Blog The Writing Process Nonfiction Rules! 8 Reasons Why You Should Write Nonfiction Books

Nonfiction Rules! 8 Reasons Why You Should Write Nonfiction Books

Nonfiction Books

In 2003, I quit my Silicon Valley job and opened a 2,800-square-foot bookstore in Sacramento, California. My grand plan was to sit in the back office and write novels while the bookstore paid the bills. Nearly everyone I knew back then thought that I had lost my mind, and looking back, I can see why. But at the time it seemed like a perfect plan to me.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I wrote my first short story in the second grade, so naturally, I assumed I would someday write The Great American Novel. But when I sat down to tackle the task, it turned out that fiction wasn’t my strength, and that’s putting it mildly. I had to face reality—I completely lacked the imagination needed to write compelling stories.

This realization was rather devastating at the time. After all, I had gambled my entire life savings and career on opening a bookstore, along with the idea that I would finally get to devote my time to writing. In the midst of all of this, my Silicon Valley friends were making the two-hour trek up to Sacramento to see my store and ask about the whole experience of starting a business. Many expressed that they wished they had the courage that I did to make such a big leap. They wanted to pursue their own dreams but felt bound by the corporate golden handcuffs.

Their questions inspired an idea. I decided that I would help them realize there could be life after corporate America. In response, I wrote and self-published a business startup guide and began blogging about entrepreneurship. Those efforts ultimately led to signing with an agent, selling several business and marketing books to traditional publishers, and eventually choosing to return to self-publishing (though that’s a story for another time).

The point is that, because I’ve always loved to write, I thought that meant I should be writing fiction. But in the process of realizing that fiction wasn’t my strength, I discovered a passion and talent I didn’t know I had. I could enrich the lives of readers by writing nonfiction. Nonfiction includes memoir, self-development, business, health, history, academic writing, and much more, and there are many reasons why you may want to consider delving into this expansive genre.

  1. 1. Readers buy more nonfiction.
  2. 2. Nonfiction can be easier to write.
  3. 3. Nonfiction can be easier to market.
  4. 4. Nonfiction readers pay less attention to price.
  5. 5. You can build a profitable business around a nonfiction book.
  6. 6. Nonfiction authors are branded as experts.
  7. 7. Nonfiction books can have a long shelf-life.
  8. 8. Nonfiction can allow you to make a difference in the world.

1. Readers buy more nonfiction.

According to a report from the Association of American Publishers, Adult Trade Nonfiction became the fastest growing trade category of book sales in 2016, surpassing Children’s/Young Adult, which had been the growth leader for the previous two years. Adult Nonfiction also showed the strongest year-over-year growth among the five Trade sector subcategories tracked (the others: Adult Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Juvenile Nonfiction, Religion).

This backs up previous data from a report in Publisher’s Weekly, based on tracking done by Nielsen BookScan. Adult Nonfiction sold over 225 million units in print format, compared to just 103 million units of Adult Fiction and 111 million units of Juvenile Fiction. And Juvenile Nonfiction sold 33 million units, an increase of nearly 6% over the previous year.

2. Nonfiction can be easier to write.

Speaking from my own experience, fiction requires a lot of imagination and skill. Some writers spend years developing a novel. Nonfiction, on the other hand, can be like writing an over-sized report for school. If you loved writing essays in high school and college, nonfiction might be a good fit for you.

3. Nonfiction can be easier to market.

It’s no secret that marketing books isn’t easy. There is a lot of competition out there for readers’ attention. But if you write a niche nonfiction book about topics such as living with diabetes, becoming a runner or building a pet services business—it’s relatively easy to identify your target audience and get their attention.

4. Nonfiction readers pay less attention to price.

An annual survey conducted by Smashwords revealed that nonfiction readers are far less price sensitive than fiction readers. Smashwords encourages nonfiction authors to experiment with higher ebook prices, versus the lower ebook prices fiction writers are encouraged to offer based on market demand (for fiction, Smashwords currently indicates $2.99 and $3.99 as the “sweet spots” for pricing).

5. You can build a profitable business around a nonfiction book.

The harsh reality is that only a small percentage of fiction writers actually earn a living from their books, but I know many nonfiction authors who leverage their books to grow their businesses. For example, Dana Manciagli is a job search coach based near Seattle, Washington. Her book Cut the Crap, Get a Job helped her land the opportunity to write a national column for The Business Journals. Her book has also helped her get paid speaking engagements and consulting clients, and has become the foundation for an online course she sells. That little book has generated hundreds of thousands in related revenue.

6. Nonfiction authors are branded as experts.

Whether you write a book about caring for ageing dogs or living with food allergies, you will become instantly recognized as an authority in your subject matter. (Have you ever noticed that the word “AUTHORity” begins with “author”?) And experts are valued as sources for media interviews, speakers at events, and corporate sponsorships. The opportunities are abundant.

7. Nonfiction books can have a long shelf-life.

When you write a book about an evergreen topic, your book can sell for many years to come because readers won’t care about the release date as long as the content is still relevant. Unfortunately, fiction isn’t always granted the same consideration with readers.

8. Nonfiction can allow you to make a difference in the world.

Have you overcome some adversity in your life? By writing about it, you can help others going through similar experiences. Have you figured out how to save money as a single parent? Why not teach other single parents how to do the same? Nonfiction has the power to impact readers and teach them something new. If you have a cause that is close to your heart, imagine how many people could be impacted by writing a book on the topic.

I love nonfiction so much that in 2010 I launched an annual Nonfiction Writers Conference, a 3-day event conducted entirely online. I followed that in 2013 with the launch of the Nonfiction Authors Association, a vibrant community of writers at all experience levels. What inspires me most each day is how the books produced in our community are making a positive impact in the world.

By the way, I sold that bookstore three years after flipping on the open sign. It turns out that owning a bookstore store isn’t nearly as romantic as it sounds. But that journey was full of lessons that led me down an even better path—one I never imagined for myself—all because I decided to write nonfiction.

How could your path change if you did the same?

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Stephanie Chandler is the author of several books including The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan: Online and Offline Promotion Strategies to Build Your Audience and Sell More Books. Stephanie is also founder and CEO of the Nonfiction Authors Association, a vibrant educational community for experienced and aspiring writers, and the Nonfiction Writers Conference, an annual event conducted entirely online. A frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, and Wired magazine. See also: @steph__chandler and @NonfictionAssoc on Twitter and

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I am so relieved reading your article. I have been writing my first book for two months now and all this time I have been dreading my biggest terrors:dialogues! I just know that is my weak point because I can’t really remember the conversations I have had in my life and how to write them technically correct. I was also very relieved to see that you included memoirs as a part of non-fiction. The story I want to tell is my own. I’m only 37 years old but my lifetime feels like it it’s been 4 or 5. My life is full of stories, full of drama and conflict and excitement. And there is definitely a heroe’s story because I have survived a lot. But it wasn’t all tragedy. I was also the party diva the crazy, insane, spontaneous person full of spunk and personality. But my story has a big message. One that if other people read it could save them a lot of pain. And that is my mission prevent others from making some of the mistakes i made to save them some pain. That message I have targeted to teenagers and parents of teenagers. But that isn’t the global message. Because you know I don’t regret any one of my actions. I had a lot of fun, romance, sex, drugs and a lot of adventures that make my story rich. And I also have that component of outer and inner conflict that they emphasize in fiction. A lot of it. But I came to a truth after it all and it’s the heart of my story. The world is at stake here if something isn’t done about this. It’s a global stake called having our freedom taken away. Our parents, the church, society, governments, cultures they all want to dictate who we are and how we should live our lives. This is something that I fought against my whole life and it brought me a lot of conflict and I had to make hard choices to stick to my right to be a free woman. To have my own definition of happiness and let go of all that oppression. And like me we see it all over the world. And it’s time to wake up. To find our real happiness and to be proud of it and never ashamed one more day of our lives.
It was a pretty long comment so i decided to start a new one. Sorry I hit a muse there! Anyways now that I have told you a summary of my story can you offer me any advice? Will it be an Amazon’s #1 best seller because I am not settling for less. Not for the glory or money but so that it is ranked up high enough so that more people see it and want to read it. Technical question: I have been writing for the most part in 1st person me telling my own story. I have stuck in little bits of dialogue but mostly me narrating. And as I tell the story tie in a message, something for the readers to stop analyze. I never speak to the reader directly asking them questions or giving them action steps. But I stick my message into the plot of the story. Is this good practice? I think I will talk to them directly at the end of the book. With a pointed question or something that will rattle their bones. Last question. Do I have to say that it is MY story? How do I handle that part of the characters and me? I have given names to all the characters and short descriptions about them for now. I really aporeciate it if you read both of my messages and got this far. Did I captivate your attention? I know if I want to be a writer I have to be able to do that :) Pd: This is what happens when you make a comment box. What I hadn’t taken into account Is that other people other than you will see it too! Oops! Good or bad? Well, it’s done. Thanks for being a writer. We are special people. A tribe of change.
Thanks for your comments. It sounds like you have some powerful lessons to share with the world. Nobody can guarantee an Amazon bestseller, and if that's your goal, I recommend that you start learning about book marketing NOW! It's not easy to sell books, and building a plan will help tremendously. You don't HAVE to call it a memoir if you're uncomfortable with that. Many memoirs get turned into fiction for various reasons. If you are aiming to offer advice to the reader, you are crossing into prescriptive nonfiction territory, and I do think there should be some structure here. It could be as simple as adding questions to the end of each chapter. We discuss this topic at length in our upcoming teleseminar on 4/11/18: Memoir, Self-Help or Prescriptive Nonfiction: Understand the Differences and How to Choose What’s Best for You Our teleseminars are conducted weekly and they're free! I invite you to join us: Best wishes, Stephanie

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