5.3 million adults want to see their life in words

editorial image

One in ten UK adults, equivalent to 5.3 million people, intend or would like to write their autobiography, according to new findings from Type & Tell, the leading self-publishing company.

Fuelled by the desire to tell their life story for reasons including self-help, to help others learn from their life lessons, or to pass on a record of their life to younger family members, aspiring authors would like to write their autobiography more than any other genre of book.

One in five of those planning to write a book would like to pen their own life story (21 per cent), more than twice the number of any other non-fiction genre and considerably more than any genre of fiction.

Whilst the genre is most popular amongst more experienced would-be authors, with 27 per cent of those aged 55 or over hoping to write one compared to 22 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 and just 14 per cent of those in the 18-34 age group, their reasons for doing so differ significantly between generations.

Life after death, life lessons and self-help: reasons for writing autobiographies

Over half (52 per cent) of would-be autobiographers said they believed their life would make an interesting story to tell. However, this rises to 62 per cent of those planning to commit their life story to paper in the 18-34 age group compared to just 45 per cent of those aged 55 or over. The younger age group may have been inspired by the increase in commercial autobiographies by young sporting stars and musicians.

Possibly influenced by high levels of followers on social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, the younger age group are also far more likely to believe their own life is more interesting than that of most people who publish autobiographies, with 21 per cent of them holding this view compared to just nine per cent of those aged 55 or over.

One in three prospective autobiographers (30 per cent) felt their work could help readers benefit from their life lessons (30 per cent). Perhaps unexpectedly given their relative lack of life experience, the younger age group was more likely to be motivated by this sentiment, with 33 per cent of them expressing it compared to just 23 per cent of those aged 55 or over.

The older age group is more motivated by leaving something behind for other family members, with over half of them (55 per cent) wanting to have a written record of their life for their children or grandchildren compared to just 39 per cent of 18-34 year olds with this motivation.

For many hopeful autobiographers, writing their life story would be self-help, with almost a third (32 per cent) of those planning to write their memoirs doing so for their own wellbeing. There may be some merit in this reasoning as some psychologists encourage patients to view the events in their life as stories in narrative therapy2, a form of counselling which aims to separate individuals from their problems and externalise their issues.

Jon Watt of Type & Tell commented: “In our social media age, we already share large parts of our lives through photos and videos, so the leap to autobiographical writing is not a great one. We are working with writers who want to tell their life stories for a wide variety of reasons. Some want to entertain, other to inform; some are writing very personal memoirs for family and generations to come, others see their story appealing to a global audience. Publishing has changed and it is now possible for us to meet all these authors’ ambitions. The rise of accessible self-publishing platforms has given people the ability to cost-effectively create, publish and print books themselves, and if they want to, sell them around the world.

“For every fascinating and unforgettable autobiography from household names like Nelson Mandela or Barack Obama, there are numerous books recounting everyday stories of hardship, humour, adversity or triumph which fly under the radar but have just as deep an impact on their readers.”