How to Create Workbooks

Workbooks can be a wonderful addition to your offerings because they often have a higher perceived value than even a standard hardcover or paperback book.How to Create Workbooks There is something about the idea of having to fill in worksheets and do the exercises that makes us willing to spend more money on a workbook. While a typical trade paperback book might sell for $15 to $20, a workbook can often sell for $25 to even $50, depending on the market.

Workbooks can be sold as companion products when speaking or teaching workshops, and if a large company has hired you for an event, you can potentially pre-sell workbooks for attendees as well. Often times the cost of materials like these come from a different budget than the fee paid to the speaker or trainer.

Workbooks can also be bundled with a standard book, an audio program, or another product offering.

Formatting and Distribution

In most cases, a workbook should be published in a larger format, such as 8×10 or 8.5×11. The spiral format is often the first go-to choice for a workbook, however, keep in mind that this can be limiting. If you intend to publish your workbook and put it into major distribution, libraries and bookstores will be less likely to carry your workbook if it is spiral bound. There are two reasons for this: spiral-bound books lack a spine and makes it harder for bookstore and library browsers to notice a book unless it is placed face-out. Libraries also tend to avoid spiral-bound books because they aren’t as durable as other types of book binding.

If trade distribution isn’t a consideration for you, then by all means print your workbook in spiral-bound. If you need a small number of copies, your most cost-effective option may be to head on down to your local copy shop and have them handle it for you. Another source for smaller quantities is Lulu.com, though I wouldn’t recommend them for large quantities or major distribution because their pricing will be higher than prices you could find at other printing companies.

If you intend to distribute your workbook to Amazon and other retailers, your best bet is to choose “perfect bound” printing, which is another term for a standard paperback book with a spine. When you print in the larger format, such as 8×10, you might be surprised by how well these books can lay flat enough to work.

If you are determined to print in spiral bound, and in large quantities with major distribution, you will need to seek quotes from printers. Not all printers offer this type of binding and price quotes can vary greatly. Some may require that you order thousands of copies, while others may have competitive pricing for 500 copies.

How to Develop Workbook Content

The content that goes into your workbook can come from a number of places. I often create companion workbooks with my “regular” books, which makes a nice bundle for my readers. In order to accomplish this, I go through the regular book page-by-page and look for areas where workbook material makes sense. The same can also be accomplished by first outlining a presentation or training program, and then going through it bit-by-bit to determine what exercises you can extract from your material.

Following is a review of the types of workbook pages you might create.

Worksheet – A worksheet implies more effort on the part of the workbook user. This usually means that there are several different types of information that need to be filled out on the page, or perhaps some mathematical calculations that need to be handled. For example, your workbook might have a page on budgeting, where the user would fill in the fields you’ve already identified for them, add a few of their own, and then fill in corresponding amounts.

Here are some more ideas:

  • List a series of topics or ideas that the reader can circle and/or cross out, as the topics relate to them.
  • Have readers draw their responses to questions or create a picture that represents something.
  • Provide a spreadsheet-style worksheet where the user inputs numbers and calculations.
  • Guide the reader through some sort of analysis exercise. For example, they can make a list of competitors and then go research each and fill in the results.

Question and Answer – In my book “Own Your Niche,” I recommend that readers narrow down who their target audience is so they can better market their products and services. This became a simple Q&A worksheet with some space for writing after each question:

  • Who are your current clients (i.e. target audience)?
  • Is your niche too broad?
  • What are some possible niches you could focus on?
  • Are there any specific industries where you have expertise or already have a following?
  • What is the industry outlook for your chosen niche; is it growing?
  • Can they afford your products and services?
  • Is the business opportunity large enough for you?

Lists – You can invite your workbook readers to brainstorm a list of some sort. For example, one of the worksheets I created for my “Own Your Niche” workbook asks the reader to list the needs and challenges that they believe their target audience struggles with. Examples are shown, including “struggles with marketing online” and “doesn’t know how to use Twitter.” Brainstorming a list can help the reader identify issues, ideas or other areas that need to be addressed within your workbook.

Goal Sheet – Accountability is an important element for many in achieving any kind of success, and helping your workbook users set goals can give them additional incentive. For example, at Oprah’s Life You Want weekend tour, attendees were given a workbook. One of the pages asked readers to list their goals that they intend to achieve in the coming months and years. This is simply another style of list, but one that readers often appreciate.

Action Items – This type of sheet might be placed at the end of each section, or at the end of the book. It is a place for the reader to list their next steps, and perhaps assign a deadline for completing each action.

Checklist – A checklist can be as simple as a list of foods to avoid, a list of items to purchase, or a list of steps to take before proceeding.

Chart – If there is anything that can be demonstrated with a pie chart, bar chart, or other type of chart, visual elements can always enhance the reader experience—especially when the chart becomes a worksheet that requires the reader to input information.

Schedule or Spreadsheet – I love to provide spreadsheet-style pages that need to be filled in, especially if it’s the type of content the reader will want to copy and post by their desk or in their kitchen—somewhere they are reminded of the material each day!

Resources – Another great way to add value for your readers is to provide a list of resources. I always include websites, book recommendations and other suggestions for readers at the end of my books. Often this information is compiled from the resources mentioned throughout the book. Readers love having all the information listed in one place and will be thrilled that you include this in your workbook.

No matter what types of pages you create, be sure to begin each page with a description of how to complete the exercise on the page. You will want to empower readers of your workbook to do the work without the benefit of you in the room with them.

Workbook Production and Design

Your workbook deserves as much professionalism as you would give a standard book, or any other business material you put out into the world. That means that it should be professionally edited and designed. The interior layout should ideally be handled by someone who handles interior book design for a living. Simply asking a friend who knows how to use Word will not produce nearly as impressive of a result as working with a real graphic designer who uses the necessary tools to make your pages as appealing as possible.

The same is true for the cover, spine, and back cover for your workbook. The reality is that people DO just a book by its cover, so make sure you invest in professional cover design. A book cover should have prominent fonts, inviting colors, and elegant simplicity. It should also look just as appealing when the image is sized down, as it would be when listed on Amazon.com.

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