You have experience with something that you have done repeatedly for years, either as a hobby or as part of your job. Turning this knowledge into a book that can help hundreds of other people is a relatively simple task. A little planning and organization of the information, and the writing will come easy.
Above all, the purpose of a self-help book is to guide the reader in accomplishing an activity or completing a process successfully. For maximum benefit, the book should be as concise and to the point as possible. A long drawn-out memoir that happens to include a “how-to” sequence embedded in the story is not likely to be popular with someone looking for practical step-by-step advice.
That does not mean that you should not personalize the book with anecdotes from your own experience. People do like stories and they will help the reader to relate to you better. However, the personal stories and your philosophical beliefs on each step or topic should be kept in check so that they do not dominate the book. Keep the reader focused on the task and avoid distracting them with unnecessary storytelling.
Make sure your writing matches exactly the project plan steps that the reader hopes to follow. These may include for example detailed steps for planning, designing, site preparation and building, using tools, finishing the job, cleaning up and a list of other resources. Keep each step very focused on only what is included and needed for that step. This will help the reader to better comprehend the entire process and the actual work involved to accomplish it.
Keep the steps in mind as you write and break up the prose into discreet layers. Make good use of numbered lists to help clarify steps, bullet lists to identify components and checklists to support the reader’s own planning. Add summary lists at the beginning and end of each section to help keep the reader on track. Breaking the work up in this way allows the reader to keep pace and know they are not leaving out important elements.
Keep the language simple. If you must use technical jargon, assume the reader does not know what it means and provide descriptions and explanations for each. You may have years of experience and knowledge on a subject, but you need to write the book to educate and support a complete novice. Using a first-person conversational style of language works well as it helps the reader to feel that you are speaking to them directly.
Take your time to get it right. This includes editing to remove errors and clarify language, and it includes conducting research to verify technical accuracy. Tools and other products involved in the process should be referenced by their correct names so the reader does not experience confusion as they pursue the project. Add diagrams or photographs as appropriate to illustrate steps or outcomes clearly. If the reader can visualize what it is supposed to look like, he/she will find it easier to replicate the process.
Check out the competition. Before you publish your self-help book, conduct research existing books on the same topic. Clarify for yourself, and then in the book the differences between your book and the existing ones. If your process is unique or suggests something different from the others, you’ll attract readers more easily.
Clarify the audience for the book and make sure you write and promote it specifically to that audience. You have an opportunity to build a long-term relationship with your readers so adding lists and internet links to more resources on the topic is helpful. This also means staying current and updating the content is important. As new tools and materials become available, update your book accordingly. That will keep them coming back for years to come – write on!