The Top 7 Book Structure Templates for Nonfiction Authors
So, you’re looking for a book writing template that you can follow in order to get started with your nonfiction book, but the choice is overwhelming. A search for “book writing template” returns 140,000 results including pages upon pages of templates, some free, some paid. What to do?
The answer is: take a step back and reassess. Your book template should only come second to a much more important decision.
Let’s talk about it next
As a soon-to-be-published nonfiction author, you’ll be staking your reputation on your book and you need no less than a professional book designer to make sure that your book meets or exceeds the high bar set by nonfiction trade books.
Your credibility as a problem-solver rests not just on the quality of your writing (which will be greatly aided when you hire a professional nonfiction editor) but also on the quality of your book layout and cover design.
What you should be learning at this stage is not how to use a book template, but instead you need to become familiar with the different types of book styles that are preferred by bestselling nonfiction authors. In this article I’ll introduce you to the most popular nonfiction book styles to improve your chances of success in your niche.
These are the styles that readers enjoy most. Once you make this choice, your book designer will then use the best book template that fits your choice of style to create your end product.
What Makes A Good Nonfiction Book?
Nonfiction readers are attracted to certain book styles because they find them easy to follow.
Now, professional authors don’t always choose the same style for every book they write because it becomes repetitive over time. On some occasions, such as with a book series, a style may be repeated the sake of continuity. But in most cases, bestselling authors will try to alternate styles between books.
A good nonfiction book will use one of the seven styles shown below because it’s something that’s familiar to readers, allowing them to focus on the book’s content without being confused by the way information is presented.
New and unexpected styles can work wonders for nonfiction genres like cookbooks, art books, photography books, etc., where a big part of the message is the book format itself, but this is not the case for nonfiction books of a problem-solving nature.
How To Write a Nonfiction Book
Before you begin writing your book, first become familiar with the following seven nonfiction book styles. See which one resonates with you for your book project:
1. The Problem-Solving Book Style
The first nonfiction style is the classical and most widely used format: the problem-solving book.
In this style of book, you’ll first state the problem that your book will solve and then empathize with your audience because either you’ve been in their shoes before or you’ve helped hundreds or thousands of people overcome the same problem.
After you establish your credentials, you’ll build the case for your solution armed with a long history of case studies or client testimonials, which will be dispensed piecemeal throughout your book.
When your reader reaches the end of the book, they will have “bought” your solution and realize that this is what they’ve been missing.
Problem-solving books tend to be transformational in nature and while there are just too many to list here, some of the most successful contemporary ones are shown below.
Here are some examples (in chronological order):
- How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
- Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill
- The Magic of Thinking Big, by David J. Schwartz
- Awaken the Giant Within, by Tony Robbins
- Battlefield of the Mind, by Joyce Meyer
- The Power of Now, By Eckhart Tolle
- Deep Work, by Cal Newport
2. The Training Book Style
The training book style is used mostly for business-type books that teach readers a new technique. They’re usually set up as a written course and walk the reader through the different learning modules that make up the new approach.
In this style, you’ll begin by explaining what the status quo is and the problems with it, which readers will quickly identify with. This is where you reflect the current pain of the problem back to your audience.
Next, you proceed to show the “better” way throughout the rest of the book. This is typically formatted as modules of learning. For instance, you may have a new simple way to conquer a highly complicated piece of corporate software, of perhaps you have a new way to manage an HR department or a new way to train a sales force, etc.
Here are some examples of this style:
- The New Conceptual Selling, by Stephen E. Heiman and Diane Sanchez
- Microsoft Office Project for Mere Mortals, by Patti Jansen
- The E-Myth, by Michael E. Gerber
3. The Vignette Book Style
This is a style that centers on providing your solution through short stories. Your stories could involve you, client stories, stories from people in the public domain that exemplify your problem-solution, fictitious characters created as a combination of client experiences, and so on.
In this format, your table of contents is made up of stories created using the narrative writing style with your thoughts and your opinions interspersed within the text.
Here are some examples from Malcolm Gladwell, a master in this style:
- The Tipping Point
4. The Resource Book Style
This style is preferred by authors that face a major multi-faceted problem. Although these books still seek to solve a unique problem for their audience, they need to present a multi-faceted solution in a format that can be consulted again and again when the need arises.
This style of books is ideal if you have a subject matter that encompasses, for example, a multi-year reader journey such as parenthood, health recovery, a constant challenge, and so on.
Here are some popular examples:
- Becoming The Parent You Want To Be, by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser
- Healthy Living, by Andrew Weill
- The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr.
5. The List Book Style
This style is very popular with authors that offer a solution that’s made up of a series of steps.
Books that are styled as a list work because they allow readers to absorb your content in a measured way while giving them a chance to master one step before you present the next.
This divide-and-conquer approach can be very effective as a teaching methodology and it lends itself to be leveraged into many formats, such as courses, workbooks and other forms of content delivery.
Here are some popular examples:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
- The 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferris
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John C. Maxwell
- The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success, by Deepak Chopra
6. The Theory & Practice Book Style
This format lends itself to books that impart knowledge with practical applications in the lives of their readers.
At the beginning of the book you’ll teach your readers about your unique solution and your techniques, and in the second part you show exercises that allow readers to develop a level of mastery in your techniques.
Here are some examples:
- The Mindfulness Code, by Donald Altman
- Getting The Love You Want, by Harville Hendrix
7. The Building-Block Book Style
This final format is for books that break down a complex solution into building blocks that can be easily understood by the audience. These blocks stack on top of one another and once all the building blocks are in place then your entire solution is revealed.
This strategy allows readers to do a piecemeal implementation of your solution in a way that works for them without being overwhelmed, while seeing what the final picture looks like.
This style is ideal for management books that present a unique solution to complex business issues.
Here are some examples:
- It’s Your Ship, by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff
- Double Double, by Cameron Herold
- Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh
The seven popular nonfiction formats shown above will help you find the best way to get started with your nonfiction book project; much better than any book template out there.
Your solution and your target audience will determine what’s the most suitable style for your project. You’ll know intuitively which style will be best for your book because it’ll feel just right both for you as the messenger and for your reader as the beneficiary.
I wish you all the best on your book-writing journey!
If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.
2 responses to “The Top 7 Book Structure Templates for Nonfiction Authors”
Thanks for the insight. I am not sure which of the formats above my idea would fir into-mine is a more “Wake up America” and “Here is Why”… sort of thought process.
What is your opinions on self publishing vs the “old fashioned way”?
Thanks so much-
June,2nd 2021, just read your article & it helps me hone in on two possible styles for my book . A first time writer planning a non-fiction book. I am considering the Training Book Style or List book style.