Secrets of Writing Winning Copy for the $2.5 Billion Self-Help Market

Almost everyone wants to improve themselves in some way. People want their lives to be healthier … wealthier … more successful … and more enriching. And they crave information that appeals to those desires. This craving for self-improvement provides a wonderful opportunity for you as a copywriter to tap into a $2.48 billion industry. It's easy to do … if you recognize the similarities and differences between this and other markets that you may have more experience with.

Sara Pond is Creative Director for Nightingale-Conant – the world's largest publisher of self-improvement audio programs. She tells us that copy for the self-help market should:

  1. Offer a strong promise and big idea.
  2. Focus on strong benefits.
  3. Present a unique and fresh angle.
  4. Reveal just enough information to whet the prospect's appetite.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

AWAI graduate Catherine Cairns also specializes in this market. And, says Catherine, the only thing that makes it different is the way you approach your writing and the sources you go to in order to find your strongest material.

This is her advice:

  • Pay attention to the title and subtitle of the product (book, tape, etc.) that you're selling. In many cases, it contains the USP.
  • Look for big ideas and other major selling points in the introduction and first chapter or section of books, e-books, special reports, and the transcript of audio programs.
  • Use a strong metaphor or word picture to hook your reader's attention. The author might even reveal one in the book or transcript.
  • Show prospects that the product offers a quick and simple solution to their problems or desires. People want easy solutions, so show them that they must do A, B, and C to get D (their Desire).
  • Sign up for self-help e-zines like Brian Tracy's ( and Bob Proctor's (
  • Start building a library of self-help books.

According to Catherine, doing these things will give you a good idea of the desires, attitudes, and needs of your prospects, as well as the language, concepts, and promises used by the people who successfully write to them. It'll also give you a vast swipe file of great selling ideas.

If you're interested in writing for this market, you won't have any problem finding potential clients. Hundreds of companies sell self-improvement products. Some of the largest DM self-help companies include Rodale Books, Learning Strategies Corporation, Nightingale-Conant, Prevention Health Books, and Boardroom.

Get on the mailing list of one or more of these companies. Do your homework. Study the kind of people they write to, what they write about, and how they write it. Then, when you're ready, give them a call, drop them a postcard, or send a self-promotion package. These companies are interested in finding good copywriters who can write controls. So don't be shy – get out there and show 'em your stuff!

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Published: April 5, 2004

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