Want to write a nonfiction book? Check me out here

Writing a nonfiction book today is something many of us want to do, especially now it’s so easy and affordable to self-publish. But since the internet started the nonfiction book’s goal posts have moved, and only in some ways to authors’ advantage.

microphone for radioGet some useful and up-to-date tips on the realities of writing your first nonfiction book in this interview with me on Duggystone Radio — starts at 09:10.

So what is the nonfiction book market like today?

Whereas becoming a published nonfiction author was difficult even until the end of the 20th century, now it’s comparatively easy due to the increased number of different publishing options, not to mention an increase in delivery options – print, eBook, audiobook, etc.

Undoubtedly the fact that producing and publishing a book has become a) easier and b) cheaper makes the whole book market more accessible to wannabe authors. Consequently there are literally millions of books out for sale out there, and not all of them are good.

Changes in the nonfiction book market – you win some, you lose some

However the goalposts have been moved in recent times. Although in the past the only criterion for the publication of a nonfiction book was its literary and/or informational merit, today not all books are published with a view to becoming best sellers so they don’t have to be “good” by mainstream publishers’ standards.

Many of these books are published (often self-published) as marketing tools and as the means to a PR or promotional end, rather than as little profit centres in their own right, and are sold and/or distributed to audiences other than the general public.

Mainstream publishing values of the past have changed a lot

What all this means, then, is that depending on your reasons for wanting to write a book, its concept and content don’t necessarily have to conform to traditional mainstream publishing values.

Don’t forget, though, that whatever you want your book to achieve, it has to be good – “fit for purpose,” as the saying goes. Your book represents you and your professionalism / high quality. A badly written, badly produced book will convey a lot of negative messages and almost certainly will drain away whatever credibility it otherwise could have given you. That’s the bad news.

Don’t ignore Daddy Google’s influence on nonfiction books

If all your topic’s information can be found easily on Google, think twice about writing it in a book.

In pre-Google days people would have bought a book about a topic when they only needed a relatively small amount of its information. Today, however, if all they want is that small amount of information they usually will go find it on Google for free.

What this means is your book should not compete with that and instead must offer a robust and attractive alternative to lengthy Google searches along with, of course, your unique take on the topic.

Books like dictionaries, thesauruses, and all other straight reference books on common topics are likely to have seen a downturn in sales recently for this reason. The best insurance policy for new authors here is to ensure that your book is, if not unique, at least uniquely you.

Overall, today’s outlook for nonfiction books is good

Provided that you can talk coherently, you can write a book – with help, perhaps, but you can do it. And the best news is that these days the help you need, should you need it, is much more available – and affordable – than ever before.

Adapted from Suzan St Maur’s forthcoming How To Write Your First Nonfiction Book, to be published later in 2019 by HowToWriteBetter Books.