How to Succeed as a Nonfiction Writer

a nonfiction author's success compassBeyond money earned on sales of articles and books, success for a nonfiction writer means communicating a message to many readers. However, as mentioned on the first post of the WNFIN challenge, you can’t rely on just a great idea and excellent writing ability to succeed. If you want to earn a living as a freelance nonfiction writer or as the author of nonfiction books you must become more than just a writer and acquire the correct tools for the job.

Don’t Rely on a Great Idea and Excellent Writing

To land a magazine or newspaper assignment or a nonfiction book contract or to get readers to purchase your book, you need a unique, timely or outstanding idea. Your manuscript also must be top notch. Yet, many a “non-writer” has hired a ghostwriter or a great editor to create a great manuscript. Thus, it’s not necessary that you have superb writing skills; you just need a viable, or marketable, idea and, in the end, a polished manuscript. A viable idea adds value to people’s lives by filling a need in some way (answering a question, solving a problem, etc.). In other words, your idea must provide some sort of benefit to your readers. You might have a great idea, but if no one needs it—if it doesn’t benefit a large number of people in some way—it won’t sell. If it won’t sell, you and your book fail.

Become More Than Just a Writer

Writing success involves more than writing. If you want to have a career as a writer or an author you have to take off your writer’s hat and put on your business person’s hat. That means spending time on tasks like marketing and promotion, bookkeeping and networking. You must become an entrepreneur. After all, you are building a business. If you want to earn your living as a freelance writer, you build a freelance writing business. If you want to earn your living as an author, you build a business as an author, author/expert, author/speaker, or publisher.

You will spend time writing, but you may spend as much, if not more, on other activities. This is especially true for aspiring and published authors who need to build author platform (built-in readership for your book); platform helps sell books. Freelance journalists also benefit from platform, however; it helps them garner assignments with larger publications for more money. Authors also need additional sources of income, since book sales usually don’t pay the rent (as you read here. Thus, in addition to being a writer, you might also be a:

  • Speaker
  • Professional Blogger
  • Teacher
  • Consultant
  • Coach
  • Promoter
  • Marketer
  • Social Networker
  • Business Manager
  • Online Marketer
  • Entrepreneur
Right Tools for the Job

Most writers set out to be writers. They don’t want to be any of the things mentioned in the last section. If you want to succeed as a writer or an author, therefore, you have to learn the skills necessary for these other jobs as well. That’s a big task—you could go to college for many years to learn everything necessary to do even one of these jobs well.

Relax. Here’s a short course that will help you succeed.

You need four primary tools in your tool box to do all these jobs well:

  • Determination: You need the ability to make a decision about your goals or settle on a purpose for your writing projects or writing career. Once you’ve made this decision, you become determined to achieve that goal and to fulfill your purpose.
  • Commitment: You need commitment to your goals, purpose and path as a writer or author. You make a promise or pledge to yourself to do what it takes to succeed. For example, you commit to getting up every day to write, to doing five things daily to promote yourself and your work, or to send out two query letters for each rejection letter you receive.
  • Perseverance: You need to learn to move toward your goal steadily in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement—no matter what obstacles arise, jobs you must take on that you don’t enjoy, how long it takes, how hard it feels, how many rejections you receive. Nothing stops you. You persevere. This tool keeps you moving forward.
  • Positive Attitude: You simply must have or develop an I-can-do-it attitude. No whining about not wanting to promote yourself or not enough hours in the day or how difficult it all is. You simply find a way. That’s a positive attitude. This mindset lends itself to perseverance, commitment and determination.

Successful writers have a willingness to do what it takes—everything it takes. They apply their creativity to all aspects of being writers, even the parts they’d rather not do. They are passionate and on purpose, and this translates into inspired action every time.

The Big Picture

Beyond all the mundane aspects of becoming successful lies something more important: The Big Picture. It’s why you write in the first place. I typically say writers write to be read. Look more deeply and there’s more to that statement. Writers, in this case nonfiction writers, want to be read so they can communicate a message.

Why did you start writing? What did you want to say? Who did you want to help? What movement did you want to start or what cause did you want others to support? What mission or a purpose did you want to fulfill?

If no one reads what you write, no communication happens—your message does not get “heard,” your cause goes nowhere, your purpose remains unfulfilled. That’s failure for a nonfiction writer.

It doesn’t matter how you want to publish—in a popular print magazine, on your own blog, in a self-published ebook, or in a traditionally published print book, the path to success requires the same elements: a viable idea, your willingness to be more than a writer and the tools to get the job done. Then go out and write…and publish…and write and publish some more. The more you publish, the more you will get read.

About the Author

book coach blogging coach author coachNina Amir, Inspiration to Creation Coach, inspires people to combine their purpose and passion so they Achieve More Inspired Results. She motivates both writers and non-writers to create publishable and published products, careers as authors and to achieve their goals and fulfill their purpose.

The author of How to Blog a Book, Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books), Nina has also self-published 10 short books, including 10 Days and 10 Ways to Return to Your Best Self. A sought after editor, proposal consultant, book and author coach, and blog-to-book coach, Nina’s clients’ books have sold upwards of 230,000 copies and landed deals with top publishers. She is the founder of Write Nonfiction in November and writes four blogs: Write Nonfiction NOW!, How to Blog a Book, As the Spirit Moves Me and My Son Can Dance.

Find out more about Nina at

If you want to get your message heard, consider joining Nina and Deborah Levine Herman for the Author of Change Transformational Coaching Program, which teaches writers how to make a positive impact with their message by helping them transform into authors who write, publish and promote books that create change in the world.

Click here for information on how to submit your entry for the WNFIN Virtual Pitch Slam. Entries must be in by midnight November 30 (today)!

If you enjoyed the last 30 days of expert guest blog posts, please vote this blog one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers. Click here and nominate Write Nonfiction NOW! ( The two blogs function as “sisters,” with Write Nonfiction NOW! running three days a week for 11 months of the year and Write Nonfiction in NOVEMBER! taking over one month of the year.

Photo courtesy of JuSun |


  1. this is an AWESOME post Nina. it’s nothing but the truth. i feel inspired to keep going and finish up my current book project. thank you! : )

  2. Absolutely extraordinary, Nina. Every time I read something you write, I walk away feeling renewed and hopeful, as if nothing can stop this writing train from moving forward. Your bio is equally stellar. I had no idea that you had self-published 10 books already.

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