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Writing a Successful Nonfiction Book - Five Rules to Live By

Unless you are a celebrity, no one can predict whether your first book will be a writing and marketing success. However, if you are planning to write a nonfiction book, here are five rules that will improve your chances significantly.  

1. Make sure you have readers.

Before you even start writing, consider who will buy and read your book and what you plan to give them. Ask yourself this question: if you build it, will they come? A non-fiction book must contain information people want to know. Markus Allen, The Direct Mail Guru, tells his followers that:

"All writing should be to a specifically targeted group. Learn how the group feels, acts and what your audience likes and dislikes. Then, craft your writing in style and content specifically to your readership."

2. Write your very best.

You are a professional. Your buyers and readers will be paying good money, and they will be expecting good work. It is poor reasoning to want to save your best book writing for a future work. Each of your readers deserves your very best. Remember, good work keeps readers coming back.

3. Check your facts.

Successful nonfiction writers have long realized that they have a responsibility to their readers, to their own credibility and to history, to check all the facts they present in their books. The challenge is greater today due to the rapid growth in our knowledge base, the on-going changes in our technology and our increasing ability to access information. So, be sure to check all your facts. When writing nonfiction, your are committing history. 

4. Make your writing compelling.

The written word can and should be powerful. A successful nonfiction book should not only inform, it should move readers to action. Realize that too much writing may explain how to do something, but not motivate the reader to do it.

5. Make your book worth the money.

Believe it or not, size does matter. If you book is under 100 pages, it may not command the price you must get for your work. At the same time, however, do not pad your work with unnecessary extra writing.

There are great and valuable ways to add length to your book - things like adding resources to an Appendix. Your book can become a valuable reference. Other ways to lengthen your book, while making it more valuable and interesting, is to add quotations, stories and illustrations, and providing summaries at the end of each chapter.

Five rules to live by - if you want your nonfiction book to be successful. As you contemplate your book and plan your book project, think about them and make them part of your book writing action plan.

[This post was created from excerpts from Successful Nonfiction, authored by Dan Poynter.]


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Julie Mac

thankyou for the tips - they are great - I am just beginning and the notes here are very helpful

Patrick Ecclesine

Very smart ideas from this post. It contains a lot of valuable information which i really appreciate and adore. Thanks for letting me leave my comments here. :)

Proofreading Professional

Planning is the first and most important step. It means asking yourself all the tough questions about the book, from "Why am I uniquely qualified to write this book?" to "Is there a real market for it?" The most effective way to plan is by writing a book proposal, which has a dual purpose: to help you think through the book and to provide you with material you will use later in the process.

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