In the last decade, the self-help category has nearly doubled in size. Readers often look for the best books in self-help or personal development, and for good reason. Some of the best books in self-help have impacted millions of readers, influenced just as many lives, and are still read and called upon today.
But in such a highly saturated market, how do you add your own title to the list of the best books in self-help? While success is never a guarantee, there are specific steps you can take today to help your chances of making great sales and consequently, impacting your readers.
In this article I discuss how to stand out, the top attributes in self-help books, and next steps you can take. Before diving in, a brief note.
Self-help and personal development are often used interchangeably. While there are small differentiations in each category, overall, they cover similar topics. But, “in principle, these books address the same thing: bettering oneself in a general or a specific way.” Let’s get started.
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How To Stand Out Among The Best Books In Self-Help
With so many self-help and personal development books filling the shelves today, it’s important to ask how to stand out before you even sit down to write. Rather than simply add another title to an already thriving marketplace, consider the unique angle you bring to the conversation.
For instance, whether you plot your book before writing or write without a clear roadmap (commonly referred to as pantsing), asking yourself a few questions before committing to your project can help you meet your goals.
- What books already cover my topic well?
- These are often called comparative titles or “comp books”
- What audience do I want to write to, and why?
- What unique aspect do I bring to the table that hasn’t been covered before?
When you firmly grasp the qualities you bring that are separate from those around you, you heighten your chance of success (in business, this is called your unique selling position, or your USP).
With this thought in mind, it’s time to look at what the bestsellers do well, and learn how to use these attributes to your writing advantage.
Top Attributes Of Self-Help
Just as fiction plots follow a similar story arc, so do the best books in self-help. Of course, every book will look slightly different, as it should, but if you look carefully you can identify the following attributes in many of the bestselling self-improvement, personal development, and self-help books.
#1 – Articulate A Pain Point
If you choose to read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you will join millions of individuals who have gone before, seeking to learn how to monopolize on daily life for effective results.
Covey’s book articulated a pain point: a desire to be effective and a lack of clarity on how to do so. In simple language that resonates with audiences of varying backgrounds, Covey shares a myriad of pain points that all correlate with effective living. But the best books in self-help don’t stop at identifying the issues and areas for further self-development.
#2 – Provide A Clear Action Plan
Next, the best books in self-help proceed into a clearly articulated action plan that empowers readers to overcome. Whether your audience wants to:
- Learn how to better steward their finances (Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki or Get Good With Money by Tiffany Aliche)
- Overcome mental blocks (Crush Your Kyptonite by Nate Hambrick or Mind Your Mindset by Michael Hyatt)
- Lead well (Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen Covey or Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin)
- Learn new skills (Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod or High Ticket Sales by Chad Aleo)
…great self-help books present a clear action plan. The key feature of a helpful action plan is its clarity.
For instance, consider the difference between the following examples.
- To eat healthier, choose to purchase and consume healthy foods.
- To eat healthier, choose to leave healthy foods, such as apples and nuts, on the kitchen counter, and create accessible snacks by chopping up vegetables so they are easy to grab when that hunger strikes next.
The first example provides an action plan (purchase healthy foods, choose to eat healthy) but the second provides clarity on how to do so.
#3 – Present Concrete Steps For Longevity
Finally, the best books in self-help not only articulate pain points or areas for further development and provide clear action plans, but also present a long-term method to stick with the plan.
James Clear’s Atomic Habits focuses on a simple topic: break bad habits and establish good ones. However, his detailed, step-by-step guide is more than a formula to follow. Throughout his book, he presents the psychology behind our choices and how to leverage how the brain naturally works in our favor, rather than for our detriment.
This deep-dive into the why provides concrete steps for the longevity of good habits. Books that create lasting change are often the ones that join the best books in self-help.
13 Best Books In Self-Help
Learning from bestselling authors, classic books, and formulas that consistently provide help for millions is a fantastic way to prepare for writing your own self-help book. Below is a list to help get you started:
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff And It’s All Small Stuff, Richard Carlson, Ph.D.
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg
- Who Moved My Cheese, Spencer Johnson M.D.
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo
- Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus, John Gray
- The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brené Brown
- The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss
- Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell
- Discipline Is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control, Ryan Holiday
- The Creative Act: A Way of Being, Rick Rubin
These titles can act as a sounding board to inspire your work as you move forward into writing your draft. Armed with how to stand out, the key attributes of self-help and personal development books, and a list of titles, let’s finally discuss how to move forward.
Moving Forward: Impact The World With One Book
The influence one individual can make is impossible to count. While we can’t know for sure, it’s unlikely that the authors mentioned above foresaw the impact their single book would create. The same is true for you.
You won’t know the potential of sharing your expertise, your story, or your journey with others until you write your book and put it into the world.
Who knows, your work could be the next title to join the best books of self-help, impact readers’ personal development, and influence audiences for years to come. But how do you move forward? How do you take that next step and start writing?
Here is a list of resources:
If you have further questions, feel free to reach out to the team here at Self-Publishing School for further, individualized help.
Best wishes as you set out on your writing journey. Remember to keep your action plan precise and your goals achievable. You’ve got this!