Nancy Peske 2015 March
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March 2015


In my YouTube video on structuring a self-help book, I described the six parts of a self-help book. When you divide those parts into chapters, you may have one or more chapters per part. However, you might find that one of those parts, such as the action plan, just needs to be a section of a chapter. (When that’s the case, you probably have exercises scattered throughout the book.)

Here’s a handy guide to remembering the way these six parts are commonly broken into chapters in a self-help book:

Self-Help Book Contents

 

Introduction: How I Came to Write This Book and Do the Research, And How It’s Organized

 

Chapter 1: The Urgent Problem (Don’t Worry—You’ll Solve It!)

 

Chapter 2: How You Came to Have This Problem (The History of Your Woes)

 

Chapter 3: What You Need to Know Before Tackling Your Urgent Problem (Trust Me, It’s Important!)

 

Chapter 4: More Stuff You Have to Know Before Taking Action to Solve the Problem (No, You’re Not Done Yet)

 

Chapter 5: Even More Stuff You Have to Know Before Taking Action (Be Patient—Each of These Chapters IS Necessary!)

 

Chapter 6: The Action Plan (What You’re Going to Have to Do)

 

Chapter 7: The Action Plan, More Details (It’s More Complicated Than You Thought, So We Need Another Chapter)

 

Chapter 8: The Action Plan in Action (What It Looks Like, With Lots of Anecdotes So I’m Sure You TRULY Get These Ideas)

 

Chapter 9: Troubleshooting When Problems Arise (Those Special Times When You’re Stressed Out or Things Get Complicated)

 

Chapter 10: Expanding Outward (Maintaining Your New Habits, A Pep Talk to Keep You Going, And How to Connect with Others Who Support Your New Habits and Deal With People Who Don’t)

 

Resources, Acknowledgements, Appendix, And All That

 

Of course, you don’t have to have ten chapters. You might have six, or twelve, or twenty-three. What’s most important is that the overall structure supports the reader’s journey from identifying the problem (and being emotionally engaged by your book!) to feeling empowered to create new habits, sustain them, and affect the world in a positive way. Now, that last piece may sound lofty, but don’t all of us want to improve some aspect of our lives, not just to alleviate discomfort or embarrassment, or make more money or have better relationships, but to expand on our greater joy and confidence by inspiring people around us, attracting new clients and friends and partners, and improving how things work in our families, workplaces, and communities? Increasingly, I’m finding my clients are putting more consideration into what goes into this last part. We’re all exquisitely aware of how much the world is changing, and how strongly we want to affect it positively. I encourage those of you who are writing self-help to put some thought to what would be in that fifth part of your self-help book.

 

"Oh no! I have an URGENT PROBLEM I need to solve! Where is the perfect self-help book for me?"

“Oh no! I have an URGENT PROBLEM I need to solve! Where is the perfect self-help book for me?”

The sixth part, “the future,” is your opportunity to help the reader connect with your work, your future advice, and other resources. It can include the author biography page with your contact information and resources. This is also the place where appendices (typically, charts and lists) go, and where acknowledgments typically go. (Sometimes, they’re in the front, but do you really want to hear all the “thanks to so-and-so”s before YOU read a book? Probably not. Stick it in the back of the book if you can.) You’d also add an index here if your book needs an index. But for pitching a book, you just need to list what’s in the sixth part; you don’t have to include it. I definitely urge you NOT to include acknowledgments in a book proposal–and don’t put in a dedication, either. Those are final touches for when the book has been written and edited.

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Self-help book structure by chapter

An example of chapters that fit into the typical six-part structure for a self-help book

An example of chapters that fit into the typical six-part structure for a self-help book

How can life go from perfect to insane in a matter of seconds? We all know how the loss of a loved one can turn your life around, but what happens when it’s YOU who gets turned around and you find yourself living a nightmare? That’s exactly what happened to Karin Volo, who she shares her horrific tale in her new inspirational memoir 1,352 Days: A Journey from Jail to Joy. I had the pleasure of working with Karin on turning her harrowing story into a memoir that will inspire, educate, and uplift readers–a goal I know many of you have. I hope you will read her book: You can access the first chapter of Karin’s journey for free here:  volo.ontraport.net/t?orid=11608&opid=4

When I first heard Karin Volo’s story, I was shocked—unjustly incarcerated for almost four years while her young daughters were growing up without her, raised by her boyfriend and family thousands of miles away, overseas?! It all began with signing some papers for her husband when she was nine months pregnant–just a formality, she thought–and then, years later, a tap on her shoulders as she was about to fly home from a John Assaraf workshop she’d just attended in California. What followed was incarceration for what would be 1352 days as she fought for her freedom.

I knew Karin had an amazing hook when she first talked to me. She explained that rather than despair during this time of uncertainty, she treated the experience as a spiritual bootcamp and did all those self-help exercises we mean to do when we read the book–exercises designed to help us let go of our anger, own our choices, and co-create with Spirit a new reality. I was mesmerized as she told me about working A Course in Miracles, using the edge of a piece of silverware as her mirror to recite her affirmations! And when I heard she held on to no anger or regrets after being incarcerated for nearly four years, I knew I wanted to help her get her story on the page. 1,352 Days truly is Orange Is the New Black with a spiritual, inspirational twist! I’m not surprised she has collected endorsements from inspirational authors Colette Baron-Reid, Carmen Harra, Jacquelyn Aldana, Marcy Shimoff, and Peggy McColl! And here’s the most inspiring part of Karin’s story: Karin is donating her profits from the book to Not for Sale, a not-for-profit organization for helping people escape the slavery of human trafficking. 

There are many lessons you can draw from Karin’s story of jail to joy, told in her page-turning memoir 1,352 Days. One of those lessons is to take control of the power of your mind to envision something better for yourself starting in this very moment. Karin used visualizations, affirmations, and taking care of her body’s needs to keep her spirits up. (If you think you have a hard time getting exercise, sunshine, quality food, and opportunities for self-care, imagine trying to do it when in a county jail with rule after rule designed to take away your freedoms).

Honestly, Karin’s story is so compelling that I must urge any of you who are looking to write an inspirational memoir, or to write a self-help book and create an author platform around your story of survival and triumph over hardship, to read her book. Do something good for yourself and help a great cause. Enjoy a free sample of 1,352 Days NOW! volo.ontraport.net/t?orid=11608&opid=4

 

Inspirational memoir 1,352 Days is like Orange Is the New Black with a spiritual, inspirational twist.

Inspirational memoir 1,352 Days is like Orange Is the New Black with a spiritual, inspirational twist.