View Full Version : Credentials for self help book

01-27-2008, 12:46 AM
Imagine this, someone who's written a self-help book that she's shown to a few of her friends, and they tell her, "what a great idea, you should have it published!" So this person (we'll call her Sheila) thinks, why not?

But when she gets to the biography part of the book proposal, she's stumped.

Sheila, you see, is not a psychologist, or any kind of doctor. Her background is an attorney in the high pressure, rough and tumble environment of a Big City. Sheila's only direct experience in the psychology field, so to speak, is being in psychotherapy herself for the last ten years. Because of that, Sheila developed her own self-help ideas and put them into this book. Sheila's psychotherapist thinks her ideas are good (of course, what's her psychotherapist supposed to say?)

How can Sheila describe her "credentials" in order to pitch her self-help book? Any thoughts you have about this woudl be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


01-27-2008, 12:59 AM
Sheila might have to attach an actual psychologist to the project as a consultant to give her credibility. Say Sheila shows her manuscript to Dr. Venus DeMilo, accredited psychologist. And Dr. DeMilo offers a few suggestions and becomes a consultant to the book, even if Dr. DeMilo didn't contribute all that much. At least the information within has been vetted by a professional.

On the cover, then, it might read something like "The Big Self Help Book, by Sheila Xanadu" and in smaller type "with Dr. Venus DeMilo, Ph.D."

Now, you may have to work out some sort of monetary arrangement with the Doctor. Or not, depends on that particular person.

Just a thought,


01-27-2008, 06:32 PM
. . .
On the cover, then, it might read something like "The Big Self Help Book, by Sheila Xanadu" and in smaller type "with Dr. Venus DeMilo, Ph.D."
. . .
Well, maybe not quite phrased like that. "With" is often, if not ordinarily, the code phrase for "actually written by." You'll see that on celebrity "autobiographies" and the like.

In any event, in my opinion, the credentials listed are not implausible for a self-help book. With a foreword by a psychologist or credentialed counselor or some big name with drawing power, they might suffice. The more important question is PLATFORM and marketing/promotional plans. And of course, the competition, the market . . . not to mention the quality of the content.

If Sheila develops a killer query backed up by a quality book proposal, I might be willing to suggest one or two agents who'd take a look. That platform thing has to be clear, though.



Lauri B
01-28-2008, 12:36 AM
I think both Ken and Allen give great advice. Your friend may well have to attach herself to a Ph.D., but why not try Ken's route first and see what happens? Being a high-powered professional in any field often helps smooth the way to publication, especially if the pitch can be spun so that the credentials in one field support the proposal in another (not that this would be how it would work, but say your friend pitches self help by couching it in lawyer terms that everyone would understand, like, "Cross-examining your self-criticism: learning to argue for positive change in your life" or whatever. )Good luck!

01-28-2008, 01:53 AM
I think self help goes two way, psychology expert and 'been there done that'.

Psychology is not just a science, and I say that as a psychologist. psychology is what we do to be happy and successful. If the bio shows a successful, happy, smart, powerhouse woman that will sell me more than a hatful of PhDs.

01-28-2008, 05:27 AM
My book is seen by many as a self-help book, but it does not really give advice for others. I only talk about what worked for me, and readers extrapolate my words into their own lives. That approach could work for anyone.

01-28-2008, 09:13 PM
I think self-help books can be written by either professionals or lay persons. The only important thing is that if it's a lay person, they should've successfully helped themself by using the techniques they set forth in the book. In that case, they wouldn't necessarily need to have a professional co-writer, but some endorsements like back-cover blurbs by professionals who support the theories in the book would give it good support and credibility. Or a foreward would do the same thing, as suggested by Ken.

02-03-2008, 03:44 AM
I think it absolutely depends on the book. If you load up your bio with what qualifies you to write *this specific book* with this exact content, then don't worry about your official credentials for writing self-help in general.

BTW they call it "self improvement" these days, not self help. Gotta keep up with the buzz words, you know? Hehehe.

02-03-2008, 10:06 PM
I'm in the same boat with my NF book (see latest blog post, at my DC blog).

So having a Foreword/Introduction by a professional or generous supporting blurbs on the cover would be sufficient? I'm really NOT favoring having a co-author with this one....

02-04-2008, 12:25 AM
I'm in the same boat with my NF book (see latest blog post, at my DC blog).

So having a Foreword/Introduction by a professional or generous supporting blurbs on the cover would be sufficient? I'm really NOT favoring having a co-author with this one....
In my opinion, after reading that blog post, I believe you could do well on your own with this book. My advice would be to go for it. Get feedback from some target readers on a prepublication draft (edited, polished, but not final), and revise as might seem appropriate in response. I don't know how large the potential readership is, but I gather it is large enough to make this worth doing. And I don't think a coauthor would add value.


02-04-2008, 04:35 PM
For Greenwolf, a foreward by a prominent member of the deaf community would be a plus, but I'm not part of the community and no specific person comes to mind.

Lauri B
02-04-2008, 09:09 PM
I agree with John, Dawn. What about someone from Gallaudet?

02-04-2008, 11:52 PM
How does Sheila feel this book will help the reader? If she can substantiate this help with success stories from others suffering from the same dilemma, an endorsement by an expert in that field would be icing on the cake. This is how Sheila could be introducing the better mousetrap to the therapy profession.

02-05-2008, 03:15 AM
As a psychiatrist, I completely agree that "professionals" shouldn't be the only ones writing self help... er, self improvement books. One thing to keep in mind about blurbs, however: it's kind of a Catch-22. If you want blurbs by authors, they are usually loathe to give them for books that don't have yet have publishers (plagarism/legal issues involved with reading such manuscripts), so if you're hoping to shore up your proposal to get an agent/publisher by saying which authors have agreed to give blurbs, that might be difficult.

Otherwise though, someone like Lauri B's suggestion - the Chancellor/president of Gallaudet - would be excellent! (And, what about the deaf actress, Marly Maitlen - pardone the mispelling. I wonder if you could also do research on some other famous hearing-impaired people, or maybe famous people with close family members who are hearing-impaired, who might blurb/write a forward.)

02-06-2008, 04:08 AM
First, profuse apologies to Redeve for "stepping in" on this thread like I have done. I'm sorry! But, like I said, I'm in the same boat...

Thanks to all for the suggestions. Lauri, I've actually thought of seeing if Paul Preston, author of Mother Father Deaf, could write the Foreword for my book, but I'm not sure. With him, he's a hearing child who grew up with deaf parents, and my book is written from the POV of a deaf parent with a hearing child. It's something I've been thinking on, though. I'm just glad something like that (the Foreword) would be sufficient for this book to be taken seriously.

And thanks, Ken. I'm starting to find some readers to do just that. Found one so far and have some lweads on others to try. :)

02-17-2008, 07:06 PM
I can speak as a doctor of psychology and a fellow hopeful author of self-help books.

Shelia has some good stuff that she can leverage, even without a psych. degree:

"Shelia X brings hands-on experience direct from the high-pressure legal world. Her discovery of strategies to combat the stress inspired her to bring this valuable information to others. Readers will find practical information in her hands-on experiences. She doesn't just philosophize. She speaks from personal knowledge that her methods work."

I just pulled that out of the air, but hopefully you can see the direction I mean.

Susan B
02-19-2008, 01:14 AM
From what I understand, for the aspiring nonfiction author "credentials" are only one component of "platform"--ie, the foundation from which you reach readers--and make potential sales. And look attractive to a publisher.

So I don't think simply having a mental health credential would mean much to a publisher, in and of itself. It's a sales issues, not whether you might well be qualified to write such a book. If you are a recognized expert, interviewed in the media, have a successful website--that is something else. (I'm a PhD psychologist, by the way, and don't know that I'd have much luck marketing a self improvement book.)

Conversely, if you have a compelling personal story, visibility in some other way--then you might be in a very good position to attract a publisher, better than a garden variety therapist :-)

(My upcoming book is not about mental health issues, by the way!)

Good luck!