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Here are the broad categories of nonfiction discussed in the original Author + Entrepreneur: The Product post.

Broad Types of Non-Fiction

  • Autobiography
  • Biography
  • Creative nonfiction
  • Essay
  • History
  • Journal
  • Letters
  • Memoir
  • Philosophy

Nonfiction as with fiction can serve to fulfill any of the three e’s that we previously discussed: Education, Entertainment, and Enlightenment. For example, on a personal level, I read non-fiction books about wine and business for education. I read memoirs for entertainment, and I read books on creative thinking and spirituality for enlightenment. Of course the lines can be blurred and a great book is one that hits the sweet spot.

The core of non-fiction is based in fact; therefore, it stands to reason that if you want to have a high quality work of non-fiction, you have to get the facts straight. The art and craft of writing non-fiction is rooted in the experience of presenting factual information in a way that is compelling for the reader to read. It is hitting the sweet spot of why people read, and has to add enough value for the reader to exchange his/her money and time for your information.

When writing non-fiction here are a few things to keep in mind to get closer to the sweet spot:

Research, research, research – Non-fiction is about facts, so the facts should be correct! This is of vital importance. It is critical that you understand what else is out there. Make sure if you’re using facts, figures, dates, names, etc. that they are correct especially in the cases of historical, biographical, and scientific content.

Have a title that captures attention and communicates intention – Don’t think that readers do not judge books by their covers because they absolutely do. This point pretty much speaks for itself, but if I’m reading a work of non-fiction, as with any book, the title is the first thing I see. However, when I’m reading non-fiction I’m going there with a specific purpose, so keep it interesting and relevant.

Share the right amount of information – It’s very easy to assume that people know something, but you don’t want to confuse the reader with missing background information, theories, or ideas. How much background information will the reader need to know to understand the content of the book? If they need other information, have I provided that information or at least pointed them in the direction of where they can find it?

Your personal touch – When I read non-fiction this is the part that really keeps me engaged with what I’m reading. The personal touch can come from many different places, but the most of it comes from the author’s tone and voice. Tone and voice are communicated through word choice and syntax. The particular words you choose and the way you construct sentences and paragraphs. Be careful not come off unapproachable in the writing because you’re sharing factual information. People are generally coming to you for help, information, and guidance.

Suggested Reading – One of my favorite parts of reading non-fiction is the suggested reading list. This is typically found at the end of the book, and it’s simply a list of books that have contributed to the compilation and synthesis of ideas that have produced the current work. Most of the time, I will never get the chance to read these books, but I just appreciate the idea of being able to dig deeper and knowing where to look if/when I want more information, but this goes back to the idea of providing the right amount of information or informing people of where to find more.

Happy non-fiction writing and just to give you an idea of the memorable non-fiction pieces I’ve read in the last year, and where this advice is coming from…

Latest non-fiction books that have made my reading list within the past year:

  • On the Road (The Original Scroll)
  • The E-Myth Revisited
  • How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months
  • Harvard Business Review on Breakthrough Thinking
  • Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth
  • 2 Years To A Million in Real Estate
  • 4 Steps to the Epiphany
  • The Lean Startup

(And these are just the non-fiction books I remember reading off the top of my head and saw on my iPad)

Currently on the non-fiction queue:

  • How to Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s
  • The Wealth of Nations
  • The Republic
  • Utopia (Again, and for research reasons)

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