Great Advice on Becoming a How-To Writer

How to Write and Sell

How to Write & Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit by Robert W. Bly

Here are a few of the notes I took while reading this book . . .

A how-to writer is a teacher in print. However, instead of teaching in a classroom, the how-to wroter does most of his teaching in written format.

I’m a teacher, this could be right up my alley.

4 Ways of Learning

The four basic learning modalities are:reading (books, e-books); listening (audio CDs, downloadable MP3 files, podcasts): watching (DVDs, TV programs, online video); and doing, also called “experiential learning” (workshops, seminars, courses).

By publishing in different media addressing all four of the major learning modalities, you can reach the broadest audience possible.

How Many Topics Should You Cover?

Three niches seems to be the most you want to tackle, at least according to the author of this book. In my blog, I cover teaching, hip-hop, reading, writing, skateboarding, comics, deejaying, and running. Clearly I have more than one area of expertise that I could write about. Not all of them would work in the how-to realm. Maybe I can trim it down to three.

Niche Size?

Your niche must ideally have 100,00 people in it to be profitable. . . it is a realistic goal to sell to 5 percent of your total market.

Doing the math, to sell 5,000 books at that rate, you would need an audience of 100,000 people.

The 2X Rule

The 2X rules says you should gather approximately twice as much research material as you think you will need to write the peace. You can [then] be selective and use only the research that best supports and illustrates your points.

Organizing Your Research

Bly suggests organizing your digital files in a logical way. That could be folders within folders, but basically keeping everything in place.

If you plan to print out your material, he suggests “typing the file name in the upper-left corner of page one. That way, when you have a hard copy in your hand, you always know the file name and can quickly retrieve it from your hard drive with the file search feature.

Cite Your Research as You Go

Also, always indicate on the file the date the content was created and, if taken from an outside source, details on the source. Without theses attribution details readily available, you may not be able to use the material.

Back-Up Every 24 Hours

Back up your entire hard drive to a mirror device (a hard drive of duplicate configuration) every 24 hours.

You can set your computer to do this automatically.

Give Clear Instructions

Experienced how-to writers strive to write clear instructions with sufficient details to enable the reader ti perform the function or complete the task. 

8 Steps To Getting Your Book Published

Bly suggests following this route instead of writing the book out beforehand. Publishers of non-fiction often want to see a proposal rather than a finished book. It saves both of you time, after all.

So here is his proven method. You might want to read this book to get all the details for each of these steps.

  1. Come up with a good idea
  2. Evaluate your idea critically
  3. Create the outline
  4. Write your book proposal
  5. Get an agent
  6. Send your proposal to publishers
  7. Negotiate your contract
  8. Write and deliver the manuscript

Some of the advice in this book seems dated, which is strange considering it is less than ten years old. His pricing guides, for example, seems a bit off considering that e-books have fallen in price since 2010. However, there is a companion website available to you if you purchase the book. And I am sure it will offer a more up-to-date picture of the how-to-market today.

My List of 2016 Reads – Every book I read over the course of the year is here!