How to Write a “How To” Book By Susan Bilheimer

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Do you know that what you know can make you money? Many of the top-selling books on the market today are “How To” books. Our society devours instructional manuals about everything from relationships to dieting to crafts and cars! The best news is that e-books, which involve little-to-no cost to publish, are a prime vehicle for selling “How To” information.

Writing a “How To” book is easy, if you divide the whole into a number of parts … and work on each one at a time.

1. Pick a subject
What do you know that others don’t? You’d be surprised how many things you know how to do that others would love to learn. For instance, I recently won a Lemon Law suit against a major automobile manufacturer. Afterwards, I wrote a “How To” article about my experience for a national magazine! Surprisingly, many people haven’t got a clue about how to file such a suit, what defects are covered, and how to get help. I’m now planning an e-book on this topic.

Business “How To” books are usually top sellers. However, a lack of business acumen shouldn’t stop you. Browse www.booklocker.com and www.amazon.com to see successful “How To” books on every conceivable subject. People don’t just want to make money-they also want to learn how to accomplish goals and become proficient at hobbies.

One consistent best-seller on Booklocker.com is How to Make & Market Gel Candles That Sell Like Wildfire by Lynn A. Thomas. This is a perfect example of a successful “How To” e-book on making money through crafts.

Make a list of five things you know how to do. Remember, even if there are experts on the subject, plenty of others don’t know where to begin. Here are some examples:

Animal training, such as teaching tricks or even potty-training your cat Crafts, such as needlepoint, crochet, knitting Childcare, such as raising five children and staying sane, vacationing with kids Thrift shop buying Selling old stuff on consignment or holding a yard sale successfully Arts, such as painting, collage, playing an instrument, writing when you don’t even have an hour a day, selling your paintings online

You get the idea.

Look at the some non-fiction best seller lists to see what’s hot in the how-to genre these days. See:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/new-for-you/top-sellers/-/books/
http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/bestseller/index.html

After creating your list, try to find a niche. For instance, my e-book, How to Become a Technical Writer, is geared to those who have not yet had their first job in the field, after research uncovered that no existing books targeted this market.

2. Write an outline
Writing an outline is essential, but the outline is not set in stone. Getting your ideas on paper will spur you to write the book. It’s just filling in the blanks. Although I was overwhelmed about where to begin on the subject of “breaking into technical writing,” noting the various components (Categories of technical writing, tools you will need, etc.), gave me a road map.

3. Research your subject
You will, of course, want to locate facts and figures about your “How To” book subject. One of the most valuable aspects of e-books is that they allow the reader to link directly to the Internet from the text. So, if you are writing a “How To” book about paper airplanes, you will want to include links to web sites on subjects such as the history of paper airplanes, relationships to real airplanes, paper airplane contests and records, and other books. The more resources you give your readers, in addition to your own knowledge, the more satisfied they will be.

4. Write the book
You don’t have to write the book from start to finish, in that order. That is the bliss of “How To” books. You already know the ending! In fact, I often found myself creating new chapters as I went along. To begin, pick the easiest chapter to write from your outline. Remember, you already know this information, and are simply passing your knowledge on to others. You don’t have to create it out of thin air!

I want to make an additional comment about publishing your “How To” book in e-book format, if not exclusively, then in addition to a print version. You can easily update and edit an e-book. And, you should update annually. I cannot think of a subject that will not require the addition or deletion of information annually (e.g., a new web site containing great information, a link that no longer works, etc.). This means that some people may actually buy your book again, if the new information is valuable enough!

The best way to start writing your first “How To” book is to get started now. So, go ahead and use the information you know to help others, while enhancing your writing career!

Susan Bilheimer’s best-selling ebook, How to Become a Technical Writer, has been newly revised for 2003. Her article on how to win a Lemon Law case appeared in the November issue of AMI Auto World magazine. Currently, she is working on a “How To” meditation book for compulsive overeaters. Feel free to email Susan with questions at: sbilheimer@techwritingmkt.com.