10 Elements Of A Good Nonfiction Book
A good nonfiction book has many elements that make it a valuable learning experience for readers so they can engage proactively with the content.
As an authority in your field, you want to be sure your nonfiction book is written with the key components that make it “wow” readers and keep them coming back for more.
Writing a great book takes a lot of work, but it can be easier if you know what the main components are that creates a winning read. Before we get into that, just take a moment to sit back, relax and think about a recent nonfiction book you read.
What made it so great?
What actionable steps were included that made you feel engaged with both the content and the author?
Why would you recommend this book to a friend?
You’ll find many of the elements that drive you as a reader to engage with a book are the same components you should include in your next book.
If you want to write a book that captures readers’ attention, keeps them flipping pages and turns your book into a worthwhile investment then you must have all the right elements in place.
If you are ready to write your next bestseller, here are the 10 components of a great nonfiction writing:
Table of Contents
1. Provides a Solution to a Problem
If a nonfiction book is a journey that you are taking your readers on, then there are going to be obstacles your readers face along the way. You can help them by providing the solutions to overcoming these barriers.
We know the reason people want to read good fiction: to be entertained and to escape reality, if only for a short while. But with nonfiction, instead of looking for a way to escape, readers are searching for better ways to cope with their difficulties.
As a nonfiction author you are providing your readers with a way out of a dark tunnel. Everyone has different needs and, depending on the audience you are writing for, your purpose is to be their guide and provide those solutions to problems along the way.
- If someone has a bad habit of eating junk food every night before bed, they want to know how to replace that with a healthy alternative.
- If someone is in debt, they want a solution for getting out of a bad situation and saving cash instead of burning it.
- If someone struggles with using modern technology such as apps or creating a landing page for their new book, they want to know how they can manage a business using modern tech stuff without feeling overwhelmed.
You get the idea.
The journey our readers are buying into is the promise of becoming better equipped to deal with life’s situations at the end.
What you can do now…
- Come up with several themes such as “How to save money” or “How to create the writing habit.” Then, come up with 3-5 solutions for each that anyone could put into action right away.
- Draft up a “hook for your book”. This is a powerful reason why someone would buy your next nonfiction novel. Your hook is the promise of transformation and the solutions that come with it.
- Check out Quora to see what problems people have and if you could provide a solution to these problems.
2. Include a Killer Introduction
The first part of your book readers are going to engage with is the introduction. It is critical to capture their attention right away from the opening. The introduction does several things:
- Tells readers what they are going to get.
- Promises them they are going to get it.
- Creates atmosphere for the book.
- Set up their expectations for what is to come.
- Gain trust from the very beginning.
There are six elements to include in your introduction that is going to:
1. State the problem: let readers know right away what it is you are going to solve for them.
Here is an example: “In today’s world, heavy debt is killing the dreams of millions of people. People have borrowed billions from the bank and now that it’s time to pay it back, we are struggling to make ends meet.”
2. Give them the solution: “I can help you by providing a framework for removing your debt.”
3. Create a sense of urgency: “You want to start reading this book right away if you want to eliminate your debt and be free by next year…”
4. List the benefits: “This book is for you if…”
5. Call to action: “Are you ready to remove debt from your life? Then let’s begin!”
6. Why should readers trust you? You can include a short blurb about yourself, who you and are and what qualifies you to help your readers.
Remember, it’s all about building trust. The introduction is the “doorway” to opening up communication with readers and building that trust right and credibility right away.
3. Eliminate the Fluff and Get to the Point
When it comes to writing content that flows, readers get turned off if a book is beefed up with fluffy words and run-on sentences that don’t add value to the lesson in the chapter. Make it so your writing gets right to the point without wasting time.
With so much content being published everyday you want yours to be the best it can be and give readers a quality experience with your book. This way they’ll stay with your book until the end and are more likely to leave a positive review.
There is a three step easy-way to eliminate the fluff:
- Tell them what you are going to tell them: set up the chapter to introduce the material that is coming.
- Tell them: now give readers what they need to know and justify the reason they bought your book.
- Tell them what you just told them: wrap it up with a short summary at the end, just a few bullet points will do right after the Call To Action.
Follow this simple process and you’ll deliver on your promise: “No fluff, just the good stuff.” Throw out all unnecessary words from your manuscript and eliminate these 43 words from your next book.
4. Take the Reader on a Journey
In The Lord of the Rings J.R.R Tolkien takes us on an incredible and unforgettable journey as our Hobbit heroes battle their way to Mount Doom to destroy the Ring. By the time the story is finished the heroes have won their victory by overcoming evil forces and they undergo a major transformation.
In a nonfiction book we are also taking our readers on a journey and, by promising what they will get upfront if they join you on this quest, at the end of the book there’s a transformation people are expecting.
Readers invest in a nonfiction book so they can be taken on a journey that promises change, a better life or a transformation to improve or completely change their lifestyle.
If you write a book on losing weight, readers will expect to be dropping pounds before they get to the conclusion. Financial advice? The journey promises to help them save more money and build a retirement fund. Creating a business?
Readers want that blueprint to show them how to build a business from the ground up. Think of your nonfiction book as a journey you are taking people on and you’ll be super-excited to have them aboard.
You’ll write the book with more enthusiasm knowing readers are going to be getting a great Return On Investment.
By the end of the journey, although they won’t be destroying Orcs or battling demons, you can show them how to live a better life, make more money, or scale up their skills to create that dream job of living as an entrepreneur.
5. Your Book is Professionally Formatted
Nothing can ruin a good book like bad formatting. A well-formatted book enhances your reader’s experience and keeps those pages being turned. Be sure that you have clear chapter headings and that, wherever possible, the chapter is broken up into subheadings.
Use a combination of bolded fonts and italics. Keep paragraphs short, between 4-8 sentences. Occasionally have one sentence stand alone to add impact when delivering a statement you want to stand out. Stay consistent with the font style and size.
Make sure your chapters have clear page breaks and that the paragraphs are not indented. If you are not skilled at formatting you should really consider outsourcing the formatting of your book. You have spent so much time writing it that it would be a crime to let it go to ruin because of a sloppy appearance.
We wouldn’t recommend you do your own formatting unless you really know what you’re doing. You can check out the services at Archangel Ink or Happy Self Publishing to get a professional formatter for your book.
6. Include Loads of Actionable Content
As authors we don’t just want readers to “browse” through the book. You want them to take action. By getting your readers involved in the journey, they are not just sitting back and enjoying the ride but they are involved in creating the changes that are promised in the book.
While reading a book on weight loss is fine, it means nothing if people just toss its side and move onto the next thing. In fact, without actionable content they might not even finish the book to begin with.
You can include actionable content in your book several ways:
1. Action Steps “Wrap Up”: At the end of the chapter create a summary of 3-5 action steps readers can implement right away. You can find many examples of this in The 10-Minute Digital Declutter by Steve and Barrie. Action steps or a chapter recap at the end of each chapter can keep readers motivated and encouraged to continue reading. It also helps them with the “transformation” promise of your nonfiction book.
2. Chapter Upgrades: This is additional content not included in the book that readers have to opt in to download. It is a great way to gather email addresses but, from a reader’s perspective, they are getting free access to more content they can take action with. Chapter upgrades adds great value to your book. Check out this article by Kevin Kruse on chapter upgrades and this strategy doubled his conversion rate.
3. Checklist: You can include a short checklist of actionable steps at the end of the chapter or, wrap up with a large checklist at the end of the book to consolidate everything. Take a look at Nick Loper’s book The Small Business Website Checklist where he walks readers through a step-by-step checklist of how to set up a website.
7. Include Your Personal Experiences Through Transparency
Reader’s love an author who is real. If there is any method for writers to sell readers on authority it’s by providing examples of their own experiences. People can relate to your strategies and lessons in a more emphatic way if you show them that you’ve “been there” and “done that” too.
If you are writing a book on investing, instead of just feeding people generic information or advice they could get by doing a quick Google search, show them the trials and errors you made along the way. Be open and share one of your biggest failures. Show them that you are in fact “human” through personal transparency.
In Steve’s book Bad Habits No More he does a good job of this by providing a step by step process of how he reduced the amount of time he was spending with his smartphone. Your lessons in the book will carry much more weight and resonate with readers if you can provide your own experiences.
Here is what you can do:
Work on telling your story. Author and blogger Jeff Goins does a great job of this. In his books and blogs he tells people how he started out with a dream to become a writer. Patrick King was once a corporate Lawyer and in his books he refers to the life he had before becoming a full time writer.
Take time out to write down or speak your story. Get into the habit of being a storyteller. Telling a good tale isn’t reserved for just fiction. We are all storytellers. Get good at weaving personal plot through experience into your books and you’ll keep readers interested until the end. And then they’ll want to know even more about you!
8. Proven Case Studies to Broaden the Content
Articles, research and case studies are powerful ways to add credibility to your topic. Although you are the authority on the subject, adding links to case studies or articles you have researched to broaden your subject matter adds significant value to your nonfiction book.
Professional blogger James Clear, who writes about behavioral psychology and habit transformation, creates killer articles every week through a unique blend of using inspirational stories and case studies to support the lessons in his articles.
The bottom line: make references to real people, stories and case studies to expand on your content and ‘power up’ your content. This adds greater depth to your nonfiction book, builds better trust with readers and delivers content that exceeds customer expectations.
9. A Great Title and Subtitle That Sells
Next to the cover, the title and subtitle is critical to getting noticed. You definitely want to spend time crafting the best title and subtitle possible. When it comes to book purchasing decisions, the first thing customers see is: THE TITLE.
So make it great.
The title is the hook that draws readers in; the subtitle is your elevator pitch that tells them what they can expect to learn, or the benefits they’ll gain by reading this book.
Check out these great titles:
- The Now Habit: A Strategic Program For Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play [Neil Fiore, Ph.D]
- Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want [Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy]
- The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do [Jeff Goins]
- Break Through Your BS: Uncover Your Brain’s Blind Spots and Unleash Your Inner Greatness [Derek Doepker]
For a ten-step process on creating good book titles, just check out this post How To Write An Unforgettable Book Title That Screams “Buy Me!”
10. Written in a ‘friendly voice’ that readers can relate to.
Crafting your next book with these 10 key elements is going to create a quality book that customers will love and establish your authority as an indie author that creates quality books. One of the best ways to connect with readers is to write your book in a way that speaks to them.
Write in a friendly tone as if you were hanging out with some friends at a baseball game or having a good old chat over coffee.
First of all, when you talk to your audience instead of down to them, or if you try to sound too smart or clever, readers will be turned off right away. They want someone who understands their pain point and can deliver advice and suggestions in an authoritative yet empathetic tone.
Here is what you can do:
- Use simple, modern language; avoid big, long words that people haven’t used since the fifteenth century. Just keep it simple.
- Keep the tone consistent: don’t switch from a casual speaking tone to a more formal one. Keep the tone consistent with the theme of your book.
- Avoid sounding like you are “preaching” or angry at your readers. Keep the language in a caring and supportive tone. Be patient and caring, the same way you would talk to a friend who needed your help with something.
Integrate these ten methods into your book and you’ll create a reading experience that people will love and TELL all their friends about. When you include all the right elements into your writing, you’ll be creating a string of bestsellers that changes lives.
Author Bio: Scott Allan is the author of several bestselling books. He has a passion for teaching, building life skills and inspiring others to take charge of their lives. You can find Scott’s books here: Scott Allan