Three Tips for Writing Effective Nonfiction Books

By Robert W. Lucas

Like every other book genre, non fiction books appeal to a certain type of reader. Depending on your focus, you might be sharing a personal memoir, providing self help tips, giving guidance on a specific topic or skill, or offering numerous other bits of information that readers might use to enhance their knowledge. Whatever your intent, you should take time to decide content and approach to writing before you begin in order to increase your likelihood for success. The following three tips for writing effective nonfiction books can help focus your efforts.

  1. Choose a topic on which you have expertise. Unlike fiction books, nonfiction book content is typically based on factual information and research presented in a logical and informative manner. For readers to select your book, instead of a competing one on the same topic, will often require that you have identified yourself as an expert on your chosen subject. Think from your reader’s perspective. If you are looking for a book on an historical event, or information that will help you to enhance your subject knowledge or skills, what would you want the writer to know or be? In most instances, the answer is someone who has experience and a passion for the topic and who has put time into gaining knowledge and expertise that they can then share in a book.
  2. Plan your message. Give thought to what you want to say and how you want to organize your book content. By doing a competitive analysis of books on similar topics, you can get ideas on how other authors have handled their content. Putting together a working outline and assigning tentative topics can aid you in staying on task and including things you think are important as you write. You can always go back and add, delete and rearrange content after you capture your thoughts in writing. Some writers actually create their outline (e.g. chapter titles and key concepts for each) on sticky notes which they paste on a wall. After they get them posted, they step back and read through the notes, often reorganizing or repositioning key concepts in different chapters. This editing can continue as you write your book.
  3. Develop a readable style or voice. Depending on your topic, it is okay to use humor or share personal stories that make the content more readable and personal. Also, make sure that you consider the level of reader who will likely pick up your book. Use a mixture of longer and shorter sentences and consider the words that you choose to deliver your message in order to hold reader interest and increase comprehension. Also, once you determine your audience, you can check for readability by doing spell-check in Microsoft Word or other software that you are using to write your manuscript. At the end of the spelling check phase, a chart will pop up showing the level to which the material was written. This is called Flesch reading level. While there is conflicting opinion on use of such readability scales, it is not a bad thing to at least consider the ease at which your message can be read and understood.

For additional ideas on writing an effective nonfiction book, read my earlier blog posting.

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