Last week’s post about the relationship between a memoir and a self-help guide inspired me to look further into the differences between the two. I found a listing of “do’s and don’ts” for each genre at nonfictionbookeditor.com, although keep in mind that the advice addresses authors who would like to publish their work for mass distribution, whereas here at Write My Memoirs you may want to publish just a few copies for friends and relatives.
The author of that blog contends that readers are looking for either a targeted self-help with instructions and a call to action on how to overcome one of life’s hurdles or reach the next rung of some ladder, or they want to read an entertaining and perhaps uplifting account of someone’s life that may have lessons regarding a common personal struggle but will be too personal to apply broadly.
Confusion between the two genres occurs when the book focuses mainly on how a single problem has been overcome by the author. That is effective as neither a memoir nor a self-help, according to the NonfictionBookEditor blog. If you’re writing a self-help, you should research it beyond what you’ve learned from your own experience, because everyone’s situation will be a little different from yours. If you’re writing a memoir, you should not narrow your focus so much that it’s an account only of your single personal struggle without the greater context of other aspects of your life. I think that’s good advice.