How to Include Effective Exercises to Help the Reader Absorb and Implement the Material in Your Self-Help, How-To or Business Book


Interactive elements for prescriptive nonfiction books are an essential element. They provide explicit, step-by-step ways to put the program, system, or method into action. They engage the reader and move him or her to participate, transform, and achieve the goal.

Exercises allow readers to experience the value of your expertise and help position you as an authority in your field. Exercise elements are designed to get readers actively involved with the book, solve a problem, expand skills, and give the reader hope and a sense of accomplishment in their own abilities.

5 Keys to Developing Effective Exercises

  1. Explain how the technique works - the reason that it produces results.
  1. Explain why it works. Describe why it will do what you say it will.
  1. Explain what it will do for the reader - the specific benefit or skill or insight that they will gain or why the exercise is valuable.
  1. Create clear instructions of how to do the exercise. Breakdown each element into as many steps and sections as necessary. Make the instructions easy to understand and follow.
  1. Tell the reader how to apply, understand, or interpret the results or information that's revealed.

There are many types of exercises you may choose to employ to engage the reader.

Type 1: Fill-in-the-Blank Exercises

  • Help readers discover ideas, aspects, viewpoints, attitudes, and actions.
  • Ask the reader to: complete this sentence, finish this statement, describe this situation or answer a question.
  • The format includes a blank-line so the reader can write a response.
  • A “describe the situation” or “answer a question” format is used for more reflective material and usually guides the reader to use their own notebook or separate sheet of paper to complete their response.
  • These exercises may also be used in relationship books to help partners deepen their intimacy or increase romance, and in business or personal development books as a tool to improve communication and solve problems.

Type 2: Physical Exercises

  • Used to guide the reader through specific steps for physical activity.
  • Used in weight loss, exercise, and health and fitness books, sports books, and sex books.
  • Photographs or illustrations often accompany written instructions.

Type 3: Quizzes

  • Used for self-discovery, self-assessment, and as a tool to highlight key ideas.
  • Take the form of multiple choice, true or false, or box to select.
  • Sometimes include a way to evaluate or score the answers.

Type 4: Visualization Exercises

  • Help the reader envision transformation or reveal inner wisdom or strength.
  • Often found in personal development and metaphysical books.

Type 5: Journaling Exercises

  • Guide readers to respond to questions with deeper insight.
  • Most often used in self-help and personal development books.

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