There is no shortage of books to help fiction writers, from Bird by Bird and On Writing to the “Snowflake Method” and 5,000 Words Per Hour. But there doesn’t seem to be as many quality books about writing nonfiction and fewer still that treat the topic so holistically.
Dan Janal’s book is the real deal, written by someone steeped in nonfiction writing and with a bio to back it up. If you are a business leader interested in writing a book to help grow your business, do you want to get nonfiction writing advice from someone who has figured out how to make money cranking out 99 cent Kindle eBooks? Or someone who has been writing and consulting on his subject for 25 years?
Look at how the book is organized to see what I mean. Each section takes the prospective nonfiction writer through the essential elements:
- Conceptualizing your book (including titling it; six chapters in all)
- Outlining and writing the book
- Preparing front and back matter (few new authors get this right and yet it is one of the more important steps in writing)
- Research, design, editing and adding “color”
One of my favorite chapters spoke about soliciting feedback, something I see very few authors do (too many are obsessed with rushing their book to market).
I like how Dan divided feedback into two camps:
Peer reviewers: Ask professionals who know your subject matter what they think. These might be mastermind partners, colleagues, professors and authors of comparable books.
Get their input, revise your book if or as needed. Then send it off to the next group…
Beta readers: Beta readers are the ideal audience for your book. This usually isn’t your family (but could be). They are generally people on your mailing list, or customers, or clients—anyone that represents who you plan to market to.
Presentation and packaging are also important. When the publisher asked if I would like a review copy, I asked for the paperback. I wanted to see how much care and design went into the print book because this is much harder to do a good job with than eBooks.
I ended up reading the Kindle edition because I found myself needing to highlight and bookmark so many passages. Both editions were published in a professional manner.
Does it work for everyone? Hard to say but the “paint by numbers” metaphor used in the subtitle will help people visualize a process that if followed, will lead them from concept to a solid manuscript. As a couple Amazon reviewers point out there is some self-promotion, but I did not find that a problem. If you are qualified, why not say so?
How to publish a book is not the same as how to write a book. If you are looking for a single reference book to help you through the process of writing a nonfiction book, I can recommend Dan Janal’s Write Your Book in a Flash.