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Self-Help Books: Prescriptive and Aspirational

The biggest market sector in publishing consists of nonfiction self-help books.

They exist to serve one function: to help the reader to live a better, happier life. Self-help books are exactly as the name suggests. You read the book and then, using the principles outlined in the book, you can elevate yourself. You can get a better job, make more money, lose weight, keep your pet happy, learn yoga – whatever the problem, the solution can help you lead a better life.

There are two basic types of self-help books. Prescriptive books provide a set of instructions. For example, if you want to raise your credit score, the book will show you the steps you need to take to improve your credit rating, such as paying off expensive credit cards, going on a household budget, or saving your money by not buying expensive coffee drinks.

A prescriptive self-help book can show you how to lose weight, make money in the stock market, get a better job, or hire and work with a ghostwriter. In fact, the words “How to…” are often in the title, like “How to manage your business more profitably” or “How to buy real estate.”

The other type of self-help book is aspirational. These books present testimonials or case studies of people who have improved their lives. Typically, these are people who have overcome the same challenges that you might face. For example, if you’re a small business owner, you might be inspired to read about entrepreneurs who have risen from humble beginnings to achieve wealth. The classic example is Thomas Edison, who supposedly tried one thousand filaments before he found the one that worked in his light bulb. The lesson, which can be applied in any area of life, is that failure is just another form of opportunity.

Aspirational books also provide more generalized or spiritual guidance. While they may not describe specific steps to take to solve a problem, they give encouragement and emotional inspiration.

Many self-help books offer a combination of instruction and inspiration. Often, the aspirational component is provided by the story of the author’s own rise to wealth or better health.

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