nonfiction book self publishing

3 Popular Types of Nonfiction Books

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

July 7, 2022

Aspiring writers craft all sorts of books from every genre and subgenre imaginable. Many times we think that the most popular books are always in fiction categories like mysteries, historical fiction, science fiction, or even romance novels.

But plenty of bestsellers are actually nonfiction books. Nonfiction books can come in a huge range of topics from history to biography. Authors interested in self-publishing a nonfiction work can choose from many different subject areas when considering a topic for their next book. So what are some of the biggest categories of nonfiction?

Types of Nonfiction Works

The genres of nonfiction span just about every topic of books you can imagine. Nonfiction books includes true stories, activity books, how-to books, and informational books about every subject. Authors who are considering nonfiction book self publishing can call on their own experiences or topics they love or want to know more about. Some of the most popular categories of nonfiction are:

  • Autobiography
  • Bibliography
  • Business and Economics
  • Cookbooks
  • Crime and Investigative
  • Humor
  • Memoir
  • Philosophy
  • Political and Social Science
  • Religious
  • Self-Help/Motivational
  • Travel Guides

Autobiography, Bibliography, and Memoir: What’s the Difference?

Three of the most popular categories of nonfiction are about people: autobiography, bibliography, and memoir. Authors who are considering nonfiction book self publishing in these three categories may not realize the differences between each of them, but correctly categorizing their book once it is published is critical. The genre of the book lets the author, marketing, and booksellers direct readers towards book categories they might like. While each of these three genres similarly focuses on a person, they are each distinct in genre and may appeal to different readers.


When authors want to use themselves as their own subject matter, we call this type of nonfiction an autobiography. This genre of nonfiction follows the life of the author and typically utilizes a chronological timeline to talk about the life, experiences, and lessons learned by the author. Many times an autobiography has a theme or big lesson attached to the book, clearly demonstrating the reason for writing the book to the reader.

Great Autobiographies

  • In The Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela, readers not only hear about his fascinating and difficult life, but also learn about how his own life’s work contributed to the liberation of black South Africans in his voice.
  • Bestseller Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt recounts his own life with humor and unvarnished truth through the lens of his life as an Irish Catholic immigrant living with extreme poverty and cruelty while finding forgiveness and survival.

Writing an Autobiography

Authors who are self publishing an autobiography should include these six critical components:

1 Personal Origin: Explain where you came from, details about your family and upbringing as well as touchstone moments in your background.

2 Significant Moments: Readers will want to know what experiences shaped your life and viewpoint.

3 Inspirational Moments: Include specific times your professional or personal events were turning points in your life. These inspirational moments are part of the appeal of autobiographical writing.

4 How You Failed: Include times you struggled or failed as well as how you overcame that trial.

5 A Compelling Title: The title should reflect the struggles, inspirational moments, or the overarching theme of what you have learned in your life that stirred you to write the autobiography. Seek design help to make your cover look great, too, to attract the reader’s attention.

6 Your Voice: An autobiography should sound like you. Choose words, phrases, and perspectives that reflect who you are and your voice.


The difference between an autobiography and a biography is who does the writing. A biography is written by anyone other than the author, whereas the author of an autobiography is also the subject of the autobiography. Many self-published authors choose to write biographies, because they can inject humor or insight into a significant or memorable person’s life story. This third-person account not only contains personal information about the subject, but usually also contains compelling stories showing how and why their life has been important.

Great Biographies

  • The book titled Steve Jobs immortalized the technology pioneer in a namesake biography penned by author Walter Isaacson.
  • A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar, spotlighted the troubled life of the famous mathematician John Nash. Nasar’s depiction of Nash was also adapted as a motion picture.

Writing a Biography

Authoring a biography comes with some special considerations for a writer of any experience to think about. These five tips can help writers craft a captivating nonfiction book self publishing authors will be proud of.

1 Ask the subject for their permission to be biographied. While permission is not required, doing so may gain you access to new or unknown details about their life or experiences that will make your book more interesting.

2 Use primary and secondary sources to research. Historical subjects may require including details about the time or place they lived, while modern subjects may have current secondary sources, like social media, that can add details about their lives, thoughts, or actions.

3 Pick your angle. Decide what you want readers to come away with after reading your biography.

4 Lay out the facts. Use a timeline to reconstruct events and interject stories at key points to illustrate their life, lessons, and events that impacted their life.

5 Include your opinion. Authors can create a meaningful biography with their thoughtful, authentic insight.


Often confused with an autobiography, a memoir is also a book written by the subject about themself, but it is more a snapshot than a complete story. Rooted in the French word for “memory,” a memoir does not follow the subject’s life from beginning to conclusion.

Instead, it is written to capture a specific time period in a person’s life to show how they have been affected or changed by that part of their life. Written from a personal perspective, the memoir is an ideal genre for self-publishing, because writers can use their own storytelling voice to convey significant life events that they have experienced in a nonfiction format.

Great Memoirs

  • Famed horror writer Stephen King penned On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft to weave his own perspective on his life as a writer and the events that affected him.
  • Young author Malala Yousef wrote I am Malala as a response to surviving a life-changing attack that changed her life and emboldened her to become a force for change in her country.

Writing a Memoir

Penning a memoir is different from writing an autobiography for a few specific reasons that greatly impact the final outcome of a book.

1 Order: A memoir doesn’t have to follow a chronological timeline, but instead presents events as they relate to the theme or lesson of the book.

2 Focus: Memoirs concentrate on a shorter time period rather than the whole life of the person.

3 Perspective: Memoirs emphasize the author’s view of life and how experiences look and felt from their standpoint.

4 Memory: A memoir is based on the author’s memory, so hazy facts are less important than emotional truths.

5 Purpose: Readers grab memoirs to be transported to a specific time in the author’s life and to feel what the author felt and learned.

 A Word About Ghostwriting

Not everyone is a writer, but they may have an interesting story to tell. This is where a ghostwriter helps the storyteller to completely write or assist in writing an autobiography or a memoir. Ghostwriters do not get any writing credit, however, and the autobiography or memoir is noted as being written by the subject themselves. Some ghostwriters work for the high pay involved, while others may simply be helping out a friend or family member tell their story.

Writing Your Own

Whether you have your own story to tell or you want to craft an enthralling story about someone or something else, writing a nonfiction book is a great genre for an author to use when self-publishing. Using a respected printing company like Publishing Xpress can help you make your authorship dreams a reality with their digital printing services.

Choosing the right binding for your finished book can make all the difference in your finished book while using a professional designer to help craft an eye-catching cover can encourage readers to check out the book as well. Many authors hope to write a successful, well-read nonfiction book and with a strong strategy and an excellent publishing company by your side, you too can become the next bestselling author to tell a captivating personal story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2024 Publishing Xpress. All Rights Reserved.

Email Quote