Expert Round-Up Topic: What advice would you offer to new nonfiction authors just getting started?
Research and gather as much information as possible. In nonfiction writing, accuracy and credibility are key. Make sure you have thoroughly researched your topic and have a solid understanding of the subject matter before you start writing. The reason why this is so important is that it only takes one inaccurate piece of information to make the reader question the legitimacy of the entire book.
LUCIA KANTER ST. AMOUR
(1) The writing is the easy part (I wrote my book in 4 days).
You finish your first final draft and think, “It’s done!” It’s sooooo not done. Find a trusted mentor expert in the same field and ask them to take a first pass at reviewing it. Be prepared to go through at least nine more drafts and develop a thick skin!
(2) Legacy Publisher or Go Your Own Way?
Find an agent to pitch your book to legacy publishers OR independently publish? Keep both options open, as there are pros and cons to each. Finding an agent can take months. You need a proper Proposal and Query ready to go, and be sure to target the right agents for your genre. The Proposal is a thorough document discussing what your book is about, why it needs to be written (and why by YOU), comparison to RECENT similar books, your bio, your social media prowess and how you will promote the book, and chapter summaries. It’s like a college application and each agent will have their own unique way they want it customized—that’s IF you are invited to submit one. If you match with an agent, be prepared to surrender autonomy and control, and to wait at least a year to bring your book to the marketplace.
Independent publication: do you have about $5,000 for a development editor, a content editor, a proofreader (those are 3 different people), a book designer, ISBN codes, and basic marketing? Research how to publish your book on KDP (that’s Amazon),“keywords,” and how to categorize your book. And do you have TIME for all that?
(3) Yay! Your Book Is Published. You’re Done, Right? Nope!
Once you actually release your book, there’s no such thing as auto-pilot. You need actively promote your book on social media, and seek media coverage. Learn how to find the right media outlets and how to pitch them. Be a guest on podcasts. Learn HOW to be interviewed. Here’s a secret: a nonfiction author doesn’t talk about their book in an interview. WHAT?! Correct. The interviewer talks about your book, but you need to be serving the audience so they want to buy your book. A fiction author, on the other hand, does talk about their book in an interview. Who knew?
1) Have a coach. Nonfiction books have a specific structure and if you don’t have that, your reader could be lost or lose interest. Working with a coach who specializes in nonfiction can be helpful, as it was for me.
2) Have a marketing plan for when your book launches. Anyone can self-publish a book and put it online, but if no one knows about it, no one will buy it, so have a plan to share about the book at least 30 days before it launches, and afterwards. You’ll want to learn how to pitch and interview with media and podcasts, or hire a publicist to help you with this portion.
Be prepared to market the book yourself. Nowadays consider any promotional help you get from the publisher to be gravy. For the most part, your book will sell to the extent you sell it. That’s the simple truth.
One thing I’ve found in my decades of writing various sorts of nonfiction books is that either your style or your expertise can get you work. Once I’d shown with some of my books for the Complete Idiot’s Guide line that I could write very reader-friendly books, they were interested in me writing on subjects that I didn’t particularly know, but could research as much as
needed. On the other hand, the packager who approached me to write my first book about the history of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip only knew that I had a blog about the topic where I showed expertise, and didn’t realize I’d written over a dozen books on various topics before. So don’t be afraid to look for assignments which are not directly at the intersection of your expertise and your usual style, so long as you’re willing to put in the research and/or creative effort.
Write something that’s fresh and interesting. Something that people need or care about. Something that will get readers excited. Something that you can talk about, for years to come.
Browse the other books in your genre, especially the bestselling books, and you’ll start to see patterns emerge. You should draw on these. Write a book of a similar style and a similar length. It will be easier to sell and easier to talk about.
Identify and remember *exactly* who you’re writing for. Do they need it or do they care about it? If yes, keep it. If no, scrap it.
Outline your book before you start writing. It will help you write more quickly and more directly. Ideally, you’ll have 6 to 12 chapters of 4,000 to 8,000 words each. Your book may divided into parts. Use creative and consistently-phrased chapter titles.
Being a successful author is no small feat but an attainable one with the right skills in place. The following four things are vital to reaching that success.
Write every single day. Creating a daily habit of writing is the best way to help foster your creativity, avoid writer’s block, and help develop your writing skills. It’s OK to be vulnerable. Your first draft won’t be your final manuscript, so get raw, real and authentic; the editing process can happen later.
Read often. Reading other great ones is a no-brainer if you want to become a successful writer. It’s best to consume all types of writing, from fiction to nonfiction, biographies, short stories, etc.
Be willing to grow. Every piece of content you create contributes to your growth, evolution, and realizations as an author. Where you started is not where you will finish (or shouldn’t!). With each piece of writing, be open to learning something new. It’s a journey and one well worth it. Being open to feedback is essential.
Have someone else proofread your work. You might be starting, and it’s not in the budget yet to hire for this position—ask a friend, family member, or colleague to give things a once over. The second set of eyes is optimal on your journey to becoming a successful author.
Don’t delay. Just get started. The best thing that you can do when starting out is to just start writing.
1. Firstly, outline your chapters one by one. This way, you are able to slowly think about the topics that you would want to include. Make some bullet points for each chapter, and once accomplished, expand slowly on each bullet point. Once you have mapped it out slowly, you can slowly see that you are making progress.
Progress is better than perfection.
2. The only aim that you need to emphasize throughout the whole duration of the writing process is to ensure that you are making clear progress. Don’t let yourself think that your first book needs to be the next best-seller.
Always remember that perfection does not exist, and as long as you are confident and happy with the work that you are doing while also ensuring that you are making progress in the process, it is sufficient to help you be motivated to finish your first-ever book.
Believe (book) is available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon: https://amzn.to/2zdsuOU
Asking yourself why is the first step in writing a book as your answer will determine how you will go about the process of your first book.
The truths about book publishing:
1. It is expensive to do it right
2. You need help with all the steps
3. Most authors sell less than 300 books
4. It takes more time than you expect
5. Writing the book is only ½ the work
Publishing a book is not to sell books; it should be seen as a way to collaborate, share, and create future opportunities, potentially opening doors that would never have been opened without becoming a credited author, AKA thought-leader.
In the end, writing is about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It is from that enrichment of your reading community that a business can bloom and grow if you approach it as providing a solution or voice to an existing gap in the market.
One of my goals in publishing a book was to build a community around an idea that I had about women in the business world. I worked full-time in a highly regarded position of leadership in a worldwide technology company but I also had a vision around reaching professional women who were challenged by what society says their life SHOULD look like.
My three books are door openers for speaking and training engagements where I shared her findings and lesson learned. In addition to these invitations, I leveraged social media to build a community where I could interact with readers.
I had the vision to make a difference in the lives of professional women around the country with my books and I am still working at this with the release of my third book, Seeking.
Create a loose outline and stay flexible.
Lots of creatives have an aversion to too much structure. Invest an hour into creating a loose book outline to help you stay on track. In addition to your book plan, make sure it fits into the other areas of your life.
2. Decide how you want to feel when your book is done.
Before leaping into a big writing project, decide how you’ll feel when you’re finished. This will start priming your brain to get into that state. Keep this feeling in mind as you write to stay motivated.
3. Block time on your calendar for 3 months.
You don’t have to escape to a log cabin in the woods. You can write your book in 30–60-minute chunks. Put the time on your calendar and honor it.
4. Write fast and edit later.
Too many potential authors try to edit while they write. This will slow you down. Instead, aim to write quickly. The goal is to get the words out as fast as possible. You’ll edit later.
The NFAA blog is always looking for contributions. Check out our contributions page and see if you or another nonfiction author or speaker you may know could provide an article or interview: Click Here.