How many people enjoy reading self-help and business books? I can’t imagine many.

(I’m burned out, myself.)

A few weeks ago, I finished my book proposal for “Let’s Fix Work,” and it includes an introduction, author bio, an overview of the audience, a marketing plan, competitive analysis of similar books that sold well, book specs, a chapter outline, and a sample chapter.

Honestly, I’m not trying to write a self-help or business book. I’ve had to read about a dozen to understand my competition, and most of them are horrible.

On the business book side, they are mainly dull and dry. Authors want to establish themselves as experts and write in a formal, unapproachable tone. When it comes to life-hack books, I think it seems uncool and shady to follow a formula where the author tells her own pathetic story, swears at her readers to motivate them, and tries to seem edgy while taking their money.

(No thanks. If that’s the game, I want no part of it.)

What do you think of business books and self-help books? What do you like? What bugs you?

My book tries to make the case that work is broken because you’re broken. Do you want to fix your job? Fix yourself and put yourself first. Deprioritize your job title and reconnect with your community. Bet on yourself. Fix your money. Prioritize happiness and contentment. Put your physical and emotional wellbeing first. Blah blah blah.

My book isn’t a self-help book or a traditional business guide. It’s just an attempt to help you reframe your current situation. It’s a list of ideas and suggestions. Take it or leave it.

(I hope you take it. I hope someone takes it. Part of being a big sister is realizing that no one listens to you.)

Now, having done the competitive analysis portion of my book proposal, I know there are things that I won’t do with my book.

First off, I won’t pretend that I’m a therapist. If I watch another Instagram story from a self-help guru who offers clinical advice in a pretty font, I’m seriously going to lose it. Therapeutic advice from a writer who isn’t a therapist is fraudulent.

Second, I won’t commoditize life’s obstacles and offer a neatly packaged solution. There are authors and gurus out there who have trademarked issues like impostor syndrome®™ and social anxiety®™ with the goal of offering five simple steps to fixing your life. I think that’s malpractice. Also, what if you are an impostor? Maybe you should own up to that and start living a more authentic life, yo.

(I’ve got my work cut out for me.)

The good news is that literary agents are interested, and I start traveling to meet them after Labor Day. I’m also traveling for work — attending conferences and meeting with clients — and can begin my marketing plan right now.

The bad news is that this book proposal has ruined my personal reading goals, and I’ve been inspired-to-death. It’s nearly impossible to pick up my Kindle, right now, and get excited about my library. So, if you have any YA book recommendations, I’ll take ’em.

What’s good? What are you reading that you love? I need to get my mind off fixing work for a few weeks while I’m traipsing around on planes trying to lock down an agent and sell this manuscript.

14 Responses to Yes or No? Most Self-Help and Business Books Are Lame
  1. Alyson

    Hi Laurie. As a book critic, I’ve read hundreds of self-help and biz books. Some authors use “stories” and very lame “conversations” to make their points. Storytelling is so popular and if I have to read another Super Soul Sunday (no disrespect to Oprah) I will hurl. So please, Laurie, do not deploy a fiction model, complete with dialogue. So many books nowadays are really bullet points and charts with nice covers. I do like books that ground things in theory (yeah, I read all those academic textbooks for shits and giggles) and then demonstrate how they use it in practice. Good ole pedagogical process. There are a lot of good career development theorists and practitioners out there. I can hook you up!

  2. dougshaw

    Hi Laurie. Firstly, thanks for the update. I’m enjoying seeing Let’s Fix Work develop. Here are a few books which I genuinely enjoyed at the time, and go back to.

    The Art of Asking : Amanda Palmer
    The Year Without Pants and The Dance of The Possible : Scott Berkun
    Orbiting The Giant Hairball : Gordon MacKenzie
    Steal Like An Artist : Austin Kleon
    101 Things To Learn In Art School : Kit White

    All these are well written, well laid out, engaging, useful books.

    I’m about to start reading The Will To Change. Men, masculinity and love. Bell Hooks. See you on the other side. With love, Doug.

    • Laurie Ruettimann

      This is great! You should run a book club! (Or be a guest curator at HR Books? Yes? I’ll reach out via email.)

      • dougshaw

        Hi Laurie. I would be very excited to be a guest curator at HR Books – thanks for thinking of me and I look forward to hearing more.

  3. Jim Damico

    Yes, many are lame, but often times we place impossible expectations on the book to be some magic panacea and life changing experience, but I guess that’s what publishers need us to believe to sell books.
    I’m a data geek and ROI is important to me, so I try to keep it in perspective. I know Tim Sackett is a mutual friend, so I’ll use his book as an example: it cost me $25 for his book. It took me about 3 hours to read, I value my time at about $150 an hour, so my investment into it is less than $500. If I can turn what I learn from the book into a minimum of $1500 in value I consider it a win. I’m not in it to change my life, but to gain something. I never had the expectation his book was going to make me a billionaire based on that level of investment.
    I’ve read your stuff for quite sometime, and I can assure you that I will gladly make an investment in your book, because I know that I will come out ahead on the investment. You get to go into the process knowing that your book will easily result in a positive ROI for your readers. I’m also pretty comfortable in predicting it will be an interesting and engaging read which is just icing on the cake.

    • Laurie Ruettimann

      Thank you. First of all, aren’t we so proud of Timmy? Local boy done good!

      Second, thanks for helping me think about ROI/pricing. That’s an interesting perspective!

  4. Lisa

    It’s not YA (which I enjoy as well!), but I’ve really enjoyed Robert Galbraith’s murder mysteries. There are 3 and a 4th coming out soon. And, Galbraith is a pseudonym for JK Rowling, and I love supporting her and her wit!

  5. Joyce Pugh

    I’m loving Katherine McGee! She has a trilogy, and the third one came out yesterday. I’m planning to download it tomorrow to read over the weekend. I know if I download it now, I’ll stay up way too late reading.

    Let me know if you read it, and what you think. I’m excited to see what others are reading.

  6. corbeau, sur un arbre perché (@gersandelf)

    YA novel that changed my summer: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. I am HOOKED!

  7. Patrick Lynch

    While not exactly a self-help book, I highly recommend Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin. It is instructive, genuine, and honest. I sat at the altar of Rand for many a Whiteboard Fridays and his book really delivers.

    Good luck on your book as well (your podcast has been great to listen to).