Writing Nonfiction Books: Things To Keep In Mind
Not only is nonfiction a large market with multiple niches to specialize in, it can be lucrative financially, too. Hence, a lot of talented writers are actually moving to writing nonfiction, both as an expert in a field or as a researcher turning over rocks for information.
Nonfiction requires that you be true and factual in your writing. People expect you to talk about real things, not made up scenes in your head or conjectures about things you think are going on.
Writing nonfiction is a lot like writing essays for academe — at least, in terms of its requirements for accuracy. You want to cite exact sources for your information; provide verifiable evidence for your arguments; and detail observed information with a faithful account. You can be less stringent on objectivity (many readers of nonfiction will understand specific leanings — in fact, it could give your books more character), but not so much that you sound like a devoted freak going by on faith alone. People still want a rational discussion after all is said and done, regardless of which position you’re taking.
In fiction, you use detail to give the story tangible elements that ring true, making it easier for readers to suspend disbelief and immerse themselves. Details play even greater significance in nonfiction, allowing you to draw in readers before presenting heady concepts and big ideas.
More and more, the techniques of creative writing are playing a stronger part in modern nonfiction. While facts and information are still your meat and potatoes, there’s no way you’ll keep readers engaged with writing that bears the personality of a lab report. And, at the end of the day, people read nonfiction for entertainment, as much as they do for the new information. So put those writing chops to good use and fashion words that can set people’s imaginations running.
Your ability to gather and organize data will come into heavy play when producing nonfiction. In fact, a lot of the work you’ll do isn’t likely to involve actual writing. Instead, you’ll need to research existing material, interview sources and arrange all that information into a format that the target reader can realistically deal with well before you even begin putting your paragraphs together.
Good nonfiction rarely spins off ideas from a single source, then plugs it in with isolated examples and crafty opinion. Most of the time, the best nonfiction writing are filled to the brim with well-researched information from a variety of sources that are carefully curated and sorted through.
Nonfiction readers tend to appreciate insight a lot. With the whole nature of nonfiction being factual and informational, it’s too easy to say something that’s been harped on many times before. Bringing a unique perspective that you can share with the reader, especially one they wouldn’t have even thought of taking, always makes for an intriguing experience.
Since you’re going to be dealing with factual information, people will need to believe what you’re talking about. As such, you need to speak from a voice of authority in the way you discuss the subject — in your tone, your attitude and your language choices.
If you have the credentials to establish authority, present it early on, so the readers know you’re actually qualified to speak on the matters at hand. If you don’t, it’s not an issue, provided you can demonstrate your grasp of the subject matter with the quality and depth of information you present. Additionally, back up all your arguments with sound evidence and reasoning — without them, people are likely to simply dismiss anything you say.
The genres of nonfiction writing are plentiful, since every field of human interest can be subject to it. If you’re looking to maximize your book’s potential, though, it’s usually a good idea to play in one of two categories: (1) a genre where you are an established expert and (2) a popular genre with lots of current interest.
The first one is obvious — the more knowledgeable you are about a subject matter, the greater the likelihood that what you write will carry real value for that field. The second, however, embraces commercial viability as the primary motivation, giving you a greater chance of both having your manuscript picked up and having it sell well once published.
The trio of “health, wealth and happiness” make up the three most lucrative fields in nonfiction writing. People, since time immemorial, have always wanted better health, more money and greater joy, regardless of their current standing in life. Being the most lucrative, though, those same genres tend to attract the most products, so the competition is also stiffer than other fields of nonfiction.
Find A Hook
The best nonfiction books aren’t just well-written, they usually have one strong hook that carries the entire material. The hook serves as the large arching theme that permeates throughout the document, holding everything together and serving as the central point for discussion.
With so many nonfiction work in the market today, a hook allows you to set yourself apart from other titles in the same genre. This holds immense value, especially for high-noise fields. Another book on meditation, for instance, will not carry that much weight, while a book on “meditation for the end of the world 2012″ should give you an interesting hook that draws some added attention.
Good nonfiction speaks to the audience for both its genre and its publisher. That is, it is in line with the kind of angles, attitudes and content that fans of the genre are looking for. This is crucial. Most publishers won’t even respond to proposals that are clearly mismatched with their audience and no reader will buy a book that simply doesn’t interest them.
Use language that’s appropriate for your target audience. Leave the academic babble to the university-published content. If you want to make books, you’ll be best served writing them for a lay audience. It’s okay to have some prerequisite knowledge, but don’t make it such that you severely limit the kind of people that can actually read what you write.