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How to sell a non-fiction book


A notebook, satchel, and clock on a writing desk
At work

One of the workshops I attended while at the Philly Writing Workshop was How to Sell a Non-fiction book. Though my future plans include a non-fiction novel (TBD), I didn’t know anything about the querying process or if there were guidelines. Whenever I think of non-fiction books, I picture books about injustices in the world, how-to books, war, politicians, or famous people. While all of these may saturate the market, you can still have successful non-fictions without these topics or themes.


First and foremost, I learned that all non-fictions should have a title and subtitle. The second most important thing I learned is that the book cannot be both a memoir and how-to book together. How-to books are more marketable for nobody’s like you and me because the memoir market is saturated with famous people. It is not an impossible market to break into, it is just more difficult. So, if you already have a following through social media or previously published books, you will have an easier time.


When it comes to querying (proposing your book to an agent/editor/publishing house), the process is different than for fiction books. For fiction, your manuscript has to be done and edited to the best of your ability before sending it out a query. In non-fiction, you do not need the full book written yet. A query for non-fiction can go over one page, but not by much. The overview has no length limit though it is usually 3-5 pages double spaced


What you will need you will have to have at least twenty pages done as well as create a plan for your book. The twenty pages should make up at least three polished chapters and make it look like it will in the book (photos, sidebars, etc.)


Of the three polished chapters, you will want to include the first chapter, then two others randomly placed throughout the book (middle and end). You will need to list of other chapters and have an outline of what will be going into each. Each chapter should have subhead and 1-2 paragraphs about what it is about.

Within the plan, you will have to go into detail and answer some questions such as: What is the book about and why is it timely and unique?


In terms of formatting:

· The book doesn’t exist yet so what is it going to look like?

· What is the timeline of when it will be finished?

· Does it have art or photos?

· Does it have side bars?

· How many words (approximately) will it have?


Non-fiction book through the eyes of a reader
Look closer

In terms of marketing:

· What is its place in the market and who will buy it?

You need to look into competing books, sources (depending on your topic), etc.

Look up similar titles, authors, and hyperlink them

Talk about their book is similar and different from your book

It’s difficult to find out how the other books are selling without knowing the author, but Amazon usually has a ranking you can look up.

. You need to provide an evidence of need:

Why does this story need to exist?

Why should the audience care?

You need to prove that people are going to look at it


And lastly, you need to justify why you the best person to write the book.

· How many followers do you have?

· Friends in media? Social media?

· What is it in your past that makes you qualified?

· Do you have a marketing plan?

. What are you going to do?

. Who are you contacting? You need to be specific!

· What can you do to sell it now?? Hype it up!


I hope this helps if you are curious about writing a non-fiction!


Happy writing!

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