Workbooks are meant to change lives. They are a way to provide the reader with the information that they need to do something greater than they may have been capable of prior to encountering the workbook itself. If you are looking to write such a book, you will certainly have a captive audience if you can find a way to reach them effectively.
If you want to create a workbook, then you need to be a writer who can communicate clearly and in a relatable and comprehensive fashion. You will want to draw the reader into the topic and help them apply the principles you are teaching to their daily lives. That is what the following guide is designed to teach you to do.
This is Why a Workbook is so Beneficial
You might be wondering why you should invest the time, money, and energy into creating a workbook in the place. After all, you might have a great following online. The reality is that text contained online does not equate to knowledge. You want to have information posted online that will actually increase the reading knowledge of your target audience.
Workbooks are a way to take non-fiction material and bring it alive for your reader. This is also a way to generate revenue for yourself. One study has workbooks commanding an average sales price between $25 and $50. Compare that to the average price of a trade paperback that is set between $15 and $20, and it is easy to see why workbooks are the more profitable choice.
You can create a workbook to accompany the following types of material:
- Self-help books
- How-to guides
- Books designed to teach something new
Each of these types of material can easily lead to a workbook that allows the reader to practice their newfound knowledge and a relevant and practical manner.
Decide on the Content
The first step to creating an effective workbook is to determine what kind of content would best benefit the reader. It is also helpful to use this content to make the workbook interactive and relevant to all who will complete it.
Here are some possible choices that you have to select from when setting out to write a workbook.
The Value of Worksheets
This is perhaps the type of material that most people think of when they hear that they will be going through a workbook. Nonetheless, this is still a highly effective type of content that reinforces key principles from the book.
To create a worksheet, you will need to include various steps or fields that the reader is expected to complete. If you are making a workbook related to accounting, for example, you might have some worksheets that enable the participant to complete calculations and demonstrate mastery over the material that has been covered.
Using Free Response Sections Correctly
You will probably find that free responses are the easiest type of material to create. This is an effective way to elicit open ended responses from participants. It will provide space to respond to various issues and concepts that have been covered in the material to that point. It might also be a place where participants respond personally to certain important questions.
Question and Answer Sections
Like the free-response section, this is your chance to gauge how effective the materials presented to this point have been. They can be either open ended or closed responses. The key is to show mastery so that participants can feel comfortable in moving on to the next section. Many people will look to this as being a necessary inclusion in any workbook.
Include Some Lists
There are many reasons to include lists in your workbook. This is a great way to encourage your readers to brainstorm various ideas and concepts that you are presenting. For example, you might want a list to ask participants to write down the goals that they have for going through this course.
Some other ideas for lists include:
- Daily activities
- Food intake
- Wish lists for the future
- Educational goals
Create To-Do’s and Checklists
This is similar to an action list. You want the reader to do certain things at various junctures of the workbook, so to-do and checklists are a great way to do exactly that. Within the book itself, provide a place where you can list out what your participants need and then give them space to check off each item as it is accomplished.
Ask Readers to Draft a Schedule
Your workbook should be designed to be completed systematically. Creating some sort of timeline is an effective way for many participants to ensure that they get through the material by a certain date.
You will want to provide space where your readers can create their own schedule, broken down by times or dates that make sense, in order to accomplish core objectives.
Opportunities for Reflection
This is important. Educational material should never become so rote that it is forgotten as soon as the last worksheet is completed. To prevent this from happening, you will want to have period opportunities for reflection. This is where participants can write down their thoughts about the materials and make notes about any lingering questions that they may still have.
Formatting Your Workbook
One of the most important aspects of your workbook will be how it is formatted. You will probably be asking your readers to do a lot of writing directly in the book itself, the traditional way of binding books does not often work here.
For a workbook, here are some formatting guidelines to keep in mind:
- A larger format is best – You will want to print your workbook using 8X10 or 8.5X11 inch paper. This provides more room for participants to digest the material, make notes, and fill in the content that you have provided them with.
- Spiral binding is recommended for small quantities – If you are going to print a small number of workbooks, such as for a private conference or seminar, spiral binding is an excellent choice. This makes it easy for readers to use the full page to write on without worrying about the binding. Just keep in mind that spiral binding is not as durable as other forms of binding.
- Spiral binding may be limiting for mass distribution – If you are looking to put your workbook in libraries or sell in bookstores, the spiral binding will have its limitations. Many libraries will not even carry books with spiral binding because it is difficult for patrons to see the title. They also do not last as long, which is a major consideration for libraries.
- Perfect bound printing is a good option – If you are looking at a mass publication, then perfect binding is a good option. When combined with a larger page size, these hold up quite well and can be placed flat on a table with relative ease.
Once you have decided how many workbooks you are going to print, you will be able to choose the type of binding that is most appropriate to the project. That will allow you to then further customize the content.
Create the Worksheets
Touched on earlier in this guide, worksheets are valuable because they encourage the reader to get more involved in the material. To do this effectively, you will include various types of information that will need to be completed on each page. The most common occurrence of this will be worksheets that have something to do with mathematical calculations.
As you consider the format for your worksheets, here are some things that you will want to think about.
- List out some topics – As the author of a workbook, you have a great deal of latitude over the topics that are covered in your material. At the same time, you can have the reader brainstorm other topics or ideas directly related to one another. This will help hammer home the relevance of the information that is being covered.
- Elicit drawings – Drawing is a great way to demonstrate knowledge. Creating worksheets that encourage participants to draw their responses to various questions is a great way for everyone to be involved in the course on a deeper level.
- Use spreadsheets – This is going to be most helpful when you need participants to practice various calculations that you are teaching in the course. The spreadsheets can be included on the worksheets to replicate real-world practical applications that individuals would be expected to do.
- Analytical exercises – These worksheets will take participants deeper into the material. For example, you might have readers generate products that a new market might benefit from and then set out to research potential barriers to entry.
In short, worksheets should almost always be included in one form or another in your workbook. This is the action-oriented part of the course, and it is what will ultimately sell your product to others.
Narrow Down Your Questions and Answers
One of the best ways to gauge whether or not your readers understand you is to simply ask them a series of questions. The responses that are generated will signify levels of mastery. Since you will not benefit from verbally asking these questions to workbook participants, you will want to think through the questions you ask very carefully.
Within the workbook itself, you need to provide ample space for readers to write down their own responses. This is particularly true for any workbook that you intend to supplement to a live seminar or training.
Here are some examples of questions that you can ask at various stages in your workbook.
- Fishing for clients – Many workbooks are written as training material for a variety of industries. You might be writing this for agents in a particular field. Ask them who their prospective clients are and how they can more effectively reaching them.
- Talking about the niche – Working professionals need to develop their own niche. Ask questions related to that, such as whether or not an existing niche is too broad or too narrow.
- Brainstorming niches – Similar to the last question, readers should be encouraged to brainstorm various niches that they could potentially focus on moving forward and how this will benefit them in their career.
- Where your expertise lies – It is always important to do a skills inventory within a workbook. This will allow participants to determine where their expertise currently lies and how they can best tap into that knowledge.
- Affordability – As you focus on the products and services that will be offered, asking questions related to how affordable they are to the target audience is important. Understanding this ahead of time will help individuals know which line of products and services to pursue.
- Business opportunities – As readers consider how best to use the information you are providing them with, you will want them to consider various business opportunities. As they look forward to applying their newfound knowledge, the effort must be well worth it in the end.
These are just a few of the types of questions that you can ask in your workbook. The exact nature of the questions will largely depend on the topic that you are covering. Just consider what is most appropriate for your reader to know and understand. Once you do that, you will have a better idea of what type of questions you should ask.
Creating Lists for Your Workbook
Lists are how you encourage your workbook participants to get creative. This is their opportunity to brainstorm ideas and concepts related to what you are teaching them. Self-help books, for example, can use lists as a way to develop
- Action Items
You can also use lists as a way to generate items that participants are struggling with and may need extra help. This will help them to know where to go next once they have finished with the material in the workbook.
Develop a Goals Sheet
This sheet should definitely be a part of your overall workbook design. It is a way to encourage accountability on the part of your participants. Everyone who begins to read your book should have a goal in mind.
There needs to be an end objective that everyone hopes to attain. You can periodically go back to these sheets to see how people are doing, particularly if in a live seminar.
Action Items Are Important
You will not want to neglect this part of your workbook. They are typically included after each section. You want to provide participants with a list of items that they need to go out now and do in order to practice their newfound knowledge. You will want to include deadlines so that this gets done in a timely manner.
Including a Checklist is Helpful
Your readers are forgetful. While they want to remember everything you are teaching them, they will often need visual reminders in order to prompt them. That is why you want to include checklists wherever appropriate. An example would be in a nutrition course where you provide a sample shopping list to show participants what they buy at the supermarket.
Charts Provide Visual Representations
Writing down what you are trying to say can be difficult. To bring clarity to your meaning, you will want to develop detailed charts that illustrate what you are trying to communicate. Some examples include:
- Pie charts
- Bar graphs
- Other visual aids
The key here is to make sure that each chart you develop is relevant and easy to understand. You do not want to just stick something in your workbook simply for the sake of filling space. Bring clarity to the material by bringing it home visually, but do not muddy the material by making it confusing and lacking in relevance.
Schedules and Spreadsheets Bring Clarity
One way to reinforce key ideas and principles is to include schedules and spreadsheets in your workbook. This requires the reader to fill in certain items, which brings them clarity in the end. You can also make these perforated sheets so that they can be easily removed from the workbook and posted in various places to remind the participant what they are learning.
Make Sure You Include a List of Resources
No matter how good of a job you do presenting the material, there is always more to offer your reader. You will always have participants who want to learn even more. Providing them with a list of resources is a great way to fuel their quest for knowledge.
Some examples of resources that you will want to include are:
- Journal articles
- Professional organizations
- Personal suggestions
You can include resources at the end of each section if you are writing a lengthy workbook. If your workbook is on the smaller end of the spectrum, one big resource list at the end of the book will suffice. The key is to provide this information in an easy to access place so that the reader will know where to find it when they need it the most.
How Long Should Your Workbook Be?
This is a common question that many authors have. Workbooks are designed to be non-fiction material. They provide readers with information that they need to be successful in certain areas. As such, they do tend to be a bit meatier than other types of books.
At the same time, you do not want to get carried away. If your workbook is too thick with pages, it could discourage individuals from buying it. It needs to look manageable. You are asking your readers to invest their time with you.
Make it worth their while by developing a workbook that is relevant to your audience without overburdening them with needless volumes or worksheets and lists that they will never be able to get through.
The length of your workbook will largely depend on the topic that you are covering. If you are talking about a complex accounting issue, for example, your book will be heavy with worksheets and spreadsheets. You will want to narrow the topic down and create a workbook that only deals with one specific topic.
Creating Multiple Volumes
One way to generate additional revenue is to create a series of workbooks. You can take a broad topic and narrow it down into much more manageable subtopics. This decreases the length of the workbook, making it much more appealing to participants.
This strategy also effectively increases your opportunity to increase revenue. You will have a bigger audience ready to purchase your subsequent volumes once you get some positive reviews to your name.
Using Activities to Design Material That Sells
Creating a workbook should not be formulaic. If you want to generate revenue, then you need to be different than others that already have published material on the market. This means that you will want to focus on interactive activities and really motivate readers to get involved. This is how your audience will feel as if they are getting their money’s worth.
Types of Activity Based Content
To begin, you want to take your readers on a journey. You will be giving them information and then provide them with a series of mini-projects that they can complete over the course of a workbook.
The key is not just to spoon-feed your readers everything that they need to know about the topic. This is not how people want to learn, nor is it how they best retain information. Instead, provide them with opportunities to practice the materials and hone their skills.
Here are some examples of activity-based content that you can include in your workbook:
- Detailed examples
- Real-life scenarios
- Short stories
- Instructions that are given in steps
- Short explanations
- Real-life before and after testimonies
- Tips and advice from the experts
- Short exercises
- Mini quizzes
The sky is the limit. You just want to make sure that you include activities that are meaningful to the topic that you are covering. Do not ask your readers to do anything that does not provide them with any real value for having spent the time to do so.
Make Sure Your Workbook is User-Friendly
The key is to design a workbook that helps your readers move through the topics systematically. To help you get started, you should develop an outline that you intend to follow. Beginning with more basic concepts and working your way up to more difficult items is also highly recommended.
Part of your workbook design should include clearly defined headings and subheadings. The reader should know exactly what they are about to do next based on the headings that you provide them. This also gives each participant a reference point to go back to if they need to refresh their memory on any given topic.
Become a Conversationalist
Just because you are not writing a fiction book does not mean that you can’t be entertaining when appropriate. You want to write in such a way that your readers become engaged with you from the very first word. Some ways to do that include the following:
- Make use of contractions – This makes your writing sound more natural.
- Ditch the passive voice – Use the active voice in your writing as much as possible.
- Switch up the length of your sentences – Again, this replicates spoken speech and sounds more natural.
- The reader should be ‘you’ – Avoid using personal pronouns such as ‘I or ‘We’ when writing a workbook.
- Simple is better – Unless there is a reason to use long and difficult words and phrases, stick to much simpler terminology whenever possible.
- Say it in fewer words – Wordiness will lose your reader faster than anything else.
Following this advice will help to write a workbook that is more of a conversation with your reader. That should be your ultimate goal.
Focus on the Visual Side of Things
Finally, your workbook should also look good. It needs to be visually appealing in order to attract a broad audience. At the same time, you want it to be professional in its overall appearance. There are many great templates available to help you design a workbook that is visually appealing while still remaining professional throughout.
These are some of the various design elements that you will want to consider as you layout the printed edition of your workbook:
- The size and choice of your fonts
- The colors of your pages and worksheets
- Various graphical elements
- The size and scope of your images
- Use of white space
- Proper utilization of bulleted and number lists
- Making use of sidebars and callouts
- Proper use of branding if appropriate
Accounting for these visual design elements effectively will enhance the overall appeal of your workbook immensely. It can also get you in the door for mass publication, which should be your ultimate goal.
This guide should help put you on the path to writing a workbook that will be profitable to you in the end. Remember to focus on the right length to adequately cover the topic while including the various content items and design elements that we have discussed here. If you do that, your workbook should be well received.