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Getting Paid to Give Advice
by Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.
People all over the world search for books and
articles that promise a happier, more meaningful, more prosperous life. They
rarely buy just one self-help book. Instead, as one fan once told me, "There
might be just one sentence somewhere that will change my life. I can't stop
The good news is that the self-help market is
large, generous and growing. There are many doors open to writers. For example:
* Want to try out a new idea? Dozens of online
ezines are dedicated to self-help themes, especially prosperity and abundance.
Although most do not pay authors, you can showcase your writing all over the
* You can self-publish successfully in this
category, especially from your own website. Readers surf the Internet by topic,
such as "divorce" or "weight loss." You don't have to depend on an eye-catching
dust jacket to draw readers.
* Ideas can come from your own life experience.
Have you survived a bitter divorce? Discovered a new way to approach the first
year of marriage? Lived through your midlife crisis? What do you wish someone
had told you a long time ago?
My own book, Making the Big Move: How to
Transform Relocation into a Creative Life Transition, came directly from my
own lifetime of moving all over North America. I couldn't find a book that
explained the stresses and frustrations of moving, so I wrote my own.
Does self-help sound like the category you want
to target? Before you open a new file on the word processor, visualize your
buyers and readers. In the self-help world, you have to start marketing before
you begin a writing project.
Convince an agent or editor that readers really,
really want your book, and they're ready to pay right now. Your book will be
most likely to succeed if you can promise readers they will find a soul mate,
make lots of money or shed unwanted pounds. You'll attract even more interest if
you can promise benefits in twenty-one days or less -- with no
Identify experts who will recommend your book to
others. Self-help sells by word of mouth. My book, _Making the Big Move_,
appears on websites of real estate agents and moving companies. Managers will
share your book at staff meetings if you can demonstrate connections to
name-brand companies. Psychologists will look for therapist credentials.
Follow the trends. Right now books about coping
with adolescent girls are hot, but those authors began writing last year. "Dream
it and do it" prosperity books were hot last year but have all but disappeared
from the shelves.
Study your competition. Editors must believe
your book will stand out from the crowd. Research your topic on amazon.com.
Books that achieve the rank of "1000" or lower are best-sellers. You will need a
breakthrough idea to compete with them.
Not enough competition? Your challenge is even
greater, as I learned by writing about relocation stress. Some bookstores had no
idea how to shelve my book. One chain includes it with household reference books
on cooking and decorating.
Sell yourself as an expert. A Ph.D, first-hand
experience. and previous publications are ideal.
If you lack credentials, don't despair. Use your
proposal to demonstrate that you have access to experts who will grant you
interviews. College professors and therapists are easy to reach and most are
eager to share their expertise with writers, in return for a credit line.
You also need to study the major psychological
and sociological journals. You can identify articles related to your topic
through academic search engines, such as Proquest. University libraries and many
public libraries offer this search tool at no charge.
Use the genre writing style. People who read
self-help want to feel good about themselves. You have to be upbeat. People want
to hear what they can do -- not what they should avoid or not do. "Don't eat
sweets and get fat" becomes, "Gain energy and lose weight with fresh fruit."
Self-help readers like exercises, forms and
stories. For example, I wanted to warn readers that grief lingers for several
months after a move. Readers did not want scholarly references on griefwork,
although I had read them myself. Here's what I wrote:
"I did fine till Independence Day," said Ursula.
"Our old neighborhood always held a big picnic. The first year, I found myself
feeling really sad as July approached. I didnt realize why till the kids asked,
Will we have a big picnic this year? And then I realized I was grieving for
the friends and the fellowship wed always enjoyed."
Ursula may find herself feeling sad every Fourth
of July for many years to come. People who suffer a loss around a holiday tend
to associate the holiday with that loss, often for the rest of their lives.
Be ready to spread the word. Publishers like
authors who offer workshops, coaching, or consulting as their primary business.
Self-help authors tend to be in demand as guest speakers of professional groups.
You will be expected to share your ideas and sell books through your own
Self-help books tend to be sold by word of mouth
and often do better through websites than through traditional bookstores.
Authors need to plan for these marketing channels. You need to aggressively
manage your website and your listing with the online bookstores.
Bottom line: The self-help world offers a
hospitable, profitable outlet for productive writers who are fascinated with the
way people work and live. If you enjoy translating scientific psychology into
language and stories that can change people's lives, you can enjoy a long and
© Copyright 2002, Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.
Check out Cathy Goodwins web site http://www.movinglady.com.