How to write a non-fiction book that changes lives

I’m editing a non-fiction book today and making notes on what went wrong. Unfortunately, some of the things missing are things I also don’t do in my own non-fiction books, so here’s a short list.

#1 – make it a community effort

The easy way to publish a bestseller is to include stories by other people. The more people you include, the more they’ll share with their platforms (it’s also great platform building yourself). And, it will let your readers see specific, practical examples from other people, not just the author. To make my next book a bestseller, I’ll probably start a podcast, so I can interview successful people, then use the interviews as a bonus content incentive for anyone who preorders; I’ll also ask those people to share the book launch with their audience, and feature them or their business in the book.

You could also ask people to fill out a short form, or hit reply and choose one of 3 questions – make it super easy for them. You can heighten your chances if you already have a platform or at least an epic book cover. You can also try the technique of starting smaller, with people who have a mid-sized or comparable audience, then reaching out to more successful people and showing them who’s already on board.

#2 – tell stories and anecdotes

The biggest problem I see in nonfiction books is that it’s all content. You don’t want too much fluff; you do want specific, actionable tips. But you want to break that up with anecdotes and stories, because people don’t remember facts and details. Give them a process, recommend tools to use, but also – it’s your job to keep their attention so they actually learn something.

 

#3 – put pictures in people’s heads

This can be done with stories. Stories also help humanize yourself and make it relatable – tell how you learned this stuff. Include your own hero’s journey or epiphany moment: basically let them know that you’re just like them, or at least you were once, and “if you can do it, so can they!”

Paint a dream of their lifestyle, get them to imagine what success looks like to them, raise the bar of what’s possible so they actually believe that they can also achieve similar results. But hold their attention and keep it interesting with stories (either your own, or other famous/historical people). Sprinkle in some quotes. Add some examples from peers or clients. 

Basically, you need to set specific scenes that they can visualize, because that’s what they will remember. If it’s all just words, and you aren’t getting them to visualize something, your book will be forgettable.

#4 – help them take action

Nonfiction books that are all stories and anecdotes are annoying; so are the ones that are all information overload. You need to combine both. THEN you need to focus on the reader and help them take specific action. Always end sections with what to do next. At the end of the book, offer a prompt or challenge to get them to take action or engage – this could be an activity worksheet or personal challenge. Ask them to do the work, then share it with you or in your community. You could also offer them an opportunity to work with you (Personally, I’d try to get them on my email list first with bonus content: also, you can have multiple “content upgrades” throughout the book – bonus content for each specific section. Get them to sign up for more so you can build the relationship and offer them a deeper, trans-formative experience if they need it.

Keep reading!

 

About Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a book designer with a Ph.D. in Literature. He's been featured on CNN and spoken at dozens of writing conferences around the world. These days he mostly writes young adult fantasy and science fiction, while helping authors build profitable publishing platforms. Find me

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares

Share This

Share this post with your friends!