March 21, 2020 Last updated March 27th, 2020 974 Reads share

12 Essential Tips for New Non-Fiction Authors

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Think of your favorite nonfiction book. Maybe it was an inspirational biography of your favorite entrepreneur. Or it was a scholarly tome which changed your view on the business world. Either way, one can easily grasp what massive amount of effort it was for the author. Writing a book isn’t easy and there are many pitfalls.

Aspiring book authors, fear not. Others have trod these steps before, and we’ve collected their advice. Here are some timeless tips that will guide your writing to success.

1. Have a Backup System

Coffee has a proclivity of spilling on computers (especially ones with vital data). Hard drives can fail; laptops can get stolen.

Don’t risk it.

Have a backup system in place to store your book. There are multiple ways to do this. You can do something as simple as emailing yourself a copy of your book nightly or use an app like Evernote . Cloud storage, flash drives and external hard drives are also options.

2. Read Great Writers

Many experts suggest reading a lot if you want to improve your writing skills. Reading great writers achieves several things. You’ll learn about the art of language and effective writing techniques. You’ll appreciate the nuances of words. Lastly, their great works will inspire you.

All of these will contribute to your ability to write a good book. With this in mind, establish a reading routine. Even if it’s only on the subway work commute or 15 minutes before bed, reading great authors will help you write an awesome book.

3. Develop Your Own Voice

It’s essential to find your unique writing style. In a crowded marketplace, it’ll help you stand out and gain a base of followers.

What constitutes a writing voice?

In addition to a command of language, your voice also encompasses your opinions and your own distinct way of looking at the world.

You can develop this by writing. So, keep practicing.

4. Create an Outline

Many experts recommend beginning a nonfiction piece by writing an outline. An outline is simply a plan of action. When writing something as complicated as a book, rambling too much or lacking good organization is all too easy.

When structuring your book, place basic chapters first and advanced ones later. Then write bullet points for each chapter. The more detailed it is, the less bogged down you’ll be when actually writing.

As they say, sharpen the saw before chopping down the tree.

5. The First Draft Is Just a First Draft

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The first draft of everything is .…”

Many authors, both inexperienced and experienced, make the mistake of perfectionism.
Your first draft will never look like the polished articles you read in magazines. Nevertheless it is an important stage in the writing process. It will help you coalesce your thoughts and develop your ideas.

6. Decide Why You Want to Write a Book

You need “fire in the belly” to write a book. Therefore, clarifying why you want to write a book is critical.

For instance, would you like to earn additional income? Are you looking to spread a message? Establishing yourself as an authority in your industry?

The truth is there is no “right” answer. It’ll bring clarity to your mission and prevent you from being discouraged if it’s not seen as a “success” from another person’s eyes.

It’ll also help you to structure your book and assist in its marketing.

7. Identify Your Reader

This is a common marketing tactic. Businesses create “buyer profiles” of potential customers and figure out strategies to promote their products to them.

In many ways, a book is a product. Identifying your reader is beneficial because your writing will be more focused. It’ll also be easier to market the book.

8. Consistency

With writing a book, slow and steady wins the race. Some people like to have a daily goal, either a set amount of words or a specific amount of time. Try to write during the same time of day in the same place.

Consistency is key.

9. Take Elements From Fiction

Good nonfiction does more than just convey information. If you were reading a book on World War 2, would you just want to read a list of facts and events?

A narrative structure can transform an otherwise dry nonfiction book into a significantly more interesting piece. Humanize your book by having characters and character development. The twists and turns will make your material more engaging.

10. Emotional Language

Word choice is crucial. The last thing people want is something that reads like a microwave instruction manual.

While your nonfiction book is not going to read like a soap opera, using the right language can bring drama and tension to the story in your book. Good nonfiction doesn’t read like an academic paper.

11. Get Feedback

Tunnel vision afflicts many authors. This is understandable, as we spend a lot of time in our heads. Talking to potential readers, whether by online survey, social networks or even going out for coffee can be very helpful. By soliciting feedback, you will know that there is a market for your book.

12. Work With an Editor

Editing is critical to literary success but is often over-looked. If you are pursing a traditionally publishing deal or shopping for an agent, getting your manuscript up to par is incredibly important. While publishers often do provide editing services, the further along your manuscript is, the better its chances of being picked up by an agent and publisher.

There are three main types of editing and it’s crucial that you do them in the right order. Be sure to find a qualified editor in your genre or at least a professional familiar with your topic. The first level of editing is content or developmental editing. The second is line editing and the final copyedit or proofing happens at the end. Many novice writers make the mistake of skipping the first two types and just have a copyedit done. When the author realizes his mistake and gets the necessary earlier editing phases, he’ll need to pay for another round of copyediting.

Also, remember that non-fiction books do not need to be complete prior to pitching. You should focus on the book proposal, the chapter outlines, and the first three chapters that you want to include to get your book deal.
While you certainly may write a non-fiction book in its entirety and then pitch it, you may find yourself going back and re-working chapters or your through-line once you get signed up with an agent or publisher.

This tip is for those who are self-publishing. It’s quite easy to publish a book on Amazon without any feedback. This is tempting: its fast, there’s no need to hire an editor and there’s no criticism of your work.

Some authors like to ask friends and family to review their book. But the friendly feedback is just going to be about preference and taste.

Feedback from a real editor is what improves the quality of your book. Seeing all the red marks on your writing might be painful, but it will help with things like focus, flow, voice, accuracy and readability.

Writing a book is grueling work but the the rewards are enormous. Keep your eye on the end goal and keep typing. Good luck!


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Desiree Duffy

Desiree Duffy

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