Learn How to Cite Books in Nonfiction

by Bennett R. Coles

How to Cite Book

When you write nonfiction, especially the problem-solving kind, you should expect your book to be used as a reference by many of your readers.

By writing nonfiction, you’re broadcasting to the world that you’re a subject matter expert and as such you should make sure that any research you do to arrive at your solution is backed by clear citations that point to your sources.

Learning how to properly cite work from others in your book is important for a number of reasons:

  • Content in your book may be used or referred to by researchers, the media, fact checkers, peers, people in academia, etc., and they’ll expect you to follow established citation formats
  • The correct use of citations will add credibility to your book and to you as an expert
  • The correct use of citations will also eliminate your chances of accidental plagiarism
  • Finally, citations will ensure that you give credit to others where credit is due

When Should I Use Citations?

You need to make use of properly formatted citations whenever:

  • You use somebody else’s work as part of the explanation or even inspiration for your ideas
  • Whenever you show a quote from another author (make sure it abides by “fair use” copyright rules!)
  • When you include someone else’s images in your book (provided you have permission from the copyright holder or through an open licensing agreement that allows you to replicate the image without copyright in exchange for showing credit)
  • Whenever you paraphrase information drawn from external sources

Now, depending on the nature of your book, there are three main formatting styles for citations that are typically used in the world of nonfiction: the Chicago citation style, the MLA (Modern Language Association) style and the APA (American Psychological Association) style.

Chicago Manual Style Citations

The Chicago Manual of Style is a resource that’s widely used by nonfiction authors as a guide for style, usage, grammar and citations, among other language features. It’s preferred by authors who focus on business subjects and fine-art subjects, such as for books on photography, architecture, and so on.

The Chicago Style requires that you reference in-text sources either as a footnote (to be shown at the bottom of the page) or as an endnote (to be compiled in a section at the end of the book). Citations in this style must be indicated with the use of a superscript numeral following the part of the text that refers to the external source. Your footnote or endnote will then list the full citation in the corresponding numerical order.

If you’re citing a book, include the following information:

  • Name of author
  • Title of Book
  • City of publication
  • Name of publisher
  • Year of publication
  • Page numbers of sourced material

Formatting example:

  1. First Name Last Name, Title of Book (City of Publication: Name of Publisher, Year of Publication), Page Range.

If you’re citing an article, include the following information:

  • Name of author
  • Title of article
  • Name of newspaper or journal
  • Volume number and issue number
  • Year of publication
  • Page numbers of sourced material
  • URL or name of database (if applicable)

Formatting example:

  1. First Name Last Name, “Title of Article,” Name of Newspaper of Journal  Volume Number, Issue Number (Year of Publication): Page range. URL or name of database

For more information, visit: https://www.citationmachine.net/chicago

MLA Style Citations

The Modern Language Association (MLA) is an organization that develops guidelines for scholars of language and literature and is widely used by authors. Although the MLA Handbook they produce is similar in concept to the Chicago Manual of Style, it tends to be preferred by nonfiction authors who specialize in the study of languages, philosophy, history, law, politics and religion, and the humanities in general.

MLA-formatted citations don’t use a numerical reference and are much more complex, presenting authors with a very large number of choices that’s outside the scope of this article. Here’s an example for citing a book with a single author using a parenthetical format:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Source is quoted or referenced “here” (Williams, 134). Quis ipsum suspendisse ultrices gravida.

At the end of your book, you would then include a reference section listing the above in-text citation as follows:

Williams, John. Book Title. Name of Publisher, Year of Publication, p. 134.

For more information, visit: https://www.citationmachine.net/mla

APA Style Citations

Finally, the APA (American Psychological Association) style is typically used by nonfiction authors who focus on subjects surrounding education, psychology, and science in general.

Citations in this style don’t use the Chicago Manual’s numerical reference either and are more in line with the MLA format, with the distinction that they add the year of publication within the in-text reference. The rationale for this inclusion is that APA-style citations tend to be time-dependent given the faster pace of evolution in scientific fields compared to the humanities and fine arts.

Here’s a general example:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Source is quoted or referenced “here” (Williams, 2019, 134-136). Quis ipsum suspendisse ultrices gravida.

At the end of your book, you would then include a reference section listing the above in-text citation as follows:

Williams, J. (2019). Chapter title. In L. H. Smith (Ed.), Book title (pp. 134-136). Name of Publisher.

Make sure that all references are listed at the end of your book in alphabetical order and that the second and subsequent lines in each reference are indented by half an inch.

For more information, visit :https://www.citationmachine.net/apa

Best of luck!

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.

Here are some related posts I highly recommend:

How to Write a Compelling Book in 12 Steps: A Must-Read Guide for Nonfiction Authors

Write Your Own Book and Become an Expert: 11 Reasons Why You Should

How to Grow Your Business Writing a Nonfiction Book

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book to Help Grow Your Business?

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.

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