Successful Nonfiction

What Makes a Great Nonfiction Book?

You want your nonfiction book to be great. As you are writing it, here are some things you perhaps have not thought about.

1. It has been reported that most book buyers do not get past page 18 in a new book. They buy it, bring it home, begin reading, and then put it down on the bedside table - and never get back to it.  Your nonfiction book has to be exciting in the initial pages to keep the reader involved and reading.

2. Getting a customer to buy your book is not enough. You want your reader to read it, underline it, highlight it, talk about it, move to action and profit from it.  Satisfied readers will recommend your book to friends.

3. Readers want information fast. Do your best for your reader by writing the solution to his or her challenges in as few words as possible. Use brief wording and paragraphs. Your reader wants just the information - he or she is not reading your nonfiction book to be diverted.

4. Use an active rather than passive voice.

5. Avoid using prepositional phrases when you can.

6. Put subjects and verbs at the beginning of sentences.

7. Avoid jargon, cliches and hackneyed expressions.

8. Remeber, your book is never finished. Parts of it become out-of-date the moment the ink strikes the paper. Your book is alway a work in progress. Think of the next printing being an update.

9. Your book can give you credibility and become a foundation for your business. It speaks with more authority than other media.

10. If you plan to seek an agent for your book, expect rejection. Even great writers have had their work returned.

Writing is a creative art. Building a nonfiction book requires planning, structure and lots of labor. It involves distilling the pertinent information for your readers and crafting just the right words to convey your message.  Publishing your book may be your goal, but the process can be fun.

 [This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from Successful Nonfiction, by Dan Poynter.]


You Don't Have to be a Writer to be an Author

Did you know that on any given week, up to half of the books on any non-fiction best seller list are written by someone other than the name on the book? The reason is simple. Being an expert, an eyewitness or a celebrity does not necessarily mean that one is also a skilled writer and communicator. Enter the ghostwriter.

Ghostwriters typically work for any of four kinds of clients. One is the expert who writes to preserve and share his or her knowledge. Another has an extraordinary first-person perspective and experience to relate. The third is a celebrity or aspiring celebrity who wants a book to memorialize or launch a career. The fourth has a fictional story to tell, but not the necessary storytelling skills.

For example, you don't think Lee Iaccoca wrote his best-selling books all by himself do you? Iaccoca is the author. The book contains his information. But he did and does not have the time to be a writer.

In addition, ghostwriters can fill in for any skill or knowledge authors may lack. In recognition for their expertise, ghostwriters are typically paid a cash fee plus a percentage of the author's royalties. In return, ghostwriters take a vow of perpetual silence.

If you are not a fully-skilled writer but have expert knowledge or an extraordinary experience to share, or seek to launch or enhance your image, you may want to consider hiring a ghostwriter. It could be a very smart move.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from Successful Nonfiction, written by Dan Poynter.]


Three Important Tips for Book Writing Beginners

If you are just beginning your first book project, here are three great tips regarding researching what your want to write about.

1. Research the internet. Online bookstore databases such as Amazon.com list books that are currently available or "in print" as well as out-of-print books. Make a subject search and print out the results. Try several alternative words as well. For example, for a book on parenting, try " parent", "mother", "father," etc.

Next make a search on your proposed or working title. This will tell you if such a title or something like it has recently been used.

Using the internet, see how much information is available on your subject. You'll want to gather details from every book, magazine article, database and resource you can find. Visit websites listed in appendices, and use search engines.

2. Obtain reference books. Even though your computer does a pretty fair job with spelling, grammar, and the thesaurus, every writer needs some reference books. The computer is not infallible when it comes to language use.

The least expensive places to buy dictionaries, style manuals and other reference books are used book stores. Some references may also be available in a digital format.

3. Attend writer's conference. Writer's conferences are markets that bring buyers and sellers together. These events inform, entertain and console. They are a venue for being inspired by successful authors and a place to meet editiors, agents and publishers. You will also meet other writers who are trying to figure out the secret of successful writing and getting published.

The end result is, the more research you do and the more material you find to reference, the better chance you have to successfully jump start your first book project.

[This post was create, with permission, from excerpts taken from Successful Nonfiction, authored by Dan Poynter.]


The Role of an Agent in the Book Publishing Process

Once your manuscript is complete, it is time to decide how you wish to publish it. Here are your options:

  1. approach a large publisher,
  2. approach a mid-size publisher,
  3. hire an literary agent,
  4. contract with a vanity press (not a good choice), or
  5. publish it yourself.

Everyone's situation is different, and the solution for one person may not be the best solution for another. If you are looking for an agent or a publisher, research and learn what types of books each have represented or published in the past.

Savvy authors, looking to attract a major audience, sell their idea for a book often before they have finished it. They draft a proposal and send it to agents and publishers. Even self-publishers should draft proposals to help them assess the size of their market, uncover the competition and plan the direction for their book. Use the proposal to sell both you and your idea - and make your proposal irresisitible.

Specifically regarding agents, here some things worth considering.

In some instances, agents can play a key role. Many larger publishers prefer to have manuscripts filtered through agents. This filtering improves the quality and reduces the quantity of proposals they receive. The agent, acting as a counselor, also provides a buffer between the author and the publisher.

Agents provide three primary services.

  1. They find a publisher by matching your manuscript to the best fit.
  2. They negotiate the contract.
  3. In some instances, they may help develop the manuscript.

Most agents today will require you to draft a book proposal for submission to the publishers.

Finding the right agent is an important and critical decision. Some literary agents have a passion and a track record of success for certain kinds of books (i.e. cookbooks, travel, children's books, business, parenting, etc.). To connect with the right agent for you manuscript, you'll need to match it to the agent. Research various agent directories. Ask anyone you know who you think might know of a resource. Locate and call authors of works similar to yours and ask who their agent is. 

Once your manuscript is complete, how you approach the decision of how and who will publish your manuscript is the next critical hurdle.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from Successful Nonfiction, written by Dan Poynter .]


Three Important Rules to Follow When Creating Your Book Cover

Dan Poynter offers these important rules when it comes to creating your book cover.

Rule # 1: Draft your cover sales copy first.

In order to focus on who your book customers are and what you plan to share with them, write the first draft of your book-cover sales copy before you write your book. Think about who your primary audience will be and list the benefits of your book. Tell the bookstore browser what is inside and how your book will help them. Your back cover will make an excellent outline. Then write your book and deliver on your promises.

Drafting the cover copy will make the book writing easier because it will enable you to focus on your readers and provide you with a list of what you plan to tell them.

Rule #2: Do not leave the writing of your sales copy to someone else.

Book cover designers can do a terrific job a laying out the package and incorporating the illustration, putting it all on disc, and sending it to the printer - but someone must draft the sales copy. That someone should be you. Publishers are notorious for writing weak copy. So, do it yourself - and be assertive! 

Rule # 3: Do not put your photo on the front or back cover.

Your book cover is prime space, and there is not much of it. The front cover is your billboard - make it attractive. Your back cover is for sales copy - make it convincing. Don't put anything on the cover that will not sell the book. Unless your face is recognizable because you are a politician, movie star or other high-profile person, leave it off the cover.

Your author photograph should be in your book. Your readers are investing their time and money in you, and many want to now who is talking to them. Put your photo in the front matter on the "About the Author" page. Thank write a whole page about yourself.

So forget the ego trips, you book cover should be used only to sell your book.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts take from Successful Nonfiction, written by Dan Poynter. Dan can be contacted through Para Publishing.]


The Best Advice for Anyone Starting to Write a Book

Writing a book can be similar to many other projects - it is something you build one step at a time. As you begin your book writing project, here is the best advice that will help you stay organized and keep your project on track.

Make your book writing project portable by placing it in a three-ring binder and carry it around with you - always!

Set up your binder with dividers for each chapter. Make up a list of possible titles and subtitles. Then draft your back cover sales copy. As you book project unfolds, you will more easily be able to fine tune titles and sales copy. Put a sketch of your cover on the front of your binder and your back cover sales copy on the back.

Insert your front matter pages - title page, copyright page, table of contents, foreword, about the author page, disclaimer, acknowlegements, etc. - in the order in which you want them printed in your book in your binder.

It is hard to put time aside to write. But we all encounter unexpected bits of time throughout our day - perhaps a few minutes after lunch, waiting in an office for an appointment or riding public transportation. When these times occur, you can get out the binder and work on your book. Also, with the binder under your arm, the project will be constantly active in your mind.

A successful book writing project starts with first building the shell of your book and then filling in the sections.

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


If You Plan to Write a Children's Book, Here's Some Great Information

Some beginning writers think writing for children will be easier than writing for adults. Children are pretty sharp - and their attention span is usually much shorter. If you are planning to write a children's book, here are some things you need to consider.

Women buy 82% of all children's books, and half of those books are bought as gifts. Nearly 40% of the books are bought by mothers. Hardcover children's books currently are priced between $14-15.00  (if your book has a dust jacket, you will need to charge more), while softcovers are priced between $7-8.00.

According to Publisher's Weekly, children's books fall into the following categories: 27% are picture books, 17% are books for babies and toddlers, 20% are for younger readers, 19% are for middle readers and 17% are for young-adult readers. It's important that you decide which category your work falls into.

Generally speaking, children's books are considered 50% text and 50% illustration, so any royalties received will likely be split between the writer and illustrator. For example, if the royalty is 10% , then the writer and illustrator would each get 5 percent.

Children's books tend to have a longer life than books written for adults. Sales of children's books tend to start off slow and build over time. According to USA Today, October marks the beginning of a steady climb in the sales of children's books toward the holidays.

And finally, in writing your children's book , be upbeat and send a positive message. So often, children's stories center around mistakes and punishment, which sends a subtle message to a child about not taking risks for fear of harm.

[This post was created from excerpts taken, with permission, from Successful Nonfiction, written by Dan Poynter.]