Nonfiction for Novelists

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be leading, at a writing conference, a coaching class in writing nonfiction books. While I do have more pub credits in nonfiction than fiction, I’ve concentrated on fiction here so much that I figure there better be something for the nonfiction writer too.
Writing Tip for Today: What are some important things to consider in writing a nonfiction book?

  • Conventional Wisdom Upended. Writing gurus used to advise new writers to break in to book publishing with a nonfiction book, even if the writer only wanted to write fiction. Why? At the time, publishers were more willing to risk a nonfiction book from an unknown than a novel. These days, the opposite might be true due to that dreaded subject, platform. The truth is that at present fiction is selling and both nonfiction and fiction authors must have that platform. So go ahead and break in with nonfiction articles if you wish, but as far as books go, write your passion.
  • Do Your Homework. Before you propose a nonfiction book, do some research. Many publishers require the author or the literary agent to prepare some sort of demographic with their marketing plan. For instance, if your book is about caregivers, you might find stats on how many caregivers there are in America, how much that number is growing, and trends such as male/female caregiver proportions, etc.
  • Grow Before You Go. If you plan to pitch your nonfiction book proposal at a conference, be sure to do these things prior to telling about your idea: 1) Define Your Audience and “pre-cultivate” with a blog, social media or other marketing ideas. 2) Focus Your Book’s Main Theme. Editors won’t buy a book if it contains too many metaphors, an unclear premise or the BIGGIE: Reader Value. You must answer the question every reader asks: What’s In It For Me? If the book is a vehicle for you to preach, tell your life story or other self-serving ideas, your book had better be written in a way that’s engaging, relevant and funny or meaningful.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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