I consider nonfiction writers special. They possess unique qualities and skills and have a particular set of needs. Yet, in many ways, nonfiction writers get overlooked.
More people want to write fiction. Therefore, novelists tend to get the most attention, for example, at writing events. And their needs are addressed more often on writing blogs and podcasts.
The majority of book buyers purchase nonfiction titles, however. That’s why bookstores tend to stock about 30 percent fiction and 70 percent nonfiction titles. That means a huge opportunity exists for nonfiction writers who want to become authors.
As a nonfiction writer, and as a coach and editor who works primarily with nonfiction writers, here are eight reasons why I think those who write in this genre are special:
- Nonfiction writers feel a sense of mission, purpose or calling. Often nonfiction writers choose to write about topics they feel passionate about. Intuitively, they sense that the topic is “what they are supposed to write about.” It is their life work, their soul purpose, or their mission. They feel called to write about these topics. As such, they find great meaning in their work and the positive impact they can have in the world.
- Nonfiction writers want to transform lives. While not all nonfiction writers choose to write in the self-help genre, many do. The others write books that educate, provide inspiration or in some way help readers change their perspective. Newspaper articles can transform lives. A memoir can tell a transformative story. Therefore, at the foundation of a nonfiction writer’s work lies a desire to serve—to elevate readers in some way.
- Nonfiction writers are experts. Some nonfiction writers are experts on their own lives. Some are experts on a particular subject area. Some are experts on an industry or skill set. And yet others have the ability to become experts on just about any topic they delve into and research. As authorities, nonfiction writers have a unique ability to influence readers. They also can take their expert status and put it to use as speakers, teachers, and mentors.
- Nonfiction writers want to reveal the truth. While fiction is about imaginary stories, nonfiction writers deal in the truth. No matter what, they deal in concrete facts. Yes, creative nonfiction offers a bit of lead way to “make up” a few bits, but, in general, nonfiction writers craft stories that portray what happened.
- Nonfiction writers tell stories about real people—sometimes even themselves. I would never say it’s easy to dream up stories about people. Sometimes, though, it’s harder to tell stories about real people—especially yourself—in particular if those people’s lives are more like nightmares than dreams. Nonfiction writers delve into the deepest and darkest places in their lives and those of others, exposing these to the light. In the process, they teach, inform, transform, and inspire readers. They allow others a window into the real lives of others—lives readers would never otherwise get to experience.
- Nonfiction writers know how to interview people. This skill has everything to do with asking the right questions and then listening for the answers. A good nonfiction writer can find anecdotes, vignettes and tidbits of information in a conversation. And that’s what the interview becomes—an intimate conversation in which the subject feels comfortable enough to reveal important details.
- Nonfiction writers must create a platform if they want to traditionally publish books. Those nonfiction writers who want to publish books traditionally focus on more than just writing. They promote themselves and their work from they moment they decide to become authors. Doing so helps them build an author platform, a built-in readership in their target market for their forthcoming books. Promotion and marketing are essential elements—and skills—for any nonfiction writer who wants to succeed as an author. Therefore, promotion must be a daily task—along with writing. these writers hone their writing and their promotion skills. (Of course, author platform helps any writer succeed, including novelists and indie authors of all types.)
- Nonfiction writers sell their books to publishers based on a business plan. Nonfiction writers must have more than just good ideas and writing skills to publish traditionally. To sell a book to a publisher, they must produce book proposals, the publishing industry equivalent of a business plan. These includes marketing plans as well. The need for a business plan means nonfiction writers must think like businesspeople, not just like writers. (A business plan for your book helps you determine if your idea is marketable, which is a good thing to find out prior to writing fiction or nonfiction.)
I’m not judging nonfiction writers as better than fiction writers. I’m just saying they are unique. And they should be acknowledged for that uniqueness—for what they bring to the table as well as what they need to do to succeed.
If you are a nonfiction writer, feel proud of the unique contribution you make to the world. And take advantage of the huge opportunity you have to succeed. Remember, more people read and buy nonfiction than fiction. And if you need support on your path to success, click here. I’d love to help you make a meaningful and positive difference in the world with you words.