Although I have always published fiction, today I started a new project, a self-help book. It had been on my mind for ages, but I did not know if I was ready for it and I was also working on Thorn Heart, which had priority at the time. Now, however, feels like the right moment to start this new writing project. How to write non-fiction books is very different from writing fiction, and so I thought that it would be a good idea to look at this information.
How do you write a non-fiction book?
You Need a Plan
A non-fiction book, regardless of the topic, needs to have an outline. Whether you are going to write a manual, a self-help book, about business, cooking, health and fitness, pets, dog training, you name it, you need to properly plan this. Let’s say you are going to create a Mediterranean cook book. You can’t just start writing about stuffed olives and then switch over to tiramisu. I know that that is a silly example, but it can happen.
In a business book you need to be organized too. It is not advisable to start with advanced stuff and leave beginners’ tips in the afterword. The reader must be able to follow your train of thought, and – most importantly – it has to make sense.
So, draw up a plan. These questions and tips can help you.
- Be clear on what you want to achieve with your book
- What do you want to discuss?
- How will you structure this book?
- How many chapters? Will the book also be divided in parts (part 1 and 2 for example?) – It is best to make an outline.
- Is a foreword necessary; and if it is, how can you use it to convey useful info to the reader?
- Which topics should you bring up first?
- Line up all the parts of your book and decide what goes where. Which subject fits in chapter 1, which one is best for the last chapter? And so on.
- Should you include assignments for the reader? If so, when will they best fit the chapter topic?
- What about images? Sometimes it is a good idea to add photos to display certain ideas or topics.
- books about dog training need images to demonstrate instructions
- cookbooks, without a doubt, should include photos of your creations
- business books can include charts and photos to clarify
- Biographies, yes, definitely. It is always interesting to see photos of the person you are reading about. (This applies to other non-fiction books too)
What is Your “Why”?
Non-fiction is not entertainment like fiction. It serves to bring useful information that the reader is searching for. Self help book writers have a huge responsibility to get their facts straight and their research done, in order to help the person who is hoping to find the info he or she needs in your book.
So, first of all, identify your “Why” for your book. Why do you want to write it?
That is an important question, because if your main motivation is to make a quick buck, let me stop you right here. First of all, publishing a book is a huge accomplishment – I absolutely agree – but just because you have your book on the market doesn’t mean that it will magically transform itself into an overnight bestseller. Your book is published? Great, now begins the marketing.
On many blogs I see advice of ways to make money online, and publishing an ebook is often included among those tips.
Although I agree that you can earn a decent amount from ebooks, you need to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work into marketing, because guess what, there are literally millions of books sold online and thousands are published e v e r y d a y. What will get yours noticed?
So, if money is your why, perhaps the focus is wrong. A non-fiction book is written to help others, either with information, history, and in some extreme cases they can be literal lifesavers. With money as your motivation, can you guarantee a product that is created to help others?
I am sorry for sounding so blunt, but if I put myself in the reader’s shoes, I would want a book that was written by someone who wants to help me make money instead of getting a quick buck from me. A reader will be happy to spend his or her cash as long as the book delivers on its promise. If it doesn’t, the reviews will let other readers know why they should not buy it.
Who is Your Target Audience?
If it’s a self-help book, then who are you writing this book for? Are you planning on a specific niche? Is your book for young adults, mature readers, academics, or casual readers? Once you know clearly who your target audience is, then you can write your book with that in mind, making it better suited for that particular group.
Do Your Research
Well, yes, that’s a no-brainer 😉 Always do your research, and it is recommended to quote your sources at the end of your book. It shows the reader that you have done your homework and you really know what you are talking about.
What’s the Right Approach?
This morning I wrote the foreword and the first chapter of my non-fiction book. I stopped there. In a fictional story I would just go on and on, jotting down five or more chapters in one morning, but this is a little different. The topic of my book is also a little heavy (how to heal from burnout – for more info on my why for this project, feel free to look at my other website which I created in June 2020, only last month 😉 ) Clicking on the link I provided will take you to a new web page, so you can keep on reading here 🙂
So, for a non-fiction book it would be best to stick to a chapter a day, or you could also set yourself a word count goal, for example 1500-3000 words per day. By focusing on one chapter per day or per writing session, you can fully work on the chapter, and make sure that all questions are answered and the chapter’s purpose is clearly fulfilled.
Now that I mention questions, you could also organize your book in such a way that you start of with a set of questions and ensure that all of them are answered by or in the last chapter. It is just an idea, and it depends of course on the topic of your writing project.
What route should you take? Traditional or self publishing? I use Amazon’s self publishing platform. It allows me to publish my books as e-books as well as paperbacks. Amazon also provides some promotional services (free and paid) and its publishing platform is very well set up and user friendly. For more info on Amazon Kindle Publishing (Amazon KDP), you can check my article in this link ==> Amazon KDP
Traditional publishing is another route you can take, but it can be a long one, sending out hundreds of queries of which many are rejected. You need to wade through many rejections until a publisher might be willing to take on your manuscript, and that can take years. Moreover, with a traditional publisher you are not in control. As a self publisher, I am in control of my royalties and what I want to include in my book.
I took the selfpublishing route, because I just did not want to wait years for someone to maybe pick up my manuscript.
I wrote this article for two reasons. First, to help you write your non-fiction book, since it is an important tool for online marketers and for anyone who wants to write books in self-improvement or any other niche that provides help and information for others. Second, as I mentioned, I am writing my first non-fiction book, and so I thought it would be great to explore this.
Let me know in the comments if this was helpful for you or if you have any other suggestions.
Thank you for reading!