1. Why should I publish a book?
A nonfiction book is an effective and versatile marketing tool. It supports your existing brand, a new brand, or a re-brand. It even supports your brand if that brand is you. For instance, you’ve lived a personal experience you want to share for others to benefit from, such as personal loss, business success, mountain climbing, hardship.
Other reasons to write a book include, you’ve solved a common problem, for example, tips & tricks for saving money. You want to make a difference on an issue, such as mental health or climate change. You might want to convince or convert, change minds, or simply set the record straight. This could be personal, political, or professional. Your book needs to have a point of difference from the others in its category. For instance, your book can be different If you have a unique point-of-view on an issue, event, or era. A book can also be a legacy for your family. You might like to share the successes and challenges of your life or provide a history of a family business.
2. What are the stages in writing a nonfiction book?
Regardless of your subject matter or your experience, the path to publishing a book follows these five steps.
- Development – Before the writing begins; this is where your idea takes shape as a book. Time to validate the concept, determine the focus, and the style. Then, prepare a detailed outline of the content—chapter by chapter.
- First Draft – Write it straight through, following your outline. Do not stop to edit or move stuff around. Just get it written—start to finish.
- Substantive Editing – This is a careful review to ensure a consistent style and make revisions such as moving content to a different section or adding a paragraph and removing redundancies.
- Copy Editing – Grammatical errors, punctuation, and spelling are corrected as required. Facts are checked.
- Proofreading – This final stage catches any typos and checks for format consistency.
Manuscript complete! It’s a book!
3. How do I start writing a book?
It starts with an idea. Then create a book outline to organize your information and format. You’ll write your book faster and easier with an outline. Start by grouping information and ideas about your subject matter into sections. The outline may start messy, but that’s okay. You’ll move ideas around and discover any gaps in your argument or if you need to do more research. Ultimately the outline becomes a chapter by chapter map of your book, including the subtopics in each of those chapters. It organizes the book’s information and the flow of chapters. For example, Chapter 1 presents your thesis (the central idea of your book). The subsequent chapters unpack that idea, explaining it in detail, building your argument, supporting it with research, defending it against other ideas. Ideally, you’ll have 10-20 chapters, and each of those broken out into smaller subsections. Ten to 20 chapters is an average range.
4. Do I need good grammar to write a book?
Many people who speak English as their second language are correct in their grammatical choices more often than many native speakers! Don’t underestimate your grasp of the language. To bolster your confidence, you can use some of the many grammar and spelling software programs. Plus, a good editor can weed out any odd turns of phrase or idioms. The most well-respected writers in English, with a tremendous grasp of the language, still use a proofreader for the final look to fix any errors that sneak through to this last checkpoint.
5. How do I know if my book will be a success?
You don’t need to be a literary genius to write a successful non-fiction book. You need a good idea, a convincing argument, delivered in an ordered, logical way; a distinct positioning strategy; and straightforward writing. Top that off with professional-looking production for the book’s cover and formatting. These elements don’t guarantee success, but it would be unlikely without them.
6. Do I need to be an expert to write a nonfiction book?
People often write books about techniques, practices, processes, policies that they know well. They are Subject Matter Experts. But other writers, narrative nonfiction writers, are not experts but explorers. Their books take us on an expedition. We share in the writer’s curiosity as we, alongside our author and guide, take a deep dive into a subject. A school of journalism, known as New Journalism and made famous by American writer Tom Wolfe, approached their topics, not as experts but as explorers. Writers of this kind of nonfiction use fiction techniques are excellent observers and thoughtful interviewers and generally provide a fly-on-the-wall feeling to the events they describe.
You can write a successful nonfiction book using only secondary research. This relies on the expertise of others to prove your thesis or make new connections between ideas.
7. How long does it take to write a book?
The distance/time to your finish line—your completed manuscript—is an equation. The average nonfiction book is 30,000 words. If you write 300 words a day, your book will take 100 days. Think about setting not just a deadline for completion but mini-milestones. Breaking a task into smaller bites is widely accepted as a way to succeed. Once you have the first draft, you’ll require more time to revise and rewrite as needed. Revisions are required. A first draft is not something that you want to publish! If you are self-publishing, you’ll have it proofread and then format it for printing. Plan on another 90 days or so to finish these last steps.
8. What is a book outline?
An outline is a guiding document that you create. It makes writing your book faster and easier. It starts by grouping information and ideas about your subject matter. You might start your outline by using a mind map rather than a list. It helps you see the interconnection between the subtopics you are detailing. The outline is a chapter by chapter map of your book, including the subtopics in each of those chapters. It needs to organize the overall book and the flow of chapters. For example, Chapter 1 presents your thesis (the central idea of your book). The subsequent chapters unpack that idea, explaining it in detail, building your argument, supporting it with research, defending it against other ideas. Ideally, you’ll have 10-20 chapters, and each of those broken out into smaller subsections. Ten to 20 chapters is an average range.
9. What is a positioning statement for a nonfiction book?
A positioning statement is a short, straightforward sentence that states your book’s subject, who it’s for, and what benefits result from reading it. It’s the heart of your marketing, including the back of the book blurb and the product description on Amazon. It’s also the nut of the creative brief you give your book designer, and you’ll need it to interest a potential publisher when you make your pitch. And it improves your organization and writing.
Your positioning statement needs to be small but mighty. Networking superstars will tell you to have a short “elevator introduction” about yourself before heading off to an event. Your positioning statement serves the same purpose. It’s an elevator intro for your book.
10. Can anyone self-publish a book?
Yes. Self-publishing puts you in the driver’s seat for all the steps required to get your book into a reader’s hands—writing, editing, production, distribution, and promotion. While you are ultimately responsible for all these processes, it’s not necessarily a solo endeavour. Self-publishing authors can contract with specific experts for some of these—for example, a graphic artist for the book cover or a proofreader for your final manuscript.
11. What are front matter and back matter in a book?
Front matter is a bit like the credits roll in a movie and can include: title page; frontispiece; legal stuff; accolades; dedication; acknowledgments; foreword; preface; epigraph; and Table of Contents (TOC).
Title page, legal stuff, and TOC are standard for nonfiction. The rest is optional. For instance, if you’ve written an introduction, you might pass on writing a preface, as there is significant overlap.
Back Matter is all the stuff at the end of the book that’s not in the body. A digital book does not have a back cover, so whatever goes there in a paper version is included in the digital version’s back matter. Typically, this is About the Author with a photo.
Back matter can also include endnotes, appendices, index, glossary, bibliography, suggested reading, and other books by the author. This is the place to promote upcoming books; some authors include a sample chapter. You can also pitch any other related products or services you offer, such as widgets or webinars. In your digital version, you can include a link to your website or social media and the very important mailing list sign-up, so your readers can be the first to know about your next book or other news.
12. What’s the difference between a foreword and a preface?
A preface is an introduction, not so much to the book as to the author. It includes the author’s bona fides or inspiration for the book. You’ll sometimes see a preface “signed” by the author, with location and date: “John Smith, Costa del Sol, May 19, 2025.” The author does not write the foreword. Not all books have one; it is not a legal requirement. This can be useful for marketing if the person who writes your foreword is well known to your book’s potential buyers. You might ask your thesis advisor or a top dog in your field to write it.
13. What is writer’s block?
You need to write to finish your book, but you’re not able to. The screen is blank, you may feel that you’ve lost your way or you’re wrestling with a particularly thorny chapter. Whatever the manifestation; you’re supposed to be writing and you’re not!
Here are Five Ways to Write Off Writer’s Block:
- Nip writer’s block in the bud. Before you start writing your book, write your book outline. The time you spend mapping out your book will make it easier to write. It’s an outline, not a mandate. You can revise an outline.
- Set your alarm. Many writers set aside a time and even a place to write. If you are an orderly person with an orderly life, this can work. But for some, it just becomes an excuse not to write. Many people do their writing on the fly—in the in-between times. A first draft is never going to be perfect. It just needs to get done.
- Start in the middle, or the end, or the beginning—no one is watching. You can start writing your book anywhere it strikes you. Nobody says you have to write Chapter One first. You don’t need to write it from the beginning if you have a detailed outline.
- Write through your first draft without stopping. That doesn’t mean you need to write your whole book in one sitting! But get the first draft done before you start revising.
- If you stall, it may not be writer’s block. It might be a sign that something is amiss with the premise or concept. Revisit your outline to see if the book in your outline is the book you are writing.
14. How do I write the perfect title for my book?
What the book is about should be clear from the complete title. It’s helpful if the title promises a benefit or offers a solution to a problem. For instance, Better Time Management for Better Productivity. Dry as a bone, but clear.
It’s rare to find a nonfiction book without a subtitle. It certainly helps when potential readers are searching for your online. Shorter is usually better. A subtitle provides additional information for the reader to select your book over another in the same category.
Memorable is better than unique. It makes it easy for people to recommend your book to their friends. Weird words or foreign phrases may have the opposite effect. Titles that are easy to say are more memorable. Metaphors are memorable and make powerful titles, and can be easy to remember. Think, Chicken Soup for the Soul. If your title is easy to say, there’s a better chance people will remember it, and they can say it to others. Alliterative titles are fun—Bobbie’s Best Brownies—but be careful with slang expressions that may fall out of fashion quickly and make your book sound out of date. If your target market is not likely to appreciate inappropriate or swear words, avoid them.
15. How can I prepare to be interviewed about my book?
The host of a podcast, a webinar, or a TV show might want to interview you about your book. These tips will help if you’re not familiar with the experience.
Ask for a list of questions before the interview. This will show what kind of information they are seeking. If it doesn’t include your essential speaking points, ask to add them. Be helpful, not harassing. At the least, you need to know the focus of the interview. For instance, if you wrote The Three Little Pigs, you want to know if the audience is more interested in building materials or the interpersonal relationships among the pigs.
Ask who the ultimate audience is. Is your interviewer writing for a trade magazine or a general interest one? Your interviewer might be very knowledgeable about your subject matter. But this isn’t always good. It may mean they don’t ask the questions their audience wants to know. As in the previous example, find out if the audience is mostly builders or animal psychologists.
Be kind. Don’t be mean, sarcastic, or grumpy. If the interviewer hasn’t read your book, don’t fret. That puts you in the driver’s seat. Help the interviewer by offering information.”You didn’t ask, but anyone thinking about building with straw should …” or “Your listeners may be wondering why we didn’t build the first house from bricks.” This way, you can deliver your essential speaking points.
Relax and smile. Even if the interviewer or their audience can’t see your face. People can hear a smile! Unless you’ve written a controversial book, most interviewers aren’t adversarial.
16. How can I get ready for public speaking about my book?
If You Are Presenting
Don’t wing it. You probably know the information in your book backward and forward but have at least a short list of speaking points. Losing your train or blanking is not fun, and having notes can provide confidence.
Know your audience. What does this specific audience want to know about your book? If the audience is all subject matter colleagues, feel free to use industry jargon.
Tell stories. A story is a great way to make a point. Just ensure your account delivers. A long-winded anecdote about Uncle Murray and a fishing trip might leave your audience wondering. Ensure the story makes your point.
Don’t overstay. Most speaking opportunities will give you a time limit. If not, limit yourself to 20 minutes max. And leave room for questions. Taking questions from the floor can be fun or frustrating. If you aren’t sure what someone is asking, repeat it back to clarify. If it’s way off-topic, tell them something relevant. You don’t always need to answer the question asked.
Sell gently. This is a marketing opportunity, but it is not an infomercial! Don’t hard sell your product or service. Better still, sell yourself by being friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, human.
17. How do I write a book review?
Eight Tips for Writing a Book Review
- First, establish the length. Reviews on Amazon can be as short as 100 words. Longer reviews may go to 1500 words.
- Take notes as you read. You may want to quote a particular passage or reference an argument.
- Review the book you are reading, not the one you think the author should have written. Reviewers are often guilty of criticizing the author for what they didn’t write. Focus on this book’s intent. If something important is missing from the book, such as ignoring a crucial study, it is worth mentioning.
- What problem or challenge did this book promise to solve? Does it do that? And how? Who, specifically, would gain from reading this book?
- If relevant, reference an author’s previous works, for instance, if it shows why they are qualified to write on this subject.
- Do mention the book’s tone or style—is it a fun read, challenging, too formal, or not formal enough?
- Don’t be mean or sarcastic. It doesn’t help the review or the reader. Do add personal opinions or experiences, but be brief and only as they pertain to the book. Remember, it’s not about you.
- Layout or design is usually only mentioned if it’s spectacularly good, such as beautiful photographs, or spectacularly awful, for instance, more fonts than a ransom note. But you can note, for example, if it’s a “workbook,” has exercises or provides quick chapter summaries.
You will mention your bona fides for being a reviewer of this book. Do offer full disclosure, for example, if you went ten rounds with the author or were married to their sister. Reviewers usually have an opportunity at the end of the review to mention their expertise, the title of their book (or forthcoming book), and their social media or website address.
18. Do I need a website for my book?
The Ten Elements on your Book Website/ Webpage
- The book cover is a perfect visual. It shows me immediately that I’m at the right place.
- Your book purchaser might want to see the stuff that’s on the back cover, too. Include the back cover blurb, About the Author, and your photo.
- Post praise or reviews about you, your work, or this book.
- You can post a calendar or a promotion about upcoming speaking engagements or participation at a conference or trade show.
- A way to buy the book, usually a link to your Amazon page.
- Add an FAQ page. This is one of the best ways to increase traffic to your site. Pose questions from the reader’s point of view. Provide short answers, not just links to your products page.
- A process to collect emails for future marketing. For instance, you may ask for an email in exchange for a free chapter or webinar access. Or, it might be a newsletter sign-up
- Contact information, for instance, for the media or bookings.
- Images, photos, video—if they are relevant. Otherwise, they just make your site slower to load.
- News about your upcoming book!
19. What is developmental book editing?
Aspiring nonfiction authors might work with a developmental editor early in a project, often even before writing. A development editor can help get the ideas out of your head and onto the page by focusing the theme and organizing the information and the order of chapters to ensure that the arguments and ideas flow logically. Are there any gaps? Is further research required?
You might call upon a substantive editor once you finish the first draft. If you worked with a development editor, this type of editing may not be required. A substantive editor provides a macro look at your book, focusing on organization and structure. This editor may move around or even remove blocks of copy to achieve coherence and flow.
20. Is a copy editor the same as a proofreader?
A copy editor is the one who knows where the apostrophes go. This pro reviews and corrects your manuscript for grammar, punctuation, spelling, repetition, jargon, and proper word usage, such as sound-alike errors.
Copy editors often also provide fact-checking as part of their work. Fact-checking doesn’t validate your hypothesis; it confirms the accuracy of quotations, dates, and proper names. A fact-checker isn’t concerned with whether “President” is capitalized. Instead, they ensure that president is the correct title, or if, for example, the person is the CEO or chancellor. Fact-checking checks people’s names and titles; businesses’ names; books; buildings; corporations; and organizations. To confirm, for instance, if it’s Spadina Road or Spadina Avenue, 10th Street, or 10th Avenue.
And last is the proofreader. This person flags any grammar errors that the copy editor missed (it happens) and might also work to ensure format consistency, for instance, the font size and type for body copy, headings, and subheadings.