Three Mistakes New Authors Make When Writing a Nonfiction Book


Every author starts out with great intentions and ambitious goals, but they don’t necessarily have good publishing instincts. In countless meetings and consultation sessions with aspiring authors of nonfiction books, I’ve found that there are three key mistakes that most new authors make.

1.   They write about what interests them, rather than what interests their audience. Over the course of your career, you’ve acquired a wealth of information, not all of which is useful to your target reader. Your book is not the right forum in which to explore the arcane aspects of your work that fascinate you the most. Instead, ask yourself what need your reader is trying to meet by reading your book. Shape the content of your book to meet that need, giving them exactly what they will find most useful and relevant, and nothing more.

2.   They aim to reach as many people as possible. Many authors assume that writing a book with “mainstream appeal” is the best way to sell a lot of copies. A broad market has more people in it, therefore more potential buyers, right? Unfortunately, that’s not how it works, unless your book is the undisputed bible on its subject. The counter-intuitive truth is that the more specific you are about who your audience is, the more likely those readers are to have a strong positive response to your book when they see it on the shelf. Narrowing in on a theme, a reader demographic or a topic focus will give your book a unique personality and purpose. It’s much better to be a big hit among a smaller crowd than to be overlooked by the masses.

3.   They don’t understand the “rules” that apply to their chosen genre. How-to books, memoirs, “big idea” books and narrative non-fiction books all follow particular conventions, and must have certain qualities in order to be successful. Failure to understand or observe these norms is almost certain to lead to an unsatisfying book that feels “off” to readers, even if they can’t pinpoint why. The most common way this error tends to show up is in books that are neither fish nor fowl, for example part memoir, part how-to. You may have a burning desire to tell your personal story as well as dispensing advice, but the truth is that readers don’t care. They’re just trying to get their own needs met. Understanding and fulfilling your readers’ expectations will help you craft a winning book that stands out in its field.

Behind every successful book is a well thought-out plan that takes these three things into consideration, and that’s just a starting point. It’s also critically important to think strategically about how your book will help you reach your personal and professional goals. Maybe you’re trying to attract more or higher-quality clients to your business. Perhaps you want to raise your expert profile and do more public speaking. Or you’re planning to step away from your practice and establish a serious writing career as an author with a series of books. Whatever your objectives, they must guide your writing decisions at the conceptual level.

There is no shortcut around this groundwork, and it must be done early on. Before you approach publishers and agents, long before you’re ready to work with an editor, and even before you write your book proposal, you’ve got to decide what your book will be about, who it’s for, and what will and won’t go into it.

Join me in Vancouver for our Book Publishing Boot Camp on March 6

Concept Development is the most important yet arguably most overlooked part of the author’s writing process. That’s why I’ll be covering concept development and book planning in depth in a seminar I’m giving on March 6, 2018 in Vancouver, Canada. This information-packed 90-minute interactive session aims to help nonfiction authors write and publish the best book possible, and is just one component of the LifeTree Media-sponsored Book Publishing Boot Camp: An All-Day Workshop for Women Entrepreneurs and Professionals.

You can get all the details (and early bird pricing!) here.

By the end of the day, attendees will have all the information they need to get crystal clear about:

  • What kind of book they should write
  • Who their target market is, or ought to be
  • What it will take to make their book a success
  • How to maximize their strengths
  • How to work around their weaknesses

It’s going to be a life-changing session for any subject matter expert who wants to write a nonfiction book to boost her brand or business.

And that’s just one component of the day. I’ll be joined on stage with the local industry’s smartest and most experienced publishing professionals, from editors and literary agents to marketers and publicists, all ready to share their very best advice for first time authors. Successful authors will also be there to recount their inspiring and hard-earned experiences in publishing their books.

Check out the full program here.

If you are a smart, ambitious woman who wants to write a book to expand her brand and build her business – and who wants to write the BEST BOOK possible for her unique circumstances and goals – then this conference is the place to be.

Register now for the Book Publishing Boot Camp and set yourself on the path to making your publishing goals a reality!

The Book Publishing Boot Camp: An All-Day Workshop for Women Entrepreneurs and Professionals is co-presented by LifeTree Media and Pink Velvet Couch, in partnership with Raise A Dream.

Maggie Langrick

Maggie Langrick

Maggie Langrick founded LifeTree Media to fulfill a long-held dream to lead a company dedicated to aiding personal growth and conscious communication. A compulsive word nerd and cheerleader for the human race, Maggie thrives on a balanced diet of yoga and ribald humour.
Maggie Langrick

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