If you aren't the type of person who can confidently write "I can
do these things", then ask those near and dear to you what you can
do. You might be surprised by the things people consider important.
Your wife might point out that you are a safe and
considerate driver and you simply thought you were just following
the rules of the road! Your daughter might point out that you
were fabulous at keeping the channels of communication open during
her teen years and you simply thought you had a great kid!
Write until you can think no more. Then put the list aside
for an hour and go for a walk, or cook dinner, or tidy the lounge
room, or supervise your child's homework. You'll probably find at
the end of the hour, you've got more ideas.
Now, choose one that you feel absolute confident you can
explain to another person. You know that thing inside out and
back to front. It should also be something that you love, so
you aren't going to be sick of writing the book half way through. If
you're passionate about your topic and really want to tell people
how to do it, you won't have any problems in finishing the book.
Step Two: Write down a step
by step list of how to do it.
This needs to be as detailed as possible. You might need
to actually do the thing you are writing about to remember all the
For example: If your how-to book is on driving skills,
actually get the car out and take it for a spin. If you are
going to explain how to parallel park, do it a few times. Focus
on exactly what you are doing at each point. When do you start
to turn the car in? When do you start to straighten it? How do you
position your body for the best view? When do you use the mirrors
and when do you look over your shoulder? Have pen and paper with
you and jot down what you are doing.
If it's not something you can get out and do there and then, like
a book on how to cheaply and easily move house, write down your list
and then leave it for an hour. Do something to occupy yourself for
that time, then return to the list and look at it with new eyes.
Have you included every step involved?
Don't leave a step out, thinking it's too simple or people
should work it out. It's tempting to go "Of course, everyone will
understand that you need to take the cap off to check the radiator."
It's best to assume that you will be explaining this to a person
that doesn't have a clue and so you will need to write down
Include a list of all the materials needed to complete
the task. Don't leave a single thing out. If they need to write
things down, put "You'll need a pen and pencil." If they are going
to have to make phone calls to research the best schools, write
"You'll need a phone book, a phone, pad and pencil" at the top of
Step Three: Take each step and write at least one
paragraph explaining how to do it.
First, consider exactly who you are aiming the book at. If
you've got a great C++ program that you want to share, you aren't
going to be explaining it to a person who's just bought a computer.
If your how-to book is about how to choose the right computer and
programs for an average home user, you aren't going to have
programmers buying the book.
By doing this, you'll establish whether you need to explain
every single aspect of a step or whether you can assume they
have some background knowledge.
Write each paragraph, making them as detailed as you can.
Keep the writing in short paragraphs of only a few sentences at a
time. This makes it easier for people to read and take in
information. Make sure the information is presented in order, so
the reader isn't confused with things like: "Put the onions in the
pan. Chop them up."
Write as though you are
verbally explaining it. Don't worry about trying to sound
serious or important. The reader needs to understand what you
are saying and the more casual you are, the better the chance
of that happening.
If there is a lot of technical information in your how-to, like
names of tools, create a appendix at the end of the book to
explain them all.
Four: Create a diagram to go with each step.
Some people learn better from pictures than from words.
Even if they don't, a simple diagram will enhance their
understanding. It doesn't have to be a brilliant piece of art.
The simpler the diagram is, the easier it will be to understand.
If you don't feel confident about drawing the diagram, find a
family member or friend who can do it for you. It will be worth the
effort because it will add a great deal to the book.
Step Five: Give the
instructions to someone you know
who cannot do the task involved.
Test your book and make sure it's easy to understand and
follow. Don't help the tester, just let them follow your
instructions and watch them. Note down anything they do wrong or
anything they seem confused about. Afterwards, ask them about
Based on what they did and said, re-write the relevant steps.
Step Six: Write an introduction to the
You need to explain why this skill or process is useful and
why your description will help the reader achieve it. This is
your chance to explain why you are writing this book and what
qualifications you have. You don't need a university degree. Writing
"I've been in business for myself for three years" in the
introduction to a book on how-to sell yourself is all the
qualification you need.
Step Seven: Design a cover for the book.
You can do this yourself. Make it simple and eyecatching.
Put the title and your name on the cover and then use a bold design
or colour choice to make it stand out. Perhaps one of your diagrams
will make a fantastic cover.
For the back cover, put a simple description of the
This book will
tell you how to water proof your bathroom. It includes a step
by step guide and a list of the tools you will need. You'll
find yourself able to do your own water proofing after reading
Step Eight: Publishing
You need to decide whether you are going to give the book away
or if you are going to sell it. If you are giving it away, you
can probably get away with putting it all together as a word
document and using an auto responder to send it to anyone who wants
For better production quality, I would suggest you convert it
to a PDF. There are some free or cheap PDF converters available
on the internet. You simply load the software then use the print
option in your word processor to convert the document. Put it on
your auto responder and you're away.
If it's any longer than five pages, I would suggest you zip
it. If you've got Win Zip, you simply open the document in Win
Zip and zip it. A good idea is to make it automatically unzip at
the other end, since you can't guarantee that your customer will
have Win Zip. Again, put it on the autoresponder and off you go.
If you want to sell it, you'll need to get an account to
accept credit cards. There are a number of providers on the
internet and most have programs that will actually guide you in
setting up a shop front to sell your product. If you've already got
such an account, then you'll easily add your file to your existing
shop front and you're away.
Your other option is to look into electronic or print
publishers to publish and sell your book for you. If you've only
got a small booklet, this probably isn't the right option for you
but if you've got a large work that covers a really important topic,
it could be worth your while to get someone else to do the printing
and selling work for you.
Follow these steps and at the end, you'll have a good, useful
tool for other people and a great tool for promoting yourself
and your business.