Checklist of Key Components to Include When Writing Your Nonfiction Book

Following are components to consider including in your book, though most are optional.Checklist of Key Components to Include When Writing Your Nonfiction Book

Endorsements – Endorsements can add credibility to a book, provided they come from influential authors. Don’t be afraid to ask—you might be surprised by how supportive your fellow authors can be. A well-known author’s quote can be printed on the front cover of the book, or you can include two or three quotes on the back of the book. If you manage to collect five or more endorsements, these can be listed on the first pages of the finished book. Authors typically begin pursuing endorsements once the manuscript is written and has been through at least one round of editing.

Foreword – This is a few introductory pages about why the book is helpful and why the author is qualified to write the book. A foreword should be written by a prominent author in the same field as a way of adding credibility, though it is entirely optional. If you do include a foreword, it is customary to indicate “Foreword by Annie Author” on the front cover, which provides the added benefit of exposure for the author who writes it for you.

Dedication – Typically just a sentence or two dedicating the book to one or more family members or friends. The dedication stands alone on a page at the beginning of the book.

Acknowledgements – Longer than a dedication, acknowledgements usually recognize the people involved in book production. This may include your appreciation for people who you interviewed or who contributed to the book in some way, your literary agent, editor, publisher, family and friends, peers and anyone who provided other types of support. This section is usually placed at the back of the book, though it can be at the front of the book, and it’s optional.

Table of Contents – Consider this one mandatory. It should be placed at the front of the book, indicating sections, chapters, and page numbers. The table of contents can also be a sales tool for some books, helping potential readers discover what they will learn from the book or determine reasons to read the book.

Introduction – Some authors choose to write an introductory chapter, which summarizes what’s to come. However, studies have shown that many readers skip this chapter. If you want to write an introduction, you may just want to call it “Chapter One!”

Chapters and Parts – Every book needs chapters to keep it organized. Chapters can be whatever length you choose, provided it makes sense to the reader. However, in today’s short attention span society, shorter chapters may be a better bet for prescriptive nonfiction books.

Books can sometimes be broken into parts, typically parts 1 through 3 or 4. This is only necessary to mark a separation in time periods or a transition to a different focus within the book.

End Notes – If your book references other texts, studies, or surveys, this should be indicated as a footnote, or more commonly used today as an End Note. Instead of inserting footnotes into a book, many publishers prefer that authors use End Notes, citing sources at the end of each chapter for easier formatting.

Resources – One way to add value for your readers is to provide a list of resources, which can include related books, recommended websites, and other related items the reader would find useful. This section is usually listed as a final chapter in the book. I personally include a lot of links and resources in my books and I like to summarize those in a Resources chapter at the end of the book. As a bonus, I often make the chapter available as a bonus download for easy printing.

Index – An index can be placed in the back of a book, which is a reference guide for the reader showing important words and terms from the book and their associated page numbers. An index is often used in medical books and any kind of book that might be used for reference purposes. From a publishing perspective, an index is created by a professional indexer (yes, there is a whole society of people who do this for a living!). The index is appended to the end of the book after the book has been edited and typeset for printing to ensure the page numbers are referenced properly.

Author Bio – Within the last pages of the book is the ideal place to share more about the author. You can provide information about where you live, your family, your business, your background, and any other details you want readers to know. You can also list previous books you’ve written, details about any services that you may offer, social media links, and your website address. You can even include a call to action here, such as “Visit xyz.com and get a bonus report when you sign up for the newsletter!” It’s nice to include a professional photo too so that readers can feel like they get to know you a bit more. Though this page is optional, I encourage all authors to include one since it’s a great way to let readers feel like they know you.

Advertisements – Some authors and publishers invite advertisers to contribute to their books in exchange for payment. While this option isn’t used as often as it could be, if your book provides any kind of how-to advice, it can be worth contacting potential sponsors who want to reach your audience by offering them a single-page ad.

Call to Action – You can use the final pages of your book however you like, and one way to keep readers engaged after they finish is by ending with a call to action. You might ask readers to join your private Facebook group, visit your website, purchase a companion product, learn more about your coaching offerings, etc. If you have a business that relates to your book, a call to action page can be quite helpful.

Bonus Downloads – I encourage authors to always find a way to provide bonus downloads for their readers. These could be templates, worksheets, or other types of supplemental content. The point is to provide additional value while also inviting readers to visit your website and sign up for your mailing list. Readers appreciate additional value and this can be a great way to boost website traffic and build your contact list.

Back Cover Copy – The back cover of your book is an important billboard for your work. When a potential reader picks up a book, they quickly flip it over to read the backside. Because of this, it is incredibly important that you write compelling sales copy for your book. In addition, authors should include a brief bio on the book jacket—just a single paragraph—with the most relevant details about your experience as it relates to the book. Be sure to include your website address and a photo. Additional elements on a back cover include endorsements (if you have them), a barcode with embedded ISBN, and a retail price.

Permissions from Contributors – If you plan to include photos in your book or have others contribute essays, chapters or other content, you will need to obtain written permission from each source.

If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit on writing nonfiction books. It includes checklists, templates, worksheets and more. Check it out!

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