Knit One, Pearl Two – Or Some Such Thing
Back in the ‘90s, there was a pretty big company called Klutz.
Technically, this company still exists today, but not to the same fame-and-fortune degree as it once did, at least to the casual observer.
For the point of this Writing Challenge, that’s neither here nor there though. What you do need to know is that Klutz was the go-to source to learn about nearly any crafting or hobbying topic a person – particularly a kid – wanted to get good at.
(For the record, yes, Innovative Editing is aware that “hobbying” isn’t a word.)
One of this company's biggest products in the ‘90s was its Juggling for the Complete Klutz kit, which came complete with three juggling balls and a sizable how-to booklet.
In this case, “sizable” doesn’t mean 500 pages. But it did still amount to much more than a mere pamphlet. That was because Klutz understood, and no doubt still does, what every great publishing company knows…
As you’re writing, don’t forget why future readers will buy your book.
If you’re writing a how-to craft and hobbies book, you’re probably pretty knowledgeable about the topic. But that doesn’t mean your readers will be. Maybe far from it. No one buys a how-to book if they already know “how to.”
With that in mind, give the clearest directions you can. Don’t treat your readers like idiots, of course, but don’t make them feel like idiots either. Offer them the information they need to improve their skills and come out a more confident crafter or hobbier as a result.
(No, “hobbier” wasn’t a typo, just a little good-natured fun with the English language.)
Despite its playfully mocking name, Juggling for the Complete Klutz never once talks down to readers. It gets on their level, points to the accomplishment they’re hoping to achieve and says, “Let’s get you there.”
One of its very first instructions is to take a single juggling ball and throw it back and forth from one hand to the next. This seemingly pointless step actually serves two practical purposes, one being physical and the other psychological:
It gives the to-be juggler’s body and brain a chance to analyze and accept the weight and feel of the juggling ball.
It gives the to-be juggler an instant win. He’s already got the first step down. Progress made!
Now, depending on the craft or hobby you’re writing about, you may or may not be able to provide such an instant easy A+ assignment for the first step. But the basic goal remains the same from start to finish: Encourage readers to move on to the next step.
And then the next.
And then the next.
This is primarily for their sake, sure, but you, the author, tend to win when they do. Happy customers, after all, are much more likely to buy your future offerings, take your classes, follow your blog and/or recommend you to friends and family members.
Keep that in mind while you’re writing, then get a bunch of beta readers/beta testers to try out your instructions for themselves. After they do, take careful note of what they could easily follow and what was more difficult for them to grasp.
The parts that tripped them up might seem silly to you. But remember: No one buys a how-to book if they already know “how to.”
In other words, you’re not your target audience. People who want to be like you are.
That's how writing a how-to crafts and hobbies books is done.