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Blog » The “Whys” and “Why Nots” of Writing a Non-Fiction Book

The “Whys” and “Why Nots” of Writing a Non-Fiction Book

Before you begin writing your nonfiction book, you must answer a very big question: Why are you writing a book? Not just this book, but any book? Why write a nonfiction book at all?

Why should you devote hundreds of hours and possibly thousands of dollars, and suffer through plenty of heartache and frustration, to put your thoughts on paper and possibly try to sell your book?

“Just because” isn’t good enough. Neither is “My friends say I should write a book.” These reasons may get you started, but they won’t keep you forging ahead when the going gets tough.

So focus on your “why write.” Make that your engine. The more powerful your engine, the better the odds that you’ll keep humming along throughout the book-writing journey—one that may be longer and rougher than you ever anticipated.

Here are some powerful “why write a nonfiction book” answers that can carry you through the process of writing your book:

To make money

This is a powerful reason. But be aware that relatively few authors make money simply by selling books, especially their first one. For most writers, the money comes from additional clients, lecture and appearance fees, and follow-up books capitalizing on the buzz created by the first book. If money is your “why,” understand that writing the book is only the beginning of the money-making process.

To raise your media status and/or become a recognized authority in your field

This is related to making money and can really rev your engine. It’s even more powerful if you truly care about your subject, because you’ll be writing about something you love.

To leave a testament for future generations

Writing for your children and generations beyond can be very fulfilling as well as a journey of self-exploration.

To share knowledge or skills

This reason for writing a nonfiction book has propelled many people through the book-writing process. If you’ve worked long and hard to master a skill or body of knowledge or you’ve developed great insight into a subject, you may truly delight in sharing what you have learned.

To support a cause

This taps into a desire to help others, which can be very energizing. It can also draw upon the energy of similarly-minded people, who may offer ideas, help in selling the book, and other kinds of support.

To have fun

This can be a powerful driver. But only if you’re writing exactly what you want to write, when you want to write, and how you want to express yourself. Only if you write without a thought as to whether or not it will make money. Or anyone will read it. Doing it is the real joy.

The “weak whys”

Here are some “whys” that usually aren’t durable enough to keep you going to the finish line:

Because your friends or family told you to

Most authors quickly discover that relating stories to their friends is a lot easier than writing a book, and much more fun. In-person, you can ramble from one story to another without worrying about balancing them, creating a theme, making transitions, or leading to an overall point. Telling stories is fun, but writing a book is work.

For revenge

Early in my ghostwriting career, I found myself involved in writing “revenge memoirs.” These are typically authored by people who are angry at their ex-spouses or parents. Or maybe they are former employees who are eager to spill the beans about nasty bosses. All of these projects petered out, with the authors telling me their unhappy stories and then deciding not to use them. Perhaps simply telling me what had happened was enough, or perhaps they were afraid of publishing inflammatory or incriminating material. At any rate, I learned that revenge books rarely pan out.

To make money

Yes, this is on the list of good reasons, but it belongs here as well. That’s because it can be difficult to write a book. When you run into problems, it’s easy to begin thinking about other ways to generate income. And when you do that, you’ll abandon the book.

Because you want to be a bestselling author

If your main drive is to write a bestseller, you probably won’t care much about what your book says and will have very little emotional or intellectual attachment to it. There’s also an excellent chance that you’ll give up once the going gets tough. It’s a sad fact that unless you plan to buy lots of copies of your book, or you can somehow market the heck out of it yourself, you probably won’t become a bestselling author.

Because you want to be famous

Worldwide, only a dozen or so authors are truly famous. Most authors, even bestselling ones, are not long remembered, if they’re remembered at all. After my book, The Arthritis Cure, hit the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list, my name was in the news. I was asked to give lectures and write follow-up books. VIP editors at the major New York publishing houses knew who I was. But just a year later, I was, “Barry who?”

Whatever your driving force may be, you must be clear about it and ask yourself if it’s strong enough to power you through the potentially lengthy and difficult book-writing process.

If not, either forget about the project or turn it over to an experienced ghostwriter who can write for you.

If You’d Like Help Writing Your Nonfiction Book…

Barry Fox, Nadine Taylor, ghostwriters, memoirs, business books, art books, history books, health books

Give us a call! We’re Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor, professional ghostwriters and authors with a long list of satisfied clients and editors at major publishing houses.

You can learn more about our ghostwriting experience on our Home Page

If you’d like to get started on your book, call us at 818-917-5362 or use the contact form below to send us a message.

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Although based in Los Angeles, California, we often travel to work with our clients.