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  • Cashing In by Writing How-tos

    If you enjoy explaining how something is done step by step, you may just have an saleable article or book idea. How-to articles and books are favorites at many magazine and book publishers. And the range of topics is practically endless. Think about it for a minute. Almost anything that you have had some experience in doing has potential. For example, can you explain how to install a hardwood floor, make paper toys, choose good doctors, invest money, buy businesses, or start a relationship? Of course, a subject such as how to make those sit-ups more effective might be a great magazine article. On the other hand, a subject such as how to make wooden toys might be effective as a book.

    Okay, let's say that you're interested in writing a how-to. Choose something that not only interests you, but something that you would enjoy explaining to others. Perhaps it is something that a lot of people ask about. Since you've done that many times, you are in an excellent position to explain that to a wider audience of beginners or even experts on that very subject!

    Once you've decided on a subject, brainstorm titles. Using the words "how to" is a good idea, but you may wish to consider numbers in your title, such as "Five Great Ways to Amuse a Toddler."

    If you're writing an article, remember to include a small introduction and perhaps a list of tools. Then write out the steps, beginning with the first. Always assume that your beginner audience knows nothing about your subject. Try to visualize that audience performing the task(s) that you are telling them how to do. Suppose that they have just completed the first step. What should the results look like and what should be done next? Sometimes your subject may lend itself to drawings or visuals accompanying each step. Doing this will help your readers to compare their results with yours.

    After listing and explaining all of the steps, remember to include a final paragraph. Before submitting it to an editor, ask someone you know to "test" your article by following each of the steps. Pay attention to questions and concerns and address those before submitting your article.

    But suppose that your subject is more involved? In that case, you should consider writing a book. Draw up your book's outline by making a list of chapters. Perhaps the first chapter will include an introduction and an explanation of a few basics. The next chapter will cover the first step and so on.

    Of course, you need not complete the entire book before describing it and your qualifications to potential editors in a query letter.

    You may find that writing one or more how-to articles and books not only establishes you as an expert, but allows you to become a published author so much sooner.