Apr 29, 2017

Why and How To Write Nonfiction

I'm out of, well, country, this week, so here are some notes from a recent workshop I presented: 

Reasons To Write A Non Fiction Book
1. You’re already an expert on ... something. Do you have parenting skills, nursing insights, do your friends rave about your Thai cooking, can you re-seat a rattan chair or keep iguanas alive? 
2. They sell, and, if you find a niche, often earn more money than fiction
3. It’s easier than you think! Just lay out facts, add details, maybe a sketch or two, get a proofreader, and off you go. 
I know it’s effective, easy and profitable. I’ve self-published eleven nonfiction books, with much less angst than my novels, and they’re bringing in significantly more money each month!  My first, a book on cruise vacations, is still selling dozens a week after 2 1/2 years, and has over 310 reviews on Amazon. The much shorter kid-activity series is nothing more than my files from my seven years as a Girl Scout leader and four as a den mother in the pre-Pinterest era, arranged with line drawings. 
The How To:
See A Need, Meet That Need. The best-selling non-fiction books fill a gap, or add a twist to a topic that interests people. Ancient crocheting techniques may not be a best-seller, but How To (almost anything!) books sell like crazy.
Identify Your Audience. The narrower it is, the more successful the book can be, with the exception of a few highly niche markets. A highly-technical topic may require more detail than a book on party games. 
Keep It The Right Length. Fiction books have strict rules about length, depending on genre. Nonfiction can be anywhere from a pamphlet to epic-length. Around 20,000 words is a good starting point. This frees up time; I finished six of my shorter nonfiction books in under three months.
Know Your Competition. The trick is to present it in a way that is relatable, understandable, and utilize your unique voice. Use your voice to fill gaps not covered by other eBooks in your niche. Zero in: “Low carb” is ho-hum but “Low carb traveler” is a unique perspective. Do some research and see what else is already available, then figure out how you can make it your own.
Write What You Know. If you have years of experience gardening with carrots, traveling by kayak, or cooking for a veggie-adverse family, speak up! What talents have you developed through Church activity? Go ahead and research. You don’t have to know it all beforehand, but be familiar with your subject. Readers see right through flim-flam.
Use Real Life Examples to make your book relatable. Unless you’re writing a yawn-worthy college textbook, make it interesting, not dry. Add in personal stories and real-world experiences to enhance your point, yours or other people’s. Your readers want to learn from you, so share!
Read. Research up-to-date information, identify your competition, find gaps and find a way to fill the need. Read reviews on other books in your field. What are reviewers complaining about? Are they getting the same old thing with no unique perspective? Are they expecting more advanced strategies? Use their negative reviews of your competition to fill that gap with your own book.
Watch The Market. Be aware of seasons; Camping and gardening books sell better in the spring and summer, holiday craft books do better in the autumn, be aware of travel seasons if you write travel books. Try to release your book at the proper time.
Humor is Your Best Friend, regardless of topic. Humor relieves tension, spruces up boring areas, and helps your book be more relatable, as well as cementing facts in your readers’ minds. A two-line story can make even papercuts interesting.

Try a search online for “How To Write Non-Fiction” and while you’re there, look up “How To Self-Publish.” I find that works best for   nonfiction.. It’s a faster way to get books Out There, which is especially important for very current topics. 


  1. THANK YOU! This is just what I was looking for! My sisters and I are writing a non-fiction book and this will help get us going in the right direction. Enjoy your trip!

  2. Glad to help! I forgot to mention my How To Complain book...we all have talents, after all.


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