There are so many different decisions that need to be made when writing a self-help book. The best way to make these decisions is to already have your ideal reader in your mind and heart, to know who your reader is and why the book matters to them. Every author needs a tool to help make important decisions that can tailor their book to a very specific reader. 

Today, I want to share a secret with you that I hope will inspire how you develop the self-help book you were born to write.   

Let’s meet your ideal reader.

What Is an Ideal Reader? 

An ideal reader is a representation of the person who picks up your book when it hits the shelf. This person not only loves every word you’ve written, but also gets the most benefit from reading what you wrote. 

Your ideal reader is a specific type of person. For example, I am a literary fiction reader, so I might be your ideal reader if you want to write the next great American novel. But it is important to note that your ideal reader will also not be everyone. I’m not, for example, a science fiction reader. And if you are writing the next Game of Thrones, I’m not the ideal reader for you. 

But I bet, if you walk through this process with me, you’ll see you actually already know who your ideal reader is and how they can help you write a self-help book.

Let’s get started!

1. Choose Someone You Know and Love 

First, I recommend you pick someone you already know and love to be the representation of your ideal reader. 

And that love part is especially important. Emotion is what keeps us going on any big journey, especially the book journey. The passion you have for helping or entertaining this particular person is a wonderful wellspring of energy and a reminder to get back to that seat at your computer and write.

So ask yourself, “Who in your life would benefit from reading your book?” They might be a family member, a colleague, or a client. 

For example, if you are writing a self-help book about a dietary protocol that assists in the healing of different diseases through food, you may have a friend struggling with an ailment who you would love to be able to educate. This person would be a great candidate to represent your ideal reader. Personally, when I was writing The Book You Were Born to Write, I chose a friend of mine who has amazing gifts to share with the world but hadn’t yet written a book. Every time I had to make an important decision during the writing process, I used what I knew about my friend to guide me. It was really helpful.

2. What Does Your Ideal Reader Need to Know? 

After you’ve chosen a person to represent your ideal reader, next you want to map out or write an outline for your book. And as you do, you should keep your ideal reader at the front of your mind. In fact, they should go before you at every step. 

For example, before start writing your self-help book, ask yourself, “What is the first thing this person would need to know or what would be an exciting opening scene that would really capture this person’s attention?” Make a note of the answer. That is probably chapter one. 

Then ask, “What will this reader want to read next?” Chapter two. Next, move on to “What would they need to know next?” That’s chapter three! And “After they know that piece, what is the next thing they need to know?” Four. Finally, “What do they need to know in order to get the benefit of this book at the end?” And so on. That’s it!

The answers to these questions often become chapters or segments of your book. This strategy of creating a basic outline for the book makes something that is usually very hard for aspiring authors easy. 

3. Design Writing as if Talking to a Reader

Finally, it’s time to write. Again, your ideal reader is very important for this step in the process because you should write your book as if you are having a conversation with them. 

Let’s pretend, for example, you had your ideal reader’s captive attention for a week and, during this time, you wanted to share your expertise with them. How would you do that? What would you say? Go! And then talk on the page. As you write, imagine yourself simply talking to this person who you already know and love and are sure will get a lot out of your book. 

This writing strategy changes the game. You’re no longer trying to speak to this massive audience that has no face, you’re no longer afraid of how big this thing might be, because your writing becomes just a way to have a conversation with this one person who you love.

I hope this has been helpful to understanding how to choose an ideal reader.

Remember, first choose someone you know and you love. Then, ask yourself what they need to know first, second, and third. And, finally, write your self-help book as if they’re sitting in a room with you and you’re telling them the information.

If you need any more help writing a self-help book, we are here for you. Our life-long editors would love to help you understand what your next best step will be on your book writing journey.


Kelly Notaras is the founder of kn literary arts and the author of THE BOOK YOU WERE BORN TO WRITE: Everything You Need to (Finally) Get Your Wisdom Onto the Page and Into the World, published by Hay House. An editor for 20 years, she’s worked at HarperCollins, Penguin, Hyperion and Sounds True. She speaks regularly at the Hay House Writer’s Workshops and offers consultation by appointment. Find out more about how she can help you with your book.