Expert Round-Up Topic: What are some of the biggest challenges you face as an author?
One of the biggest challenges I faced as a nonfiction author was getting my first book published. In my genre of self-help nonfiction, it was difficult to find a literary agent and on top of that, it was difficult to find a literary agent who could effectively present a self-help book to a
The second challenge was developing a platform. My best advice here is to start small. Write for any outlet you can find and self-promote as much as possible. Within ten years, I’ve gone from an unpublished author with no platform to the release of my third traditionally published book with an international following of literally thousands of people. Don’t give up—it’s worth it.
Licensed Psychotherapist and Author of *Cue Cards for Men: A Man’s Guide to Love and Life.*
If there is any challenge, I would say that the writing of a book is tedious and a very individual process. It does not work well in a group and therefore, you must force yourself to show others what you have produced at any given time in order to know that you are on the right track or not.
Additionally, I think that finding the right editor is most challenging.
Though many people hold themselves out to be editors, in reality there are few people who really understand the craft sufficiently. Further, an editor can specialize in a variety of skill sets (line editor, grammatical editor, continuity editor, and so on), and within each of these skill sets, there
is a further sub-focus of genre. If an author hires an editor without further vetting, it is possible that if you are a business book author for example, that your editor may feel more comfortable with true crime books, in which case your edit is not effective for your readers.
Most editors will always say that they can do whatever you would like. If you ask the true crime editor to edit your business book, they will reach back into their past to find that one manuscript that they edited that was somewhat related to business and as a result, they will tell you that they
do have experience in your genre. It becomes a real problem and results in multiple edits on one book to get it to read the way you intended.
As I imagine is the case with most authors, just getting started was my biggest challenge. I leaned on decades of experience as an endurance athlete where setting goals is baked into the cake. So I literally circled a date on a calendar to begin. I’d done a lot of the prep work in advance, and knew what I wanted to say, but as one who typically feels confident in my decision-making I was a little surprised when self-doubt started creeping in. That’s when I really focused on the structure I’d created for the book and set out to best serve that structure. It allowed me to achieve a series of small successes along the way, which pushed me forward.
As my book uses real-life mental health cases I’ve worked on as a therapist, and offers a breakdown of how these conditions were handled to offer readers a roadmap for their own self-improvement, choosing which cases to focus on was another hurdle. Obviously, there’s countless issues related to mental health. Some quite provocative and unusual. While those may have made for more entertaining reading, my goal was for the readers to connect in some way to the cases I explored. It would be impossible to connect each reader to a specific mental health issue so I tried to be both specific and general at once. If a reader is able to personally relate to a case, even though it’s not exactly their condition, then the steps towards working to overcome it would be more accessible. More than anything, I worked towards negating some of the stigma attached to mental health while also promoting the idea of being self-aware of signs that may present themselves. I think that alone can make a real difference.
The biggest challenges that nonfiction authors face are:
- What to write
- How to market
From working with nonfiction authors, I have found that writing support is the #1 request that they have. When successful, educated, academic authors were requesting the simplest writing help over and over…I began to research. I found that highly intelligent people often need the most support when it comes to organizing their thoughts. It is the opposite of what people expect. Someone who has written so many in-depth papers and is an expert in his/her field should be able to write his/her own book with no issues, right? Wrong. Without guidance on where to begin, what to include, and especially when to finish, an aspiring author has unlimited possibilities for his/her book. It is too overwhelming for most people to tackle without an outside set of eyes. The solution is pretty easy, though. I have a handful of nonfiction outlines that authors can use in order to organize their ideas, based on their ultimate goal and genre of book.
The second most common issue I come across is book marketing. There are double the number of ebooks for sale on Amazon Kindle today as there were before the pandemic. It is no longer enough to publish a book to Amazon alone for visibility and sales. This leaves authors with two realistic options for getting their title into their ideal readers´ hands. They either need: 1. an engaged audience, or 2. a marketing budget. Both would be preferable of course. Without an engaged audience who will benefit from reading the title, or the funds to get your title in front of readers, there is no hope in triggering the Amazon algorithm, which will increase the sales for the life of the book.
One thing I wish I knew and would recommend to nonfiction authors is to build a social media following, or at least a network before you publish. The saying that writing the book is the easy part is very true. Yes, it is a major accomplishment to produce a well-written, edited, and compelling book. However, unless you have a publishing house with a big marketing budget, then having organic growth through your network or following is key. Getting editorial reviews is also prudent early in the launch, as it will create momentum with your book. And, always have a website before you launch!
As a multi-published author of several nonfiction children’s books, the biggest challenge I face as an author is creating a written product that educates while engaging and entertaining young readers. So, one way that I engage young readers is by writing books in rhyme. Rhyming stories are not only fun to read, but have many benefits for young readers.
Another way I engage young readers is by providing illustrations of diverse, relatable characters in normal situations. This helps fill a gap in the industry for children’s literature in general and nonfiction children’s literature specifically. This also helps children, who are largely absent from the media, feel seen and validated, and want to read in the first place.
I also conduct thorough research on the chosen topic, which can take hours and days, depending on my level of prior knowledge on the subject. This preliminary step is necessary and pays off. Gathering and presenting correct information and information that teaches young children and their parents, engages the whole family and promotes family literacy and knowledge.
However, it is so easy to get lost in the minutiae of nonfiction or create a word soup when trying to write nonfiction that inspires, like my kid’s career books. Presenting information in a digestible manner and choosing language that is descriptive, inspirational, and motivational can be difficult when there are word and page limits involved. I have found that using a storyboard template or creating a storyboard really helps me focus my story, plot my story, and provides a visual of what needs to be accomplished and when it needs to be accomplished. Storyboards are a must for any writing project.
The biggest challenge I have had writing nonfiction is coming up with a fresh way of presenting the information. All three of my books are about gardening and to be frank, there are hundreds of gardening books out there. To be successful I needed to come up with a new approach to an old topic. This can be very challenging for nonfiction writers who specialize in a skill and not something like history. While history can be written in an entertaining way while keeping its integrity, topics like gardening are a bit different and this is where the challenge is located. How do you teach the skill and keep its integrity while keeping it entertaining.
Facebook: Outlander Botanist
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