript, the book will be copyedited, printed, and made available to the general public in about nine months.
- Congratulations! Your book is in print and ready for sale.