Writing a (nonfiction) book and getting it published: what you really need to know

Even if you are a professional writer to start with (as I am) the thought of writing your first entire book can be terrifying. I know I was terrified when I began work on my first book. (That’s really why I’ve written “How To Write Winning Non-fiction” – to help you if you’re in the same position.)Since that time, I got over my fear and am now hovering (at the time of writing this) well over the 20 published nonfiction titles mark. Those have been completed over a period of just over 20 years – so almost one a year on average. In addition to producing the books I have also been working on commissioned business as a corporate / marketing / consumer / healthcare writer, running a house, giving birth to and bringing up my son, caring for my elderly (now late) parents, running this wonderful new webby-bloggy-site, plus a few. And I’m still sane enough to tell the tale without tearing my hair out.

Conclusion: writing nonfiction books does not have to be a lengthy, arduous exercise. It can fit in with the rest of your life. It can – and should – be fun.

Of course, writing does not come easily to everyone, but everyone can improve their writing skills by getting plenty of practice. You may find that before you tackle your first book, you could warm up your skills by writing articles on your topic, and/or writing a blog about it. In fact many nonfiction books – especially of the “how to” variety – have started out as a collection of articles on a topic or, indeed, have been derived from a popular blog. What helps you more than anything else is if you enjoy writing your book. I can’t teach you to enjoy it, but in my book I hope you’ll find plenty of information, tips, shortcuts and other tools that will help you write your book much more easily than were you to attempt it on your own. That should leave you free to have a great time doing it! The entire international book publishing scene has changed a lot in the 21st century.  Whereas becoming a published nonfiction author was difficult even until the end of the 20thcentury, now it’s easy due, largely, to the vastly increased number of different publishing options, not to mention an increase in delivery options – print, eBook reader, audio book, 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. 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 (usually 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. 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. If your book is bad, it will make you look bad.

Nonfiction books and the market for them

I believe people prefer to buy business and practical nonfiction books from related retail outlets, offline catalogues, or online. This isn’t the place to go into lots of statistics, but in the UK, vast quantities of nonfiction books are sold in places like supermarkets, garden centres, gift shops, newsagents/ stationers, DIY stores, office supply stores, etc., as well as the various online sources. But because publishers have huge amounts invested in the heavy overhead of distributing books to bricks-and-mortar bookshops, they hang on to that with their fingernails. Anyway, let’s not get carried away here, taking pot shots at the messenger when a more cheerful message is staring us in the face: whatever the media used to deliver them, there will always be a market for books. People have a craving for knowledge (nonfiction) and for entertainment/escapism (fiction) and nothing is going to change that. Onwards and upwards!

This post is an extract from my Amazon category best-seller, “How To Write Winning Non-fiction,” in which I share everything I’ve learned (most of it the hard way) through writing and having published 20+ nonfiction books.

The book is available in print and Kindle, on all the Amazons, including:

USA

UK

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