Anatomy of a Christian Self-Help Book
Hannah Lee Kidder at Self-publishingschool.com has done a thorough job explaining how to write a self-help book. The fact of the matter is writing a Christian self-help book is not much different. I don’t intend to be as thorough as Kidder, so her article is worth your time, but after writing dozens of these for and with my clients, I did want to take a stab at a no-bull, brass tacks, bare bones, down-and-dirty formula for writing a book from a biblical perspective that not only is faithful to Scripture, but connects with the readers God had in mind when He called you to write it in the first place.
First, let’s get one thing out of the way, no one should be ashamed of reading or writing a “self-help” book, or even a “Christian self-help” book. For some reason, many people have a problem with the genre. My guess is, for Christians, we have a problem with the term “self” help.
“We don’t help ourselves; God does.”
Let’s acknowledge that truth. The sovereign God of the universe is the only one who can help us. But, assuming he called you to write this self-help book, maybe he is intending to help someone through your book. If not, why bother?
The other thing people object to is the idea of needing help at all. But we were put on this earth to grow, and one great way to grow (as opposed to suffering) is by reading books with truth in them that you may not have known or known how to apply in your life.
If you’re on board with writing a Christian self-help book, here is how to do it.
First, pray. Align with God and see what you find yourself wanting to write about. For most people, it will be the lessons you learned the hard way. It will be what you wish someone had told you before you made all those mistakes. It will be how you healed, or grew, or changed, and how your readers can apply some of the same practices to get similar results.
Maybe you have struggled with a particular sin, and God set you free from it, though there were some concrete steps you took as part of that process. Great! Now you can write a book about that.
Next, think about the reader. Don’t think too much about you, but about who is going to read this. That way, you can say things in a way that connects your message to them. If you don’t, you will simply announce information and you will only tell how these things applied to you. Do lots of brainstorming about who this reader is. What are they going through? What are they afraid of? Why haven’t they changed yet? Just because someone struggles with the same sin as you doesn’t mean they are just like you in every way. Talk to people and find out what connects to them.
Then, craft a core statement that is transformational all on its own. I learned this from A.J. Harper and will never stop citing her, because it changed the way I wrote these types of books.
(Btw, If you want to know more about how to find your message and craft a core statement, comment below and say “FREE WEBINAR.” I’ll send you the Zoom Whiteboard webinar for free.)
After that, you need a reader promise. This one is simple (and it also came from Harper). “If you read this book and apply it, then you will…” There should be one for the book with lots of other benefits that are lesser rewards than the main promise.
Then write your book as though it was a Hero’s Journey for your reader. Just like the hero of an adventure movie, our reader accepts a call to adventure in the introduction, and then through the chapters faces many challenges, including one big one, after which she has an epiphany, learns the lessons (i.e. finds the treasure), and is reborn a new person, one that knows everything you have taught them and is applying the lessons.
Deliver the transformation you promise, and you’ve got a winner. Of course, you’ll want to write it well (an editor or co-writer can help), but you have the basics here.
If you’d like a deeper dive into this, I can think of two ways I could help you.
First, I’ve written a book and self-published it on Amazon. From Heart to Page: A Short Book on Writing Your Christian Book. Get it here, if you’d like it.
Finally, if you would like a partner, a co-writer, I’m happy to help you by working with you to write it and publish it. Just fill out the contact form here, and I’ll be in touch within 24 hours. God bless, and write your book!