write a non-fiction book

Writing a non-fiction book - These 10 strategies will make you a convincing expert

Passing on knowledge and distinguishing yourself as an expert - these are important goals of a non-fiction book, guidebook or reference book. If you want to write a non-fiction book, your name stands for expertise. But how do you conceptualize and structure a nonfiction book, find the right writing style, and develop a compelling cover? And how can you successfully market your expertise as an expert in your field?

Get an overview of the market

Do you already have a manuscript in the drawer or are you sitting on an idea? If you want to write a non-fiction book, take a look at the non-fiction market in advance.

The non-fiction market has a range of different genres such as society, politics and economics, business and careers, medicine, literature, etc. These categories can be divided into sub-categories: Political History, International Politics etc. We can currently find according to directory of available books assume that there are a good 150,000 printed non-fiction books on the German book market, apart from countless E-books in this genre.

Non-fiction books are according to the Society of Publishers and Booksellers Alongside fiction, children's and young people's books and guidebooks, this is one of the segments with the highest sales. With a sales share of around 11 % in the book trade in 2020, with total sales of 9.3 billion euros with books and trade magazines in the book market in 2020 (in the book market there are always only retrospective figures).

Promising segments are business, politics, society, religion and philosophy, nature and technology - while others are declining in sales such as history, spirituality and esotericism, art and literature.  

Keep that in mind as you get started with concept and nonfiction writing. You're publishing in a high-selling segment. At the same time, your book is competing with a huge number and variety of titles. By way of comparison, around 70,500 new book titles come onto the German market every year (2019), a lot of which are non-fiction. Only those who deliver new content in a professional and exceptional design have a chance here. Ask yourself best before the writinghow you can place yourself in this hotly contested market. Get an overview of the competition and evaluate them for your own concept.

Before writing nonfiction: Sift through competition

You can only succeed in this competitive market if your book stands out. Therefore, the first questions you should ask yourself before you start writing nonfiction are: Does the topic I plan to cover in my guidebook have a real chance? What about the competition? Is the book project up to it?

Give it some thought in advance

  • In which genre or subgenre does my book belong?
  • How many titles are there in my subcategory on Amazon, for example?
  • Which topics are not yet covered in the corresponding segment and does my title belong to them?
  • Are there many similar titles published in my subject area or am I contributing something new?
  • Which target group do I want to address?

View competitor titles

  • Why do certain books stand out?
  • What do these authors do particularly well? What do the covers, metadata, short descriptions, readings look like and what pluses and negatives can I evaluate and apply to my own book project?
  • What makes my book stand out from titles in the same segment? Why should readers read my book in particular?

Focus on the added value of your concept. Don't publish a non-fiction book that exists in a similar form, but deliver something new and present it better than the competition. A competitor analysis helps to determine whether your book has a chance on the market. After that, it's all about a good concept and content before publishing.

How do you develop a nonfiction book?

Once you've surveyed the market and determined that your topic has opportunity, perhaps even a unique selling proposition, you're off to the concept stage. A first draft of the concept is necessary before you can write your non-fiction book.

To do this, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want to achieve with my book? Should it be a tool for own seminars, inform about innovations or impart knowledge etc.?
  • What is the main thesis and how do I want to convey it?
  • Who am I writing my nonfiction for?
  • What informational benefit does my book represent to my readers?

From these questions, the first Ideas, develop a concept outline and the main argument of your nonfiction book. To do this, you can first write down the selling points that make your book special. With the help of a mind map, brainstorming or similar tools, you can record and structure all the concepts and themes that belong to your book title. These points are the common thread. As soon as you have developed a concept, you can start writing your non-fiction book.

Test the concept with a test audience beforehand. Present your book project within three minutes. Is the topic interesting? Can you convince them of the novelty of your non-fiction project? Then the book is ready for writing!

Writing Nonfiction: What does the table of contents look like?

From your first draft of the text, you can develop a detailed table of contents. This will provide your readers with an overview of the topic. A convincing and clear table of contents should provide incentives for the book purchase. After all, anyone who is interested in your non-fiction book will, after looking at the cover and the Blurb next, take a look at the table of contents.

Chapter headings should make it clear what the reader can expect in each chapter. This does not mean that the table of contents has to be dry and boring. Creativity is just as important here as expertise. A structured and appealing table of contents can make or break a book purchase. It should provide an overall view, but not be too coarse or small.

Example of a good table of contents

Trigger me, please

What makes this table of contents good?

Grigor Nussbaumer does not choose a traditional type of table of contents, but designs it in a modern way. He begins with a provocative thesis that arouses curiosity: "Why I didn't want to write this book". A perfect start. This introduction triggers initial incentives to buy. Even the table of contents arouses interest, poses questions and hints at opinions.

Further, Gigor Nussbaumer summarizes subtopics clearly. Keywords on the topics, fear, priming, framing show what the individual chapters are about. This allows the reader to jump directly to a topic. In this way, the book also serves as a reference book. The chapters are ended by tips on the keyword in question. A clever way to introduce topics and clarify added value for the reader. In this way, the author makes the reader want to learn more.

Our tip: Move away from boring textbook characters - get creative with your non-fiction book's table of contents.

How do you write a non-fiction book?

Red thread

Make sure that the common thread of your argumentation does not get lost in the writing. The structure of the text should be logically structured and arranged so that your readers can follow. Before writing, take another look at your target group. The added value for the reader should always be in the foreground.

Structure of a non-fiction book


The introduction provides a brief overview of the topic and the author's approach in an engaging and not too sprawling manner. It is ideal if it makes you want to read on. It gives a general overview of what happens next and what the reader can expect in the book.

Main part

The main part contains the theses on individual sub-areas of the specialist subject, the basics of the subject for understanding, practical and application examples, etc. Always following the thread, here the author presents his argumentation and leads the reader step by step to the conclusion.

Each chapter should offer a gain in knowledge. Tips and advice at the end of chapters on the respective topics give readers added value and help to put the knowledge into practice.


The final conclusion formulates a conclusion to the main thesis of the book and summarizes the topic in a rounding way. The conclusion should find its way back to the beginning and, if necessary, answer the initial question.

Writing a non-fiction book in the right writing style

When writing a non-fiction book, always think about your target audience when it comes to writing style. For example, even as a university professor, don't throw around foreign words if your target audience is high school or college students who need to learn the vocabulary. Don't overwhelm your readers, but keep them interested with a stimulating style. A short summary at the end of a chapter is helpful for the reader, who may also use the book several times for further reference (keyword added value!).

When it comes to writing style, you should pay special attention to the following things:

  • Clear language and understandable vocabulary packed into simple and clear sentences
  • Style suitable for the target group
  • Avoid passive constructions and repetitions
  • Do not artificially inflate the text, but deliver facts and knowledge in a neutral tone, without empty phrases and anecdotes.
  • Stay on topic, don't digress
  • Write vividly and explain insights. Provide examples that keep your readers happy. Knowledge transfer can be exciting and entertaining!
  • Be creative - a non-fiction book doesn't mean readers won't be surprised or provoked in it, or be able to laugh sometimes.

What does the cover of a nonfiction book look like?

The cover is the figurehead in the book trade. It should vividly demonstrate what the book is about and the added knowledge value it contains for a reader. The cover should be straightforward, clarify the topic and match the book style. It is important to stand out from the competition, but remain true to genre characteristics. The overall impression should be tidy and clear and not appear chaotic.

Example: If you're writing a travelogue and all the books in the genre showcase their respective destinations on the cover, you won't stand out much with a plain, monochrome cover that doesn't have a picture. That's why it's important to sift through the competition beforehand. What do the cover designs of the top sellers look like and how can you score with your own cover next to them?

Metadata for a perfect placement on the market

Even more than with a work of fiction, with a non-fiction or technical book it is important that you use the metadata to ensure optimal findability in online shops and good rankings. Subtitle, short description, book cover and author description are the flagships of your non-fiction book.

Metadata at a glance

  • The Book title and the subtitle should be chosen precisely and in line with the target group and contain the most important keywords.
  • The Brief description is the advertising platform for your non-fiction book. In a nutshell, you can introduce it here, highlight the added value for readers and present what makes your book special. The short description should also contain keywords or so-called SEO keywords so that it can be found.
  • Also the Keywords should reflect exactly these keywords. Quality is more important here than quantity. Many online shops only consider seven keywords. Pay attention to significant words that fit the topic. Something like "exciting" or "novel" have no place here.

Get a professional SEO analyst to help you with your metadata. It's worth the investment for better findability.

How do I make my nonfiction book discoverable?

One way to increase the discoverability of your book is to place it in specific subcategories. If you place in specific subcategories instead of the most popular topic categories, you'll compete with fewer titles and have a better chance of making your book discoverable.

Marketing: How do I find readers for my non-fiction book?

You want to publish your expertise, for example to offer participants of your seminars a compact summary on the topic or to build up an expert status in this subject area? Why not approach readers while you are still writing and build the future reading community? Then readers and journalists, as well as other experts, will eagerly await publication and sales are assured.

For example, while you're writing, start a blog or social media presence where you share your expertise. Or create a newsletter that provides prospective readers with aspects of your topic - and, incidentally, tells them about the upcoming book release. And talk to clients or seminar attendees about the book release to pique their curiosity.

Using your own personality as a brand

The best non-fiction book doesn't sell without the appropriate marketing. A crucial point that distinguishes technical and non-fiction authors from fiction authors is that here the author often stands in the foreground as an expert in his or her subject area. There is a close connection between the subject and the author. You can use this potential to establish yourself as a brand. After all, with a non-fiction book, your own personality has an impact. A good example of self-marketing is tredition author Albert Warnecke with his successful book "Der Finanzwesir 2.0". His book, along with his blog, podcast, seminars and coaching, is a way for him to reach people. From being a successful financial blogger, Warnecke has grown through seminars as well as top rankings on Google and Amazon into the voice in the field of finance.

How do I market my nonfiction book?

  • Maintain your author profile in all popular platforms, on your author page in the shop, on Amazon, on your own homepage and on your social media channels.
  • The author images also matter! Your face stands for your brand. Therefore, you should pay attention to professionalism and sympathy in your photos.
  • You could introduce yourself in a powerful video that showcases your personality and expertise.
  • Actively participate in platforms, forums and seminars on your subject and present your book there. The more often you appear on a topic, the more your readers will perceive you as a specialist.

How do I publish my nonfiction book?

Publisher or self-publishing - which publishing channel is the best option for your non-fiction book? It is often difficult to be represented as an author in a popular publishing house at all. The waiting times until publication are sometimes very long, and perhaps your topic has already lost its relevance by then. That is why the choice of a Self-publishing service provider in many cases the better one. Self-Publishing offers a number of advantages for your non-fiction publication. You decide on all aspects such as cover and layout yourself and can publish the book promptly.


As a nonfiction author, you're building yourself as a brand. Therefore, a well-planned concept is just as important as an overview of the competing titles. Formulate a meaningful table of contents and grab the attention of your readers with the cover. To offer them added value, you can summarize the most important points at the end of a chapter. In addition to participating in forums and seminars in your field, you can use a blog or your social media presence as marketing tools.


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