After perusing several nonfiction books recently, I realized that authors are pitching opinions. So, as a nonfiction author, it’s your job to convince editors–and by extension, readers–why anyone should care about your advice over the wisdom of competing authors.
Education: Have you completed schooling that contributes to your knowledge? If I want a book on Ancient Egypt, I’ll choose one written by someone with appropriate education over someone who does not.
One pitfall that can stymie educated people is esoteric writing. As a reader, I seek knowledge; but I want that knowledge presented in a sparkling way. Even if you’re writing a textbook, set out to engage your reader as much as you can. You may say, “I can’t make complex calculations interesting.” Why not? At least try. The difference between an engaging and a dry textbook could cause students to be on fire for your topic, rather than sweating through the college course they’re forced to take before they can move on to something more interesting. Wouldn’t you love knowing your book motivated students to choose your field of expertise as their life’s work?
Experience: Do you have experience in your topic? For example, a mother of ten is likely to be able to impart how to be successful in rearing children with different personalities–assuming she ever has time to write a book! The author with experience would do well to garner endorsements from experts in their field to lend additional authority.
Peers: Endorsers can help convince readers you know that you’re an expert. If you write a book on caring for infants and five pediatricians vouch for you, that will help convince readers you can be trusted. A powerful endorsement will help seal the deal. An endorsement won’t sell an inferior book, however.
Value: You know a lot, but do you know how to choose what information to include and what to throw out? Readers want to get to the point of the book and want to take information easily and quickly, even when the topic is dense. The author who can make a dreary topic appealing and helpful to the reader will engage the editor–and readers–for many years.
What did I miss?
Other than the Bible, what is the best nonfiction book you’ve read lately?
Thank you for this piece! Very timely for me. As a writing coach I’ve come across work “so heavenly minded it’s no earthly good,” as my mama would say. The author speaks in mystical, terms and leaves the potential reader lost in the beauty and eloquence of the words, leaving readers saying, “huh?” This piece is a perfect resource for me to share. Thanks and Merry Christmas!
R. Janet Walraven
My teacher/parent mentoring book fits your criteria. It’s an engaging book showing how to experience JOY in learning. Written in true scenarios from my 35 years of teaching. CONNECT FOR CLASSROOM SUCCESS by R.Janet Walraven, M.Ed.
I’m a writer, and I read books on writing. Several are right here on my desk, including, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves,” “On Writing Well,” “The Inside Scoop” and “Super Structure.” These are well-written books, from experts in the field, each crafted for a specific purpose. Gotta say, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” fires up the grammarian in me with the title on its spine.
Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church by Philip Yancey.
You really need my wisdom-words
and my profound advice,
so I’ll gladly point you towards
my site, where they’re half-price.
I’ve got the education,
and I have got the smarts
to help you plan vacations
and to win ladies’ hearts.
I don’t use highfalutin’
terms, there is no earthly need,
so as clickbait I’m imputin’
that it’s an easy read.
So come on, budcko, off you go,
check-out now…I need the dough!
When I study a topic, I want to share all the things I’ve learned. Distilling it all down into the most essential is one of my biggest challenges.
Jen Wilkin is one of my favorite nonfiction authors and her Women of the Word is one of my all-time favorite books. I also loved her two books on the attributes of God, None Like Him and In His Image.
DAMON J GRAY
I heard long ago that an expert is someone at least fifty miles from home who carries a briefcase.
Okay, that’s not really true.
In all transparency, I don’t put that much stock in credentialing. It’s nice, and I understand why people look for it, but I’ve read some pretty dry stuff by names with a lot of letters after them.
Two things that sell me on an author – prior good experience with them, and recommendations by people I know and trust. If my pastor/friend tells me, “Man, you gotta read this book. You’ll love it and be challenged by it,” I’m in.
Glad you asked. May I answer conversely? I just read a book by an industry expert. While he gave excellent pointers about his field, his many grammar and a few spelling errors were a turnoff. His book could be wildly popular if only he had hired a professional editor.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Tamela, I enjoy books by Jonah Berger and am reading a book on Stories that Stick by Kindra Hall right now. Admittedly, they are for classes that I will be teaching in the spring, but they talk about advertising and I find them fascinating. Like you said, the authors have hardcore experience in their respective topics, and that makes the books ring true.
Treasure That Lasts by Michael Youssef is the latest nonfiction book I’ve read. Dr. Youssef has the ability to take biblical truth in a way that is easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to apply to your own life.
I recently read two books by Todd Henry, Die Empty and The Motivational Code. Both are well written, easy to read, and for me, life changing to apply. Both could be applied to individual life, or leading a team. He is also a good story teller.
I read Yes Sisters by Angelia L White. It’s a fabulous nonfiction book about women encouraging women. I loved the book, and I’ve recommended it to our church’s Women’s Ministry group. Every individual, male or female, needs someone in their lives who will help pick them up when they are down and help point them in the right direction. Someone who will inspire and encourage.
Whatever else a nonfiction writer needs, s/he needs a healthy dose of intellectual humility. That’s why I’ve made it a habit that whenever someone compliments me by saying something I’ve written strikes them as “wise,” I reply, “Well, all I can say is I’m the world’s best expert on my own opinion. Whether any of it rises to the level of wisdom, you’ll have to be the judge of that.”
As for the best nonfiction book I’ve read recently? Try A Different Mirror: A History Of Multicultural America, by Ronald Takaki. Except for the native peoples, America is a nation of immigrants. Under the Constitution, each and all of us have equality. But our history shows that some have been more equal than others. It makes for sobering reading to a White, upper-middle-class male like me.
The best non-fiction book I’ve read lately is “I Think I am Happier Than I Think I Am” by Rev. Jim O’Leary. They are excerpts from his weekly newsletter to his parish and focuses on the work of Jesus in our lives and the gratitude we show every day for his faithfulness. He includes personal stories and sage wisdom.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Non-fiction that I’ve really enjoyed or been challenged by recently: Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins, I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown, and Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb. Improving my craft, learning to look at the world through another’s eyes, and seeing human beings in therapy (both the therapists and the clients) as they pretend, grow strong enough for honesty, grieve, and triumph. These books all provide a way to learn and grow!
I write non-fiction in the area of sexuality education books for children and parents. These are published and sold in down under Australia. I have tried to meet these criteria.
Would so like someone in USA to look at these books critically! https://youthworksmedia.net/collections/patricia-weerakoon
Well-spoken and great advice! I write combat survivor stories; endorsements by military personnel give my books credibility and
say: “this author is knowledgeable and speaks the truth. In my judgment, that is a must for non-fiction authors.
Any chance I could talk you into an endorsement of my next book–“Angels on the Battlefield”?
Hi Tamela, I’ve read through Book Proposal Tips & Tricks by Steve Laube. In both chapter 4 and chapter 6 – the power of endorsements and the power of a referral he cites referrals and endorsements as being important. I live in Namibia with very little access to any author or person of note needed to refer me or endorse me. As an unpublished author how relevant will submitting a manuscript be? Thank you
Tamela Hancock Murray
Annie, endorsements are great but it’s the book itself that will make or break the sale. Keep submitting!