How To Write A Self-Help Book That Transforms Lives

POSTED ON Jul 17, 2023

Sarah Rexford

Written by Sarah Rexford

Home > Blog > Non-Fiction > How To Write A Self-Help Book That Transforms Lives

You're here because you're wondering how to write a self-help book that actually makes an impact.

And you're in the writing place.

Learning how to write a self-help book effectively can help your author career thrive, boost an existing business, and change thousands of lives for the better. But with so many self-help books in the market, writing one in a way that truly stands out is crucial to its success.

If you clicked on this article, it’s likely because you want to know how to write a self-help book because you have plans to pen one in the near future. Or perhaps you've already started writing a book. Maybe you only have a very faint book idea and aren't sure whether you should do it (spoiler: you should).

No matter where you find yourself in your writing journey, you can use these steps to level up your self-help book's initial rough draft or manuscript. 

In this article, I break down how to write a self-help book into eight simple steps, including tips for deeply impacting your readers and, ultimately, transforming lives. While the success of your book can never be guaranteed, learning how to write a self-help book in a way that connects with readers is foundational.

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Why Is It Crucial To Study How To Write A Self-Help Book?

The self-help book market is a thriving industry worth $10.5 billion as of 2020. That’s right, billion, not million. With these types of numbers, studying how to write a self-book is not just a good choice. It’s a crucial one. 

So, let’s dive into the eight steps you can take to better your chances of standing out, impacting your readers, and ultimately, reaching your audience the way they most need it.

If you want to know how to write a self-help book, here you go:

1. Choose A Niche Topic

Self-help is a massive genre. You can find self-help books for anything from cooking for dummies to how to leverage your habits for massive success. To stand out, you need to go deeper. You need a very specific subgenre or niche.

Writing about cooking healthy meals for a healthier lifestyle is not a bad self-help idea, but try taking it a step further: What about cooking healthy, vegetarian-friendly meals for busy lifestyles?

How about providing easy-to-do yoga stretches and practices for post-surgery patients vs a book that includes a long list of yoga practices for different circumstances?

See the difference? In each of these examples of self-help books, one is broad, and one is focused.  

Whether you’ve already drafted your book or have just started writing, make sure you identify your precise niche to narrowly target your intended audience.

2. Layer In Your Unique Credibility

Never underestimate the power of your credibility. To continue with the healthy eating example, let’s say you chose to attend a four-year college, worked three jobs while taking full-time classes, and let your eating habits slip during these busy years. 

Now, you’re graduated, successful, and busy, but have completely transformed your eating habits. You’re healthier than ever, and bonus, you have your undergraduate degree in nutritional sciences.

Your credibility isn't always just about your credentials. It includes your personal journey, experiences, and transformation, too. Layering these details throughout your book to establish your credibility and create a stronger connection with your readers.

3. Use Personal Anecdotes (Sparingly!)

Let's build on the credibility bit, because it can overlap with your personal story a great deal.

Many self-help books are also books about a true story. Yours! This is definitely one way to write a book no one else can.

It would be simple to present yourself as the hero of your story. After all, you’re the one who had the experience, then had to learn how to write a self-help book and publish it for others.

But that would turn your self-help book into a memoir or autobiography. Instead, keep the focus on actionable advice. Choose to come alongside your reader, use nostalgic writing or personal anecdotes that don’t always show you staring as the hero, and share your story as supplemental fodder to the steps you ask your readers to take. 

Remember, a self-help book is about helping your readers, not a personal memoir, so use your anecdotes only if they truly benefit your reader or will inspire them to take action.

4. Focus On Structure 

When learning how to write a self-help book, structure is paramount. It drastically impacts how your readers digest your material.

First and foremost, you need to ensure you are sharing steps in a way that they can be followed. For example, when we write about how to write a nonfiction book, we begin with mind mapping, outlining, and then writing a rough draft. If we spoke about those steps in a different order, it would be difficult for our readers to understand which step to do next.

You may also want to include next steps, homework, or questions for discussion at the end of each chapter. Below are a few ideas for structuring and writing your self-help book:

  • Follow a chronological timeline and take your reader on a journey 
  • Open with the dream life your audience wants and then show them how to achieve it
  • Focus on small goals throughout the manuscript that work together to lead to the ultimate goal 

Have fun with your structure and feel free to play around with various options. 

5. Know What Your Audience Knows

Understanding exactly what your audience knows about your topic (and doesn’t) is likely one of the biggest contributors to book sales and successful self-help book launches.

If you aren't meeting them where they're at and saying things that resonate with what they want, they won't pick up your book.

Work to avoid laying foundations your audience will view as juvenile or obvious. But at the same time, don’t push your audience too fast or make too many assumptions about what they know on the subject.

This may seem difficult to balance, but it comes down to deeply understanding your audience and their unique problems.

6. Repeat, Rephrase, Reframe

Most people need old lessons repeated to them in new ways more than they need to learn something new.

For instance, most people understand that establishing positive habits is crucial to a healthy, successful life. 

If you’re familiar with James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, you know he took this knowledge, repeated it, rephrased it, and reframed it in a way that landed him a spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Today, his estimated net worth is 8 million.

People thrive on repetition. 

Want to know how to write a self-help book that leverages this technique? Practice saying the same thing in different ways, and experiment with different verbs and nouns to keep your writing interesting.

Related: Improve Your Writing with This Free Tool

7. Provide An Achievable Goal

Learning how to write a self-help book would not be complete without mentioning the importance of achievable goals. One aspect I believe helped James Clear succeed so massively with Atomic Habits was his focus on small, achievable habits.

The same goes for any self-help book, no matter how niche.

Audiences want to feel empowered so they can go live empowered lives. Self-help is about teaching individuals how to help themselves move forward. This means the goal must be achievable.

All goals take some level of effort, but you want to make sure you are pushing your readers toward something they can implement and start to see change from in the next 30 days.

8. Be Actionable

I've mentioned this multiple times throughout this guide, but it bares mentioning once more.

The goal with learning how to write a self-help book is learning how to write something that people can – and feel inspired to – take action from.

These action steps should be ones they can take today, tomorrow, or this week. And should include clear directions.

For example, if your book focuses on harnessing creativity, what is a step they could take today? 

If you write about starting a side hustle as a stay-at-home mom, what are some helpful steps you could provide for already-overwhelmed mothers?

Or, let’s say you want to provide teenagers with ways to start investing early. Most teenagers don’t have much financially, let alone thousands of dollars to invest.

How can they take one small action today that will impact their lives in a decade?

Share Your Influence, Leave A Legacy 

Everyone has a unique story to tell, and those stories have the ability to change lives.

You read this article not just because you want to learn how to write a self-help book but because you feel driven to help people change their lives.

You likely have some level of influence or credibility or have transformed your own life in a profound way, which is why you chose to write a self-help book. The more you fine-tune how you write your book, the more potential it has for influence.

Self-help books don’t need to be a one-hit-wonder. They can be your way to leave a legacy. 

If you’re eager to start writing your book today, use the free resource below to help you start your nonfiction outline! This nonfiction book outline can help you reach your end goal (aka: a finished, impactful manuscript) faster. Enjoy drafting your self-help book, and let us know which tip most benefited you!  

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