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Writing Successful Self-Help and How-To Books (Wiley Books for Writers Series) Paperback – February 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0471037392 ISBN-10: 0471037397 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Wiley Books for Writers Series
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (February 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471037397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471037392
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #503,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jean Marie Stine has created perhaps the ultimate how-to book: Writing Successful Self-Help and How-To Books. Among the many editorial positions Stine has held in her 15 years as an editor (and sometimes ghostwriter) of self-help and how-to books is editor in chief at the esteemed self-help publisher Jeremy P. Tarcher. She edited more than 50 self-help titles, including Women Who Love Too Much and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. If an author's qualifications, as Stine says in her book, are of utmost importance for a book's credibility, she is supremely qualified to write such a book.

Writing Successful Self-Help and How-To Books is less about writing than about every other element that goes into making a successful self-help/how-to book. Since "publishers," as Stine says here, "buy 90 percent of their books based on proposals," she addresses in detail every element of the book proposal, from overview ("mak[e] your book sound like a must-have") and analysis of the competition to sample chapter and annotated table of contents. Her insider information on everything from title creation--"the right title alone," she confides, "can make your book a success"--to the importance of including interactive elements such as checklists, quizzes, and exercises is invaluable. Still, for the beginning writer--and Stine seems to assume that the reader of this book is an expert in a field other than writing--there is surprising little, given the book's title, about the writing process itself. --Jane Steinberg

Review

With Jean Marie Stine's Writing Successful Self-Help And How-To Books, aspiring authors can learn how to write effective self-help and how-to books with the aid of a guide which provides an insider's view to the writing process. From producing a salable proposal to negotiating permissions, preparing a manuscript, and assessing a market, this reference book provides an editor's view of what works - and what doesn't. -- Midwest Book Review

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Customer Reviews

Recommended for anyone who is writing a how-to or self-help book.
Tony Levelle
Her writing is very easy to read and understand and her "voice" in the book is very encouraging and supportive.
Kelly
I learned so much from this book, from how to write a proposal to how to find an agent.
Regina Coxkelly

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By William May on April 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is one book that I not only read but referred back to again and again. I have read this book over three or four times; I have marked up paragraphs and highlighted important passages. This book really crystallized my planning for a book I had in mind. In chapter 4: the author's five ways of structuring a How-to book gave me an idea for the overall structure (I chose method 4 the "component-based book"). Her extensive and helpful discussion of titles and subtitles and how and why to choose them (chapter 3) lead me to spend a great deal of time in considering this critical book element. Finally, the chapters about proposal writing for a How-To book were simply great. Several other books discuss proposals and give examples, but many are for fiction proposals which aren't close to what I was trying to do. The narrowing of focus to just How-To/Self-Help proposals was just what I needed. Highly recommended.
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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful By TOL on January 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
I should begin by saying that this book does contain some useful information. However, I have three main gripes with the presentation:
1. The author repeats herself over and over again from one sub-chapter to the next. For every five pages of writing, there's one page of information that has been stated in 5 different ways. This makes for a very boring and often frustrating read.
2. The book attempts to capitalize on the specific genre of 'Self-Help & How-To' books. However, the advice is not at all specific to this genre. This is the same advice that is given in many other, and much more complete, nonfiction author guides that are available in the same price range as this book. The author attempts to make specific references to the 'Self-Help & How-To' markets. But one gets the impression that these references are thrown in just to keep the content somewhat true to the title - which one quickly comes to believe is a front to sell this book to a specialized target market. In reality, this book does very little to help the 'Self-Help & How-To' author specifically.
3. Much of the book focuses on how to write a book proposal. However, there are no full examples of book proposals to be found! At best, we get disconnected snipets taken from proposals which may or may not even be real because most come without references. So, this becomes a very bad 'How-To' book on how to write 'How-To' books. With that said, one has to question the validity of her advice since her own 'How-To' book is really not very good.
In short, this is a condensed and content-lacking version of the more complete books on this subject by authors such as Snell, Herman, Lyon, etc.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Suzan St Maur on March 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm always a bit wary when I read a book on the same topic as one of my own, but in this case - especially - I was delighted to see that Jean Marie shares many of my own beliefs about structuring non-fiction and getting it published. Along with some similarities also there are many differences between our two books, which only goes to show that there is always room for another expert to share his or her experience and knowledge with new authors. An excellent guide and well worth buying.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Jean Marie Stine's book seemed very lazily thrown together. There were no samples of query letters, outlines, or book proposals included! There were only 3 pages discussing how to submit to an agent or publisher. I'm going to chuck this book and go back to "How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query and Cover Letters" by John Wood. There were no big big secrets revealed in Stine's book--the only good news is that it made me realize I already know what I have to do to publish my own self-help book, and I just have to go do it!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Nicky Vanvalkenburgh on May 28, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is unique in it that specifically addresses the writer of self-help or how-to-books. It's perfect for psychologists, motivational writers, or anyone who wants to write about self-improvement. This is a specialized market, and Stine's stylistic guidelines and suggestions are excellent for this target market.

Interestingly, Stine encourages writers to develop a "sales pitch" for their book, and write a benefit-driven book. Your readers want to know "what's in it for me?" Stine also encourages writers to make promises to the reader-- by listing specific outcomes or benefits that will result from reading and applying the advice in your book. That's excellent advice! Most of us have read a self-help book that failed to present a succinct strategy or plan-- and came across more like an encyclopedia or a personal journal entry. Benefits are what readers crave, Stine says, and keeps them reading until the very last page.

At the same time, Stine warns against over promising and under delivering. She suggests that you keep a running list of your promises, intended outcomes or benefits, and be sure to delete anything that isn't addressed in your book.

Some of the negative reviews posted on Amazon about Stine's book are a reflection of how frustrating and difficult it is to write a good self-help book. Even if you have a good idea for a self-help book, it is a challenge to develop and fine-tune your ideas so that you can present it in an understandable, concise yet creative way that catches your reader's attention. As a writer, I must admit that I love those times when someone asks me a question, and all of a sudden, it all comes together-- and it's a brilliant concept that could be developed into an article, chapter or book.
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