A hand holding open a yellow-cover book with one finger against a sunny grass background

What are self-help books and why are they so popular?

by Anna Kiousi

Self-help books help millions of people around the world. The increasingly popular genre has sky-high sales in physical, e-book, and audiobook form. So, what exactly is the self-help genre and why do so many people buy self-help books? Let’s break it down.

What are self-help books?

Self-help is a nonfiction genre written to help readers help themselves. The focus is typically on overcoming a problem or difficult situation, but they can also help in achieving a goal. For example, a self-help book might focus on overcoming a rough patch, teaching healthier communication or advising on how to live a more fulfilling life.

Self-help books may be written by specialists such as therapists, doctors, and counsellors — or by everyday people who have a method or approach to help others.

What self-help books are NOT

Although self-help can be incredibly beneficial for readers’ mental health, this does not make them equivalent to working with a professional or starting therapy. Self-help books are also not ‘overnight fixes’ nor do they grant readers miracles.

Think about it like this: a self-help book is a tool, not an instant solution to a problem.

This is why having reasonable expectations before reaching for a self-help book is important. And we think they make great bookshelf additions at any time, and not only during periods of crisis or heightened anxiety.

So, don’t wait until you’ve hit a rough patch in your relationship to read about healthy communication styles!

The popularity of the self-help genre

According to research in the US, self-help book sales have exploded in the last ten years, becoming one of the fastest-growing categories in nonfiction. This is especially true for millennials, who make up a considerable chunk of the market for self-help worldwide (more than 75 million readers). But how come it’s so popular?

Well, its success is down to a number of reasons. Self-help books are an accessible and affordable way to overcome a problem or achieve a goal. This means they can be more approachable than high-cost and time-consuming approaches such as paid courses or therapy sessions. More than that, self-help is approachable because it’s written in a personable style, with authors usually opting for the first or second person (“I” and “you”).

Self-help books also help people take control of their lives at their own pace. Most people know what it is they need to do to feel better. The problem is actually doing it. Self-help books get into the nitty gritty of why and how something helps someone grow, giving them that ultimate push to make better choices that bring happiness and fulfilment.

Self-help books are brilliant for those after:

  • expert insights on a topic
  • support throughout a challenging journey (mental or physical)
  • new approaches to tackle a problem
  • planning tips to reach a life goal
  • help with sticking to better habits

…and so much more!

In essence, this genre serves as a modern-day form of much-needed self-care for many people worldwide. Why wouldn’t self-help books be popular?

What next?

Still curious about self-help? We have lots more blogs covering the topic, from the differences between self-help and self-improvement to cliches we think you should avoid when writing self-help.

If you’re interested in writing or publishing a self-help book, you’re in the right place. Message us today and we’ll talk you through everything you need to know.

Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on socials here. We recently posted a self-help Q&A and have bags of tips and guides to get you from idea to bookshelf!