Before writing a nonfiction book…

So you want to write a nonfiction book?  Here’s where to truly begin: market research what is selling already.

Start Here

Youtube is awash with video advice on writing – it seems like many of us do firmly believe the old adage that everyone has a book in them.

Out of the many wannabe Advisors, this one video seems to me to be a great starting point – helping the new writer find out what you genuinely are interested in, what you offer in this genre, and cracking market research.  (The audio has a slight recurring technical issue with occasional light phistling sounds on the audio, but I do think it’s worth living with that because the content is worth it).

What makes a book in your subject successful?

For me, this is THE key question covered so helpfully in this video.  Once you know your chosen genre of nonfiction, Julie Broad recommends going straight to Amazon, and checking top 20 bestsellers in that genre.  Simple.  But genius.

This is terrifically easy research, at your fingertips.

  1.  It instantly brings you up-to-date with trends and books in your area so that when you do get talking to publishers/agents you have common language.  They will definitely be very aware of the best sellers and will mention them – imagine the difference between an author looking blank OR saying “Yes, my first chapter begins where that book leaves off….”
  2. You can see gaps in the market, where there aren’t books in your area
  3. For marketing your book with industry professionals, you can describe your book manuscript in quick shorthand – “it’s like ‘Xbook’ meets ‘Y book’
  4. It saves you from spending months writing a book which may be very similar to one hugely successful already.
  5. Amazon breaks down the genre you choose into lots of little sub-genres.  This is fascinating because there are probably sub-genres in here which you wouldn’t have been aware of, outside the publishing world.
  6. Amazon allows a quick look at part of the contents (and usually the list of chapter headings) to get a quick feel for the style and what is covered
  7. Amazon includes a wide variety of formats including paperbook and audiobook

Make a chart of features in Top 20

In the video, Julie spells out the type of features to notice in bestsellers.  She makes the good point that Amazon updates sales hourly, so it’s worth watching what is selling across a longer period, like a month, to spot the depth of any trends.

“If you do this before writing the book, you’re setting yourself up for sales success”

– Julie Broad, Book Launchers

Sunday Times Bestseller List

If you’re wanting to publish your book in the UK, it could be good practice to buy a Sunday Times occasionally as it contains the actual numbers of books selling well in fiction or nonfiction, hardback or paperback, in the previous week.  The literary supplement of that paper will also be awash with interviews with the authors and reviews (often by other famous writers in that genre).


NOW for the real work – reading these bestsellers – books, listening to those audiobooks, listening to podcasts in this area.  If you sigh and don’t want to – perhaps you aren’t interested enough in this genre to write it?  Where you are truly interested and invested in the genre, you’ll enjoy this process, it is entering into conversation with a wide range of people, the movers and shakers, the thinkers and ranters.  Some opinions will inspire you, others irritate or infuriate – but you will have a sense of what other people (and some of your own potential readers) are engaged with.

Picture the Scene

Imagine you are in a party.  People are arriving and leaving, there is a pleasant hum of conversation.  Suddenly, someone dressed completely inappropriately barges in the door, shouting loudly about something he feels strongly about, and speaking in such a thick foreign accent that it’s hard to understand.  The ranter makes no attempt to greet the host, invite questions or listen to what anyone else is saying, turns on his heel and leaves the party.  Would you find this rude?  Would you be attracted to listen to what the person is saying?

This came to my mind as a metaphor for someone who does no market research, is not engaged with the topic/party and simply throws their book into it.  Whereas, research beforehand and listening/reading what others are saying, shows respect.





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