My name is John DeSimone and I’m a self-help book ghostwriter. I work with experts in their fields to write books that promote good health, encourage growth, solve problems, and bring hope.
Today’s self-help market is booming because Americans believe happiness and personal improvement are attainable. That’s why the most popular self-help books either solve a problem or promote personal growth—spiritual, business, financial, emotional, or physical.
People are constantly searching for answers to their everyday issues and concerns. They want to know what to do about their addictions, their out-of-control child, and with their money. Popular self-help books cover every subject from how to prepare for retirement to how to achieve personal success.
If you are considering writing a self-help book it’s vital you work with someone who understands the process.
Experience matters when writing a self-help book that will build your business or enlarge your speaking platform. In my years of writing self-help books, I’ve uncovered the common features included in many of the best books on the market.
The best self-help books are accessible to the average reader as if readers were having a private conversation with the author
At Web Converting Inc., in Dallas, Texas, every Thursday afternoon around four the plant manager has the workers meet in the lunchroom to read a chapter of a book together. Machinists and production workers then discuss their reading and mull it over.
They could be talking about Max De Pree’s Leadership is an Art, and his unique take on leadership—how to take personal responsibility by influencing decision making, on meaningful work, or the benefits of working in outstanding groups as opposed to being an outstanding individual.
Heady ideas for men on the production line, but the concepts they discuss are clear yet still thought provoking. Not too difficult to understand but challenging to implement.
An accessible book presents the material in a way that challenges perceptions, ideas, practices, and habits and shows the reader how to step across the line to change.
Your book can be as technical and proprietary as it needs to be, but the industry jargon and underlying concepts need clarifying and illustrating.
In Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline, he presents specialized terms for managers to use: “action science,” “learning organization,” and “localness” are a few. Even though Senge’s book is dense reading (he’s an MIT researcher), his ability to explain how these concepts relate to everyday business operations makes it accessible.
I work through all of these issues with every author to ensure that you have the most effective book possible.
The tone and style is appropriate to the subject matter and the audience
Businesspeople who are risking significant money feel more comfortable with a deliberate tone. Teens crave a style that engages their interests. People suffering from depression need an empathetic and understanding tone.
In one study of the effectiveness of self-help books dealing with depression published in Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy, the article’s authors discovered the best books had certain core elements. These elements allowed the therapist authors “to establish, develop and maintain therapeutic relationships with readers.”
They specifically cited empathy, warmth, genuineness, negotiation of goals, and a collaborative framework that allow readers to believe they can participate in their own healing. This is tone.
Tone deals with attitude toward your subject and your readers—serious, humorous, light, heavy, empathic, judgmental, etc.
Style is the combination of word choices, sentence length, and other variables that give a work its unique character.
I’ll provide samples and we’ll discuss these issues from the start so you’ll speak authoritatively to your target audience.
Top sellers are all founded on credible research or breakthroughs
People are looking for inspiration, for a way to change, for ways to live a better life. A drive for happiness is built into the American psyche. They want tangible ways to grow, to solve problems, to overcome obstacles.
Your expertise, a combination of education, research, and experience, is the currency you’ll need to capture reader’s attention to help them along the path to happiness or to achieve their goals.
Donald Burr of People Express Airlines has a book he carries around with him, one he’s read many times. It’s The Greatest Thing in the World written by a 19th-century Scottish clergyman, Henry Drummond. “It’s from a sermon he gave about Corinthians and how the greatest thing in the world is love…to me it’s the best management book I’ve ever read…Leadership requires care, compassion, and skill…”
It’s his favorite management book because the author’s message is clear, the information is accurate, and the application is practical.
Your book can be motivational, instructional, or transformative but it has to take the reader to a new level of understanding through lessons learned, through research, or a combination of both.
A well-documented book, either through interviews or research, will establish your credibility to a wider audience.
I’ll walk you through the various methods of documenting your ideas that are appropriate to your subject.
They are organized in a way that is easy to follow but thoroughly covers the topic
Each chapter is organized under heads and subheads that are easy to follow.
Each chapter centers on a practical theory or skill that allows for immediate takeaway.
In John Gray’s Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, the author progresses through a step-by-step process for relationship building, communication, and understanding, leading readers to a set of solutions for common marital problems. This logical process and the practical skills he teaches are at the heart of the book’s success.
I develop extensive outlines for my client’s that provide a clear map of where we’re going. Each chapter has its structure that contributes to the whole. This creates an organized product from the beginning.
They are story driven
People are looking for hope, for healing, and for optimal health. Stories stay in the mind and bring theory to life. Stories clarify problems, reinforce solutions, and engage readers’ attention.
Scott Peck in his best-selling Road Less Traveled makes extensive use of case studies to illustrate his principals of personal growth. The well-organized and engaging book spent eight years on the NY Times Best Seller list.
I dig for appropriate stories or case studies to weave into my authors’ narratives.
Winning books contain practical examples, exercises, and solutions
Successful books contain lessons learned and practical solutions in some form, either in an appendix or in chapter-end summaries.
Take away can be boiled down to summaries, exercises, or a set of prescriptive solutions.
Readers expect a book that delivers on its promises
The very title of a book is a promise. So are chapter headings. So is the back cover copy. Successful books strike at the heart of an identifiable problem or they offer a clear path for personal growth. They present practical solutions that readers can relate to and ones that improve their lives. That’s why the genre is called self-help.
Books that spend multiple years on the best-seller lists or stay in print for forty to fifty years deliver on their promises.
Here’s what you need to know: Successful self-help books have common elements
- They offer practical solutions to solve problems or to promote personal growth.
- They make specialized jargon and concepts understandable.
- They are written in an appropriate tone and style.
- They are backed up by credible research or experience.
- They have a step-by-step organization that builds on a unified theme.
- They use stories as a teaching tool.
- They deliver on their promises.
Don’t take my word for any of this. Just consider some of the most successful self-help books in history
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie was first published in 1936. It’s still in print. The book is based on his seminar, which is still sold today. Everyone who sees that book on the shelf knows exactly what they’re buying—personal growth. Warren Buffett took the course when he was twenty and still has the diploma on his office wall.
Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is the granddaddy of all motivational books. The title tells us its theme—personal growth. Many a successful person started with this one book. Its principals went beyond gaining wealth to how to achieve personal success. It sold twenty million copies before the author died in 1970. Pastors, boxers, businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, and professionals from every walk of life have implemented Hill’s principals to great success. Business Week ranked it the sixth-best selling business book seventy years after it was published.
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray has sold over fifty million copies. It was rated the best-selling nonfiction book of the 1990s. Its popularity is attributed to the fact he identified the basic gender conflict regarding how each marriage partner views giving and receiving love. This common issue, when misunderstood, hindered couples from achieving marital happiness. He taught how to overcome communication obstacles and to stay in love. As a resul, he has built a seminar and literature empire in the wake of this one book.
A successful self-help book can serve as a lead into your speaking or business
These books were successful because they captured the zeitgeist of the times. These books fed the authors speaking and lecture business. Dale Carnegie Training still operates today. Napoleon Hill spent his time traveling and lecturing. John Gray hosted TV specials and his seminars were broadcast over cable TV.
I use a defined Self-Help Writing Process guarantees results
My six-step process takes you from start to finish in seven months.
Structure and Themes
This block of time together is critical to developing a working outline of the book. The book’s theme and structure will be developed, and the same will be done for each chapter.
Each chapter will fit into the whole that will develop the theme of the book.
Every good book has an identifiable theme that runs through the entire work like a taught rope. If it’s not explicit on every page, it’s alluded to in some way.
But it’s never done in a merely repetitive way. Needless repetition is the death of any book. Rather, the theme is developed to give the reader the maximum benefit of your knowledge and experience.
Theme plays a vital role in conceptualizing your book and bringing it to life as a whole. Every good self-help book that’s stood the test of time can be boiled down to an over-arching theme. It becomes part of the takeaway readers remember when they turn that last page and set the book down.
Consider Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Written in 1959, it’s still in print. Its major theme is purposeful living. I read it so many years ago, but it is still an unforgettable inspiration in my life.
I’ve already mentioned this book, but its theme and message so affected my life, I have to note it here. John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus has such a compelling theme that romantic relationships need to be developed. His advice was so practical and insightful it had a significant affect on countless marriages. I know it did on mine.
John Maxwell’s Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success. This is one of Maxwell’s all-time greats. Its theme of developing the mindset of success has been a great influence to his legions of readers.
Books with strong thematic development resonate with readers over time.
Your book will have a design that develops the theme that will deliver on its promises.
Revising and Copy Editing
At last, you will receive a completed manuscript. You will read it one more time in its entirety, make comments on it, and then send it back.
After I’ve made the last round of revisions, I will send it to a copyeditor. I work with a professional copyeditor to smooth out the prose and to proofread the text. A pair of fresh eyes will tighten it and give it the final polish. That’s what makes it publication ready.
After the book is copyedited, I make corrections and send it back to you for a final review.
My clients are happy because I deliver a book they can be proud of, one that demands to be read.
Your book will have the professional polish that will make it stand out.
Listening and Learning
This is where I’m learning about your ideas. During this month together, we talk through your book. I record every session and make a transcript that lays the foundation for the narrative. We’ll spend six to eight hours a week together over the phone or in person.
At this stage, your primary research will have already been completed. I’ll assist you in organizing sources, citations, and other materials that might be used in writing the narrative.
By recording sessions, I can focus on helping you clarify and develop your ideas as you recount the incidents and facts that will become the narrative of your book.
If you’ve written articles that speak to the topic we’re working on, I’ll read them during this time.
I also listen for your energy, your vocabulary, and the phrases you favor. This all goes into creating your voice on the page. (I have more to say about voice in Phase 2.)
There will be a lot of questions, a lot of back and forth. A good book is often a matter of discovery as we clarify your ideas and the message of the book.
Your book will be given the care and attention to detail that it deserves.
Drafting and Revising
Your book will now come to you in chapters. Here is where you will spend time reading it, making notes on the manuscript, and returning the pages for my revision.
One concern I often hear about using a ghostwriter is “Will it sound like me?” Hopefully, it won’t, at least not the spoken you. Most of us have a spoken voice that differs from our writing voice. If you’ve never written a book before, then a written voice needs to be developed.
What sounds interesting in speech typically won’t sound good on paper, so there has to be some shaping of the words, the ideas, the sentences to establish a voice that’s authentic to you. This is done through courses of revision.
When we’re done it won’t be my voice, neither will it be the spoken you, rather the literary you. One that is true to your energy and vocabulary and personality.
Peter Petre did this with Alan Greenspan’s The Age of Turbulence. If you’ve ever heard the former Fed Chief speak he’s often obtuse. His language is usually riddled with financial jargon that sounds foreign to the average listener.
Petre took his ideas and words and shaped them into extremely readable prose. You can hear Greenspan’s voice for certain, but you can understand clearly what he means even when he’s speaking about the most complex economic mechanisms.
Voice is a complex nuance to any written work, and I work hard to find yours. It’s a combination of sentence length, vocabulary, emotion, personality, and magic. You’ll see.
Your book will have the voice and tone you envisioned
Working with an experienced self-help book ghostwriter will get you the results you want.
While the book is in copyediting, I’ll help you sift through the publishing options. If you elect to self-publish I will assist you in your selection. There are so many options today from POD to ebooks.
Traditional Publishing Option
If you seek to publish using a traditional publisher you will need a book proposal, which is mandatory to submit to a literary agent.
I have several literary agents I work with who will look at my work. We’ll try them first before we move onto others.
Most times I begin sending out sample chapters to agents early in the process to gauge interest. We could have an agent for your project before the book is completed.
Your book will get noticed by the people you want it to
Traditional Publication Package Includes
- Completed book of approximately 200 pages
- Fully copyedited and proofread text
- Book proposal and query letter
- Assistance in finding a literary agent
- Personal guarantee you will have the book you’ve always dreamed of writing
Your story deserves the care and attention I will give it. I don’t rush it. I don’t put words in your mouth. I help you understand and articulate what you already know.