Monday, July 17, 2017
What Makes a Great Nonfiction Book?
Remember the Bob Newhardt Show on which the main character, a writer of nonfiction how-to books, ran a bed and breakfast in Vermont with his wife. The subjects of his books would have been great for insomniacs, but not all nonfiction books make readers yawn.
Today, nonfiction books have a lot of competition from the Internet. Readers can find all sorts of information online, so why would they want to purchase a book—even an inexpensive ebook—when they can search for what they need. The truth is that most people don’t really know how to search the Web, so they still need nonfiction books to give them information in an orderly manner.
It’s how a writer assembles the facts in a book that makes all the difference. The key to nonfiction book success is information synthesis. To make sure a nonfiction book is worth paying for, you need to bring your own fresh a perspective to the subject matter—a perspective that readers can’t find online. What’s more important today is your ability to synthesize the facts and give them context and perspective.
First and foremost, make sure your nonfiction book has a strong focus. It’s better to limit the focus than ramble all over the place. To do this, you’ll need to think out your book before doing research. You’ll most likely find a mess of facts on your subject. How you make sense of those facts is the key.
To make sense of all the information you collect, you need to give meaning to it. And that requires a point of view. What are your feelings about your subject? Who will be telling your story? Except for memoirs, most nonfiction books are told from another person’s perspective.
Offer insight by weaving current events and trends into the context of your book, even if it’s historical in nature.
Present the bigger picture about your subject so that readers will be able to make more global sense of it. And if your subject is more complicated, simplify it for the average reader. Don’t talk down to your readers to prove how smart you are. Instead, write in plain language and explain difficult words or phrases.
A nonfiction book goes deeper than an article or blog on a subject. While the shortness of both only gives the reader the basics, a book can delve deeper into a subject. Take a common theme or one that has been written about heavily in the past and give it a fresh approach.
Above all, make sure your nonfiction book gives readers information in a way they won’t find it anywhere else, in a way only you can deliver it.