Want to write a nonfiction book? Make sure you pick the right topic

Want to write a nonfiction book? Make sure you pick the right topic

Why a positive concept triumphs over a negative one … see below

With nonfiction books the question of whether or not to write one has to be a business decision.

It needs to be taken in the same way as a decision to introduce a new product or service.

With nearly all nonfiction (and fiction too, up to a point) there is usually room for a good new book on the market, provided it’s likely to attract a substantial group of readers because:

It’s about something entirely new and very interesting that no-one has written about before, or…

It’s about something that’s not new, but to which you contribute something entirely new and very interesting

If you are going to find a conventional publisher to do your book you will need to write some very convincing proposals about your concept, along the lines of these two points.

Even if you decide to go the self-publishing route you still need to fulfill either of those points. That’s because when you come to market your book, you will need to be able to convince the distributors – and of course the potential purchasers – that your book is worth stocking and buying.

Whatever happens be brutally honest with yourself, because if you aren’t, a potential publisher – and potential readers – certainly will be.

If you’re an expert, go for it

Even if there are several books on the market already about your particular area of expertise, don’t be intimidated.

The topic itself might be well known but your views and personal take on it aren’t – especially if your input is surprising, unusual, controversial or breaking new ground in some way.

That’s good enough to make the book of interest to its readership, whatever publishing method you use.

Make something easier

If your book offers a process, tips, shortcuts and other ways in which readers can achieve something they need to achieve more easily/quickly/cost-effectively, it will do well. Especially (but not necessarily) if you are known expert in your topic, you may well be surprised at how much valuable knowledge and experience you have ready to share with others less accomplished than you are.

Often people don’t realize how much expertise they have until they sit down and think about it. You may have created shortcuts and new methods without really noticing them. Yet to a beginner in that area, these could be worth their weight in gold, saving them a great deal of time, effort and even money.

Give readers positive vibes

Nonfiction books with a feelgood factor will nearly always do well, because people like to feel good about themselves while they’re absorbing the information you share with them. Whether you write about delicious food and wine, beautiful-but-simple embroidery and needlework, DIY car repairs, social networking, aromatherapy or whatever, you book needs to exude a positive, smiling atmosphere.

Negative stuff does not normally sell. One of my weddings books, “The A to Z of Wedding Worries and how to put them right,” sold very few copies to brides and brides’ families, as it was intended to originally. Silly moi – I should have thought of that.

What bride wants to face up to – and pay money for – the fact that she may encounter problems in her wedding preparations, even though it’s 90 percent certain that she will? The there came the lightbulb moment.

We changed the title to “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom – expert advice on planning your wedding,” changed the cover design to something a bit retro and cuddly, and made the section and sub headings more positive. And guess what – the book started doing much better.

Inspire and change lives

Want to write a nonfiction book? Make sure you pick the right topic

A classic nonfiction book that changed the lives of millions

Many people are dissatisfied with their lives and are attracted to books which tell them how to revolutionize things, from their love lives to their relationships at work to cleaning and de-cluttering their homes.

If you have specialized knowledge that you know transforms life for people around you, and/or if you have developed a life-changing process for yourself, unless it’s about something incredibly obscure people will want to read about it.

Even in our increasingly cynical age where you can rent gurus by the meter, readers always want more help to try to realize their dreams. If you believe you can help them, genuinely, then write your book.

Don’t be afraid to entertain

There is no rule that says even a serious textbook has to be written in a dull and boring way. It’s a fact of life that no matter how interesting or informative the subject matter, if it is written in a turgid and lumpy style readers will find it hard going.

If they scan the book in the bookstore or online before buying it, that turgid and lumpy style may well be enough to make them pick someone else’s book. There’s plenty more about writing style and craft elsewhere on this site – here are a few articles to get you started:

Right from your book’s inception, you need to think in terms of letting readers enjoy the experience of reading it. Think in terms of sharing your information with a friend over a drink or a cup of coffee. Be informal and conversational. Use humour if you want to. Make sure those thoughts set the tone for your book, right from the beginning.

Believe in your gut instincts

blog,writing,news,blogging,businessAbove all else, trust your gut instincts, and be passionate about your subject. If you genuinely are passionate that will resonate through every word you write, and that your readers read.

What are the best business and other nonfiction books you’ve read, and why did you find them so worthwhile? Please share your thoughts below.





  1. Great post. I will certainly take this advice to heart.