Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Parts of a Nonfiction Book

When you consider writing a book, your first thought is about the subject matter. In fact, most new authors don’t think much beyond the main content. But the chapters in your book are only one of the parts you must write; and though they are the most important and the most time consuming, they cannot stand alone.

The front cover has the title, your name, an illustration, and perhaps an endorsement or quote from a favorable review. The back cover is your full-page ad. It should include a description of the main features of the book, a category, a brief bio and a photo of the author, the publisher, an ISBN number, a bar code, and the price.

Front Matter

Copyright page. This page is usually provided by the publisher. It contains certain basic information, such as the title, the author’s name, the copyright date, a paragraph explaining copyright rules, the country in which it is printed, the ISBN number, a Library of Congress number, the publisher, its location, and contact information.

Preface. This is written by the author and explains why and how you wrote the book. It can tell your story in a very personal way, if you wish.

Foreword. This should be written by someone other than the author and is particularly powerful when an expert in the field writes it. If the writer is a person with a recognized name or title, you might want to mention “Foreword by name” on the cover.

Introduction. Think of the introduction as a practical guide to using the book. It should explain what the book is about, why it was written, and how it should be read, if there is more than one way. If you are expressing a point of view that will enhance the reader’s understanding, include it in the introduction. This is your chance to explain your rationale.

Acknowledgments. Few of us write our books without help, no matter how well versed we are on the subject matter. There are hundreds of ways in which assistance is given, from people willing to share their expertise and knowledge to editors who turn our rough prose into pearls. Here is the place to thank everyone who contributed to the book in any way.

The Chapters

Of course, the bulk of the writing takes place between the front and back matter. Your main headings become your table of contents; each key point becomes a subhead of your chapter. Under the subheads, is the meat—your research, narrative, quotes from interviewees, resource materials, and graphics. The important thing is to get all the pertinent information under each subhead.

Back Matter

Bibliography. If you have read other books and quoted other authors, a bibliography acknowledges the sources. Of course, you should attribute quotes in the copy or with footnotes. A bibliography also gives readers a list of references to read if they wish to dig more deeply into the subject.

Appendices. Sometimes, you have so much background information or detail that, if you included all of it in the main body of work, you might overwhelm your reader. Appendices are a good place to put scientific data, charts, reports, and detailed explanations without ruining the flow of your text.

Glossary. This is an optional, alphabetically arranged dictionary of terms peculiar to the subject of the book. Try to define such words in the text.

Epilogue. If you have “one last thought,” this is the place to express it.

Index. When a book is filled with facts or topics a reader might want to find quickly, an index is the fastest way to find them. There are two types of indexes—subject matter and detailed. I strongly suggest you hire a professional indexer instead of using the index feature of your word-processing program.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It Takes a Team to Produce a Nonfiction Book

Very few people can do everything that must be done to take a book from beginning to end. It takes a team of people who will play a role in some aspect of your book. You will not need everyone on this list, of course, but there are a few in the “must have” column. If you are self-publishing, they include an editor, a graphic designer, and a printer. If a traditional publisher or a reputable POD house publishes your book, some of these professionals will be furnished. Here is a list of the most important professional partners.

Administrative assistants or virtual assistants will become your right hand, handling correspondence, permissions, research, bookkeeping, organization, filing, inventory, publicity, and myriad other details.

Attorneys serve several functions, from analyzing contracts to advising you on copyright laws and registering art work.

Graphic designers often can handle both cover design and page layout. Conventional publishers will provide these elements based on input from their marketing departments.

Distributors such as Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Follette, and BWI provide a range of services including electronic ordering systems (EDI), warehousing, fulfillment, shipping, billing, collection, marketing, editorial consultation, and sales.

Editors work at different stages of the project. A developmental editor helps you craft your concept, organize your ideas and material, and keep yourself on track. Copy editors and proofreaders check for grammar, punctuation, and consistency.

Indexers are necessary when your book is technical, scientific, fact-filled, or a textbook. You have two options: your word-processing program or a professional indexer. Hire a professional. A conventional publishing house will provide indexing services when necessary.

Industry experts or readers are professionals who know your subject matter and are willing to give you feedback on how accurately you present this information in your manuscript. Often, they will also provide endorsements that will give your book valuable credibility.

Printers range in quality from quick copy to high-end digital or offset. If your book is published by a conventional or independent publisher, this won’t be your responsibility. If you plan to have more than 1,000 copies printed, choose an offset printer. If you want copies printed as you need them, opt for digital printing.

Publicists save you a lot of legwork by arranging for travel, radio and TV appearances, book signings, interviews, and articles in various publications. Quite often, you will wear the publicist hat. The important point is that you must market your book, usually well before it finds its way into print.

Reviewers are often affiliated with some form of media. They assess the quality of the writing, how well and logically you cover the topic, and how readable your book is. A positive review can be mined in many ways, one of which is to quote the reviewer on the back cover.

Transcribers convert recorded interviews into text. An option that allows you to avoid transcribing is voice-recognition software, which must be trained to recognize your voice. The best for PCs is Dragon Naturally Speaking; for Macs, the latest is Macspeech Dictate.

Wholesalers handle books based on demand. They carry books from most publishers and fill orders as they receive them. Their main service is delivering books quickly; they do not have sales reps. There are several categories of wholesalers, including national, regional, specialized, and library.

95 Ways to Market Your Nonfiction Book

1.Sell book on Web site and

2. Write arti­cles

a. Have copy edited.

b. Set up article page on Web site.

c. Submit articles to on-line sites.

3. Increase presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.

4. Maximize presence on Amazon.

a. Post customer reviews on other people’s books.

b. End them with a blurb about your book.

c. Set up a reviewer’s profile.

d. Investigate Amazon Web 2.0 Interactivity.

e. Make friends on Amazon.

f. Sell products on Amazon’s WebStore.

g. Establish yourself as a true author presence.

5. Blogging

a. Visit blog di­rectories and check out the top-ranked blogs.

b. Check out blogs on writing.

c. Comment; let the blogger know you have done so.

d. Answer questions you have been asked in the past.

e. Give brief reviews and recommend competitive titles on your subject or books you are reading now.

6. Internet marketing

a. Build list of contacts, and keep in touch with them.

b. Keep adding to Web site.

c. Make contact information obvious.

d. Include name, e-mail address, and phone number.

e. Make sure content is high quality and provides a benefit to readers.

f. Inform, educate, inspire, motivate.

g. Include lots of ways to do things associated with topic.

h. Don’t lecture or proselytize.

i. Be generous. Give stuff away, particularly informa­tion.

j. Demonstrate expertise.

k. Show, don’t tell, that you know your subject.

l. Iden­tify your target market; if you have more than one, you need more than one Web site. Buy several domain names.

m. Hire a Web-marketing consultant.

n. Research and register with directories and search engines.

o. Create new links to your Web site by link building.

p. Use different delivery mechanisms for different audi­ences—blog, newsletter, e-zine, Podcasts.

q. Stay active in Twitter, Yahoo, Gath­er, Facebook, LinkedIn

r. Create name recognition by submitting articles on your subject to multiple article sites.

s. Be clear but subtle about having something to sell.

t. Make it easy for people to buy and pay for your book.

u. Set up a store through or some other shopping cart service; sign up for PayPal or get a merchant’s account.

v. Set up a media page. Include a press release that an­nounces your book in a copyable format (Word or a text file), links to previous interviews in print and on-line.

6. Send Advance Readers Copies (uncorrected galley proofs) stamped “reader’s copy” to reviewers at trade magazines within the book industry.

7. See Literary Market Place in the reference room for magazine and newspaper book reviewers, book review syndicates, columnists, radio and television stations, book clubs.

8. Advertise in inexpensive newsletters and Writers’ Digest and The Writer.

9. Bookstores

a. Compile a list of local bookstores and visit them, book in hand.

b. Offer to do a workshop, a presentation, or a signing.

c. Help with promotion of the event,

d. Cooperate with the community relations person in any way you can.

10. Book clubs: Go to each Web site, and download guidelines for submission.

11. Elevator speech: be able to tell someone what your book is about between floors in an elevator: “My book is about (main point) in order to help the reader (main benefit).”

12. Articles

a. Make a list of print and Web publications that address writing.

b. Research writers’ guidelines.

c. Query the editors about writing free articles.

d. Learn what the editor is looking for to address the publication’s reader.

e. Use keywords so it will be found. Link to the appropriate page on your Web site.

13. Direct marketing

a. Consider hiring a knowledgeable professional to help you.

b. Develop a plan what you want to achieve, your target audience, the list, what you will offer, and designer; establish criteria for your target audience.

c. Build or buy a list of people who meet those criteria.

d. If possible, call those listed to determine if list is up to date.

e. Keep culling list; when a piece of mail comes back, remove the address from the list.

f. Track and measure results.

g. If necessary, mail to the same list several times.

h. Ask yourself: (1) what is the average order you will receive? (2) What will it cost you to mail each piece? (3) Can you generate enough money to pay for your mailing? (4) Will you make a profit? If the answers to questions (3) and (4) are no, rethink this as a method of reaching customers.

15. Networking

a. Join appropriate associa­tions for self-publishers, marketers, professional speakers, and those that cater to people interested in your topic.

b. Get involved in the organization, talk about your book.

c. Network on-line.

16. Nontraditional sales

a. Think beyond the bookstore. Other places are called “nontraditional sales.”

b. Consider spin-off products.

c. Sell not just your book, but your message as well.

d. Send free books as review copies, three-dimensional business cards, gifts, or marketing materials to asso­ciations, organizations, meetings of any kind, and li­braries.

e. Submit book for inclusion in catalogs.

f. Attend book fairs and special events (note prior caution).

g. Sell books in the back of the room when you give presentations or workshops.

17. Public relations

a. Prepare a professional-looking press kit. Paste the cover of book on the front of the pocket folder. Inside, put a press release, an information sheet about your book, an author’s bio and photo, talking points to be used in interviews, and contact and ordering information.

b. Give away premiums that display book’s cover.

c. Create your own audience.

18. Speaking engagements

a. Position yourself as an expert.

b. Line up speaking engage­ments at no charge.

19. Specialty retailers

a. Ask yourself how you will sell this kind of book? Where?

b. Research & visit stores and sites that sell special-interest books and related products.

c. Bring your own point-of-purchase displays.

20. Last thoughts

a. Go where the audience is. Network.

b. Be a walking/talking commercial for your book.

c. Remember, life is a marketing call.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Four Critical Factors in Writing a Nonfiction Book

A warm welcome to guest blogger, Joan Hoffman, EdD, author of Ready, Set, Counsel A Practical Guide to Being a School Counselor In the Real World. Here are Joan's recommendations for what it takes to produce a finished manuscript for a nonfiction book.

As I thought about writing a book, I realized there are four critical factors that need to come together in order to get to a finished product. Missing any piece will make your writing more challenging and may keep you from completing your book. The first is passion—your strong emotional tie to your topic, the belief in your knowledge base and ability to write on the topic.

The second is vision, which lets you refine and focus your topic to give you a clearer picture of exactly what you want to write. Through refining and focusing, you will be able to develop your elevator sentence—a short statement about your book, the clear picture of what you want your book to be. As people ask you what your book is about, you only have a short time before they glaze over or start yawning because you are going on too long. Just because you find your topic fascinating doesn’t mean others necessarily agree. If people want to know more, they will ask.

The third factor is tenacity. You need the energy and determination to complete your project. I found I had to cope with frustration and even stopped writing for a while. My passion reasserted itself and brought me back to continue on my book-writing journey. Without this piece I might never have completed my book.

Of course, you need to dedicate yourself to the book; it won’t write itself. I found it helpful to write down short-term goals. When you write the goal, it becomes a commitment, unlike thinking about a time line. I also found it helpful to give myself small rewards along the way. It might have been a manicure, a special night out, or even a warm bath. Do whatever works for you as a motivator.

Since I had passion, a clearly defined vision, and tenacity, all I needed was a plan. I thought I had a plan by outlining, re-outlining, and writing my chapters. However, as I took Bobbi’s class, I discovered that I had much left to do and, in fact, had made this harder than it needed to be.

There was the necessary research to see if there was even a market for my book. How disappointing it would have been if I had spent all that time writing only to find out there was already a glut on the market. Thankfully, there was not. Chapter summaries would have clearly defined my walk through my book, instead of writing, rewriting, and merging topics. I encourage you to follow the path defined by Bobbi’s book. It will certainly shorten your time to get to completion.

I can’t begin to tell you how rewarding it is to complete the query letter, proposal, and book. It’s so wonderful to actually see the finished product and know that it happened because of your dedication, blood, sweat, and tears. No one else could write your book. It is uniquely you! Success!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Planning your nonfiction book

As you know, if you have been reading The Writing Life, I teach and coach six steps that take a nonfiction book from concept to completion. It is a huge topic, with much to cover, and there are always questions. I hope to answer as many of them as I can in the upcoming series of blog posts.

What are the three most important questions an author must answer before he or she starts writing?

  1. What is my book about (in one sentence)? Why one sentence? Because if you can't clearly and succinctly explain what your book is about in a way that anyone will understand, you don't know. If you don't know, you can't write it.
  2. What is my book's purpose? Why are you writing this book? What do you want it to achieve? A book needs a mission, a reason for being. The purpose might be to entertain, to educate, or to inspire. Whatever it is, the mission must include providing a benefit to the reader.
  3. Who is my ideal reader? Think about this. "Everyone" or "every woman" is too broad. if you were having a conversation with your reader, who would that person be? To whom are you delivering the benefit you promise?
How do I know if my idea for a book is viable?

If you write a book proposal for an agent or publisher, your job is to prove that your book will sell. You do that by answering these ten questions (three of them may look familiar):
  1. Why are you writing this book?
  2. What is your book about?
  3. How are you qualified to write this book?
  4. Why is this an appropriate and timely topic?
  5. Who are your target readers?
  6. How will they benefit?
  7. How will you reach them?
  8. How big is the market? How many potential readers are there?
  9. What else is out there on this subject? How is this book unique/special/important?
  10. How will you help to promote your book?
Why do I need a proposal if I’m self-publishing my book?

A proposal is your plan. if you can answer the ten questions above, you have the basis for your proposal. If you don't intend to pursue traditional publishing, this may be all you need. Proposals may be organized in various ways, but they must address the basics. When you reread your answers you will know if your book is viable. You will also use all of this information as you write and promote your book.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Graduate School"

For the second time since I have been teaching my class in "Writing, Publishing & Promoting Your Nonfiction Book," I have offered a follow-up class, euphemistically referred to as graduate school. The idea is that anyone who has ever taken the first class and is still somewhere in the process of writing a book can sign up for the second one. In the interest of full disclosure, I must add that these classes are offered by the St. Louis Community College as continuing education—in other words, they are noncredit.

That makes no difference to me; I teach both of them as if students were, indeed, receiving college credits toward a degree. Each class is two hours a week for six weeks. Despite the number of years I have been teaching, I write new lesson plans, bring in new outside speakers, and gear the course to the new people who take it. Therefore, it is a different course every semester.

To my knowledge, the community college has never offered anything like this before. It is not so much a class as a workshop or authors' support group. I try to get everyone on the same page on the first night by asking what I consider the four fundamental questions:
  1. What is your book about?
  2. What is your book's purpose?
  3. Who is your ideal reader?
  4. Where do you want to be by the last week of class?
I set a maximum of twelve students because I try to do a lot of individual coaching and editing. This time, eleven people signed up, eight from the last class and three from previous classes. On the first night, we had a great speaker who had taken both parts of the class while she was working on her book. She was informative, inspirational, and very funny.

After telling everyone what she did wrong and what she did right, she pulled out a letter she had received that day. It was from an literary agent to whom she had sent a dynamite query letter. The agent wrote that she "would be honored" to see the complete book proposal.

The class burst into spontaneous applause.