Writing your how-to book; it is not about you.

A recent query from an author was full of plans for a how-to book that is partially written. Among other ideas, the author said that several autobiographical chapters were in the works. These would take the reader through the author’s background and show just why the author is entitled to the expertise claimed in the book.
What’s wrong with this picture? We think it is this: a how-to book is not an autobiography. People who buy and read how-to books are looking to learn how to do whatever it is. It seems highly unlikely they will care about the author’s background except insofar as that background directly helps them learn how-to.
We don’t deny that how-to authors have to establish their bona-fides. Often, that can be accomplished in a paragraph or two on the back of the book– or perhaps sprinkled in with how-to recommendations in the form of personal anecdotes. In the 2006 book pictured here, HOW TO WALK IN HIGH HEELS, A GIRL’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING, author Camille Morton is described in four words on the back cover: “international style and fashion journalist.”
One can imagine a young woman dipping into the book to learn how to be stylish, but not to find out how Morton’s childhood experience informed her ability to wear high heels. How-to readers have themselves and their betterment in mind when they delve into a book that they think is going to instruct them. Author autobiography is only a detour around the meat that they are really after. And why take a detour when some other how-to author will lay it out directly?
The effectiveness of how-to books is measured in the minds of readers and the success they see themselves having in meeting a certain goal. If the prescribed steps are clear and effective, that will establish the author’s expertise and it will do so more effectively than volumes of autobiographical material.