There are huge misconceptions about book publishing today. But I want to talk specifically about non-fiction books, just for a minute. There has been a lot of hype around fiction writers publishing their own books, some of them even achieving a level of success they could never dream of with a traditional publisher. Most of them aren’t household names either. They’re just regular Joes and Janes who have managed to earn a full-time living doing what they love. More power to them.
What you hear a lot less of are those standout non-fiction authors who have achieved self-publishing success. Again, the ranks are small, but they’re out there.
There are reasons why you might want to self-publish a non-fiction book. I’m not saying self-publishing is for everyone, but if you understand the reasons behind doing it and have a clear goal in mind for doing so, then self-publishing your own non-fiction book can boost your business, make you an authority in your niche, and may even lead to a respectable side income. The first step is to define your goals for publishing.
Why Self-Publish a Non-fiction Book?
Let’s talk briefly about why you might want to self-publish a non-fiction book. Here are some reasons others have done so in the past:
- Financial independence – Some non-fiction authors have managed to publish their own books and earn a full-time income from the sale of those books. They’ve done this through Amazon and other online book stores like Barnes & Noble and the Apple iBook Store. They may have even sold books on their own websites. At the end of the day, they were able to quit their jobs and write books for a living.
- Passive side income – Other non-fiction authors write and sell books while doing something else. Either they have a job or they have a business. Either way, the books they write and sell provide supplemental income. Some authors who achieve financial independence start out with a part-time passive income. Others can live this way perpetually.
- Authority/respect – Aside from the monetary benefits of publishing books, many authors do it for the name recognition. They like seeing their name on the cover of a book, but more than that, they like the other intangible benefits that come with authorship. Once you publish a book in a particular niche, you’ll be seen as an expert in that niche. If you publish several books in the same niche, you’ll then enjoy the status of authority figure. This may or may not come with financial benefits–although, usually it does–but the real benefit is that others recognize you as an authority.
- Promote the business – Some non-fiction authors just want to promote their business. For instance, if you’re a lawyer, you might write a handy guide on how to protect your assets in the midst of a nasty divorce. Your goal in doing so isn’t the financial rewards that come from the sale of books, although those rewards are nice, the real goal is to promote your practice as a divorce attorney.
- Vanity – I wouldn’t recommend publishing books for the sake of vanity, but some people do it. They just like seeing their name on the cover of a book. Usually, these people don’t get much further, but they’ve got a nice book cover.
- Couldn’t find a traditional publisher – Sometimes, an individual will get a great idea for a book, write the book, and try to get it published through a traditional publisher. If you can’t get a publisher to see the market potential that you know is there, you could publish the book yourself.
There may be other reasons for publishing your own books. For most authors, the benefits are multiple. They gain authority and respect from their peers and customers, pick up a nice supplemental income, and they are able to promote their business. Non-fiction books–either print books or e-books–are good business tools for achieving any and all of these goals.
Different Types of Non-fiction Books You Can Publish
Once you’ve identified your goals for writing and publishing books, you can decide which type of book to publish. You may already have an idea for the type of book you want to publish. That’s okay. My best advice is to treat your non-fiction book publishing business like a business. Even if you plan to publish only one book, treat it like a business. If you want to achieve the benefits of being an author, then you should pursue those benefits the same way you’d pursue the benefits of your business–make a plan, and then work that plan.
Without further ado, here are 12 types of non-fiction books you can publish on your own:
- Biography/memoir – If you believe you have an interesting story to tell, you could tell your life’s story, or the story of someone else. Let’s say there is an individual in your business niche who has done some remarkable things. You could write that person’s story and publish it for your audience. If your own story is worth telling, you could write and publish an autobiography. A memoir is a story about one particular time period in your life, as opposed to a biography, which usually covers the full span of a person’s life.
- Academic/textbook – Academic books, or textbooks, typically have narrow markets. If you are a professor and you want to write a book that will benefit your students, you could write and publish a textbook like law professor Eric Goldman did.
- Guides – Guidebooks teach people how to do things on their own. You could write the definitive guide on how to do something in your niche. For instance, if you’re a real estate agent, you could write a book that teaches people how to sell their own house without an agent. The benefit to doing that is, aside from earning additional income from people who will never use your services because they’d rather sell their own house, some of the people who buy your book may decide to use a real estate agent after all. Who do you think they’ll consider first?
- Technical reports – Technical reports are just like they sound. Often dry and boring, except to people who like to read them, technical reports get into the weeds of a particular idea. They may or may not be guides, but a good technical report will provide a lot of specialized detail written for a specific group of professionals. Scientists, for instance, may be interested in a technical report on some aspect of the scientific process. Business owners may like to read a technical report on the financial side of the business. Computer engineers might read a technical report on data science. Another name for technical report is “white paper.”
- Self-help/self-improvement – Self-help books help people who want to achieve a certain goal on their own without the help of a consultant or mentor. Diet books are still popular after many years of total failure. Health and fitness books are a popular form of self-help book. If you have the expertise, you could write a self-help book on any topic.
- Travel/tour guide – If you do a lot of travel, you could write a tour guide of a particular location or even a catalog of your own personal travels. If there is a market for it, you can write it. And publish it.
- Creative nonfiction – Creative nonfiction is non-fiction that uses fictional storytelling techniques to convey the story. It has become an interesting and popular genre of writing.
- Theology/religious commentary – Theological, religious, or philosophical commentary is anything that involves metaphysical concepts or religious material. Theology books tend to be heady whereas Bible study guides or commentary on holy books may be written for lay person who just wants to know more about a topic.
- Journalism – A journalist could write and publish their own book on a particular investigation. For instance, you may want to report on election shenanigans in the 2016 presidential primary races. Where a single article might be too small to cover all the details you want to cover, a full-length book may be the perfect vehicle. If you have enough clout as a journalist, you could write and publish your own investigative report.
- Essay – The essay is a genre of its own, but it can be written on almost any topic. If you have something to say about politics, dating, farming, or anything at all, you could style it as an essay and publish it on your own.
- Speech – Did you know speeches can be published as their own standalone books? If you’ve given a speech and it was popular, you could publish the transcript of your speech as its own e-book. You could reach an entirely different audience than you reached with just the speech.
- Script – Video scripts, phone scripts, movie scripts, radio scripts, any kind of script can be published as a book or e-book. Find your audience and target your book to that audience and start marketing.
Books can be written on virtually any topic. The key is to define your audience, do a little market research, and write a book that will sell. Make sure you define your goal for the book. Publishing is a business, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be all about the money. If you want to increase your business’s exposure through a book that you author and publish for your target audience, others have done it before you, so give it a shot!
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