7 Simple Steps to Writing a Powerful Nonfiction Book
If you want to learn the steps to writing a book that’ll help you grow your business or increase your career profile, you’re making a wise choice. Nonfiction books are one of the most cost-effective means of promoting your business and your career, plus they create a legacy that will last a lifetime.
For example, let’s compare nonfiction books with a more traditional form of promotion, advertising:
- Have a short life cycle
- People have a low regard for them
- People don’t consider them to be a credible source of information
- Must be continuously funded to produce results
- Do not establish you as an expert in your field
- Have a very long life cycle, measured in years
- People have a high regard for them
- People consider them to be a credible and trustworthy source of information
- Need funding one time only and can take advantage of earned media and paid speaking engagements for free promotion
- Establish you as an expert in your field
But if you’re writing a nonfiction book based on your professional skills and experiences in order to solve a problem for your audience, you won’t encounter this problem. In fact, you’ll soon discover that your book will practically write itself.
The book you’re about to write is already inside of you and waiting to come out. All you need now is the roadmap that’ll unlock this information in your brain and transfer it to the written page. You’ll find this roadmap in the steps to writing a book below.
How Do I Become a Successful Writer?
Successful nonfiction writers are those who are able to create a deep bond with their audience. They can achieve that level of connection because:
- They know their audience intimately
- They know what problem keeps them up at night
- They have a unique solution for that problem
Let’s now run this test with you in mind and see how you do:
First, you need to know who your audience is and know them intimately. When you think about it, you already have a solid audience made up of your current clients, and you already know them very well because you’ve been in business for several years. – check.
Second, you need to know the problem that keeps them up at night. Well, you already know your clients’ problems because they’ve hired you to solve them in the first place – check.
Third, you must have a unique solution for that problem. Your unique solution is the very reason you’re in business – check.
If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, a professional, a practitioner or a coach, you’re the perfect candidate to become a nonfiction book author and you have a very good chance to be successful.
How do you measure success? By your ability to leverage your book through earned media, speaking engagements or simply by using your book as a calling card for prospects in order to generate new business.
There are plenty of stories from first-time nonfiction authors who managed to land lucrative contracts for their businesses simply because their competitors didn’t have the cachet of a book to back them up.
How Do You Begin to Write A Book?
As a first-time author, the book writing process will probably seem a bit confusing. There are so many resources out there that even doing online research can become an overwhelming task.
Yet, when you boil it down to the basics, writing a book is quite a simple process. Once you know what steps to follow, you’ll realize how much sense this process makes and you’ll also realize that you don’t require prior experience in order to create a successful outcome.
The only difference between you and someone with your credentials who’s already published a book is that they can go through the steps below faster. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll produce a better book.
Your solution is unique in the same way that your business is unique – nobody else will be able to duplicate what you bring to the table because you and your book are one and the same.
So let’s introduce the simple steps that will allow you to write a great nonfiction book.
What Are The 7 Steps to Writing a Book?
The following seven steps will guide you through the process of creating a powerful nonfiction book that will open new doors and markets for your business and raise your professional profile to the level of expert:
Step 1: Read Before You Write
The first step in the process is to learn from the masters. Before you begin to write your own book, you need to learn the best practices in nonfiction by reading the leading books in your field.
Pick two or three bestselling books in your niche and read them armed with a highlighter. What you’re looking for is:
- How did the author connect with you as a reader? What hooks did they use to get your attention?
- How did they make the book engaging? Did they use story telling? Did they make use of any visual elements to paint a better picture of their content?
- How was the book organized? How did the table of contents flow for you?
- How powerful was the book’s introduction? Did it convince you to keep on reading?
- What was it about the book cover and title that caught your eye?
- What kind of language did they use? Was it personal and conversational or technical and academic?
- Was the book a page-turner or more reflective in nature?
When you’re done reading those books, make a list of the best practices that you were able to extract from them and keep them in mind when you write your own book.
Step 2: Choose Your Book’s Main Idea
Now it’s time to turn the focus on you. During the course of your business, you probably solve a range of issues for your clients. But when it comes to nonfiction books, you’ll need to choose a sub-niche that allows you to focus on a single problem.
With very rare exceptions, books that focus on more than one problem at a time don’t do very well in the market. They’re more confusing than helpful. The rule of thumb is to identify the most significant problem that your audience faces and then focus just on that problem.
Step 3: Create Your Table of Contents
Once you know what your main topic is and how your unique solution will solve the one big problem you’re focusing on, it’s time to gather all the relevant information from your brain and “download” it to the written page.
To achieve this, you’ll be making use of the “mind mapping” technique. This is a powerful technique that allows you to map your brain onto a chart where you can organize your thoughts around your book’s main idea.
I’ve written a separate article to help you create the mind map for your book here. The great thing about mind maps is that the way they organize your thoughts around your main idea can be easily translated into a table of contents.
I’ve also written a article on how to create a book’s outline here which will walk you through each step. The mind mapping technique will not only allow you to generate the table of contents of your book – your main roadmap – but also create the writing prompts to help you begin writing each section.
These prompts are the reason I mentioned earlier that your book will write itself, because they’ll prompt you to recall information from your past experiences – client anecdotes, personal examples, success stories, and so on – stored in your long-term memory.
Thoughts and ideas will begin to flow, so it’s now time to create the right environment to more easily capture this information.
Step 4: Establish Your Writing Routine
In order to develop a writing routine you need to make the following choices:
- You need to choose a writing spot that inspires Some people like to work at home, some in the office, and some in a public place like a coffee shop or a public library.
- You need to write for an average of two hours a day, no less than six days a week. Make sure that you schedule the same time to write every day.
- Finally, you need to commit to a daily word count. If you’re a first-time author I recommend that you write between 400 and 500 words per hour, so that’s a maximum daily word count of 1,000 words.
Now come the caveats:
- Make sure your family or employees know that outside of an emergency, you’re not to be disturbed for any reason during your writing blocks.
- Eliminate all types of electronic distractions as well. Make sure you turn on the do-not-disturb feature in your phone and mute your computer. If someone really needs you, they’ll know where to find you.
- When you schedule your writing blocks, make sure that they fall outside of business hours and family time. Also, make sure that you don’t go on the Internet or check email inside your writing blocks.
Step 5: Write from Your Roadmap
Your book outline and table of contents combined are your writing roadmap. The table of contents will give you the logical flow of ideas in your book and the outline will provide you with the prompts to get you going.
When you sit down to write, simply browse your outline and choose a section or subsection that inspires you at that moment. If you feel inspired to write a section in the second-to-last chapter first, then do so. Nonfiction writing doesn’t need to be a linear process – your table of contents will keep things straight.
Step 6: Do Multiple Rewrites
Write from a stream of consciousness. Don’t “plan” what you’re going to write about, just begin writing with the aid of your prompts and don’t stop until you run out of juice. We aren’t looking for quality at this point, just quantity.
Let a day pass to gain some distance and go back to your original writing to rewrite it from top to bottom. This is where the quality comes in. Be prepared: at the beginning you’ll be doing a lot of rewriting!
With experience, the number of rewrites will decrease gradually as nonfiction writing becomes second nature.
Step 7: Set Up an Advance Reading Group
Last but not least, you need to create a feedback loop for your writing process. Remember that you’re writing for your audience not for yourself, so you’ll need to create an advance reading group made up of members of your target audience (current and past clients who are good at providing constructive criticism are ideal candidates).
To make sure the feedback you receive is valuable, try not to include family members of colleagues in your advance reading group unless they happen to fit the profile of your target audience.
You’re certainly welcome to invite your family and colleagues to read your writing separately; just take their feedback with a grain of salt – they’ll want to support you, not criticize you.
Once you’ve completed the first draft of your manuscript, let a week or so pass and then begin a full top-to-bottom rewrite. During this self-editing phase, you’ll discover that some chapters or sections may need to be re-arranged.
You may also discover that you need to create a new chapter or a new section in order to improve the flow of your book. Sometimes, you may choose to remove a section altogether. This is an excellent time to check for message clarity and to tighten your writing.
I recommend that you repeat this full rewrite one or two more times before you’re ready for the final stage of the writing process: handing over your manuscript to a professional nonfiction editor. To find out why this is a critical part of the writing process, read my article entitled: How to Find A Book Editor That’s Perfect For Your Nonfiction Book.
I wish you the best on your 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.