Points to consider before writing a book...

What to consider before you begin writing a non-fiction book…

Thinking of writing a self-help book? Want to write your biography? Every day someone says to me, ‘People keep on telling me with my life I should write a book…’ but the truth is the non-fiction book market is just as competitive as the fiction market, if not more so. Points to consider before writing a book...

Sadly, however good a book is, only a very tiny number of non-fiction books are ever even published – and an even smaller amount actually go on to make any money.
However, you can ensure your book is more likely to be a success by carrying out some detailed planning before you start… Here, I give you some valuable tips to consider before you even begin writing…

Do your research

Has the book you are planning to write already been written? For example if you are planning a good parenting guide, how many other people have already written one? How successful were those books and how were they written? Who published them or were they self published? Be honest with yourself. If the market is already flooded with similar books that aren’t selling, you might reconsider whether it’s worth you writing your book.

Is your book unique?

Just because lots of other authors have already penned books on the subject doesn’t mean your book won’t work. But what you have to say must then be presented in a different way to what is already on offer. That said, your book needs to fit a certain genre – or sub genre. For example, you might want to write a cookery book but will it be about children’s food, puddings, recipes with wine, express recipes…? And how many words will your type of book require?

Why will people buy your book?

Writing a book might well be a form of therapy for you and you might well enjoy it. But you need to understand who the reader is before you write it- after all, you do want people to read it. If you want to pen a successful book that will sell, you need to be focused on what the ‘selling point’ of your book is and how you will market it.

How will your book be written?

Many people decide to write a book without any clear idea of how it might actually be written. Take an autobiography. Will it be in diary-form or standard chapters? Will your book be written first or third person? Will it have photos and if so, who will take those? Or do you have enough from the family photo album to print? You also need to develop a ‘voice’ in your writing. Your book needs to have its own personality and you need to identify and practice the style of writing that best conveys this personality before you’ve written a dozen chapters and then decide it doesn’t actually work…

When will you write your book?

Writing a book is a huge commitment. You might need to do a lot of research – or even travel to find out more about your subject Many people start and give up after the first chapter because they simply do not have the staying power or the spare time. Consider when if you have a job or a family you will sit and write and then formulate a reasonable timetable that you can stick to.

Do you know enough about how publishing a book works?

Finally, once you have planned your book you need to find out how to sell it. There are two main routes – the mainstream route, which is via a literary agent and a publishing house – and self publishing. Getting a book published is very competitive and literary agents and publishing houses often have very defined criteria not only about the type of authors and books they are currently taking on, but how they are approached (often via synopsis, sample chapters and letter only). And although self publishing can these days be a cheap and effective way of getting your book out there, there will still be a cost, which you need to consider before going ahead.

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Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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