Tag Archives: nonfiction

Tips for making successful research work for a nonfiction book

2017-11-06

In order to write a nonfiction book manuscript, the author has to do research to make sure all the facts are correct. A motivational book on igniting a career is more about excitement than historical facts, but a book about the application of artificial intelligence in electric vehicles certainly must be based on facts. Research can be time consuming work, but it can be conducted effectively and without wasting valuable time.
man writing at office desk, stack of folders in front
Jeff Biggers, a narrative nonfiction author, has collected tips for research that he has learned during his long writing career. He has written nonfiction books, articles, radio stories and plays, and monologues. His published books include travel books, memoir, cultural and literary history, and investigative journalism. Biggers says that the research strategies he employs in one genre typically are the same for others, including fiction and poetry. Here are his tips.

Notebooks

Jeff Biggers recommends carrying a notebook (paper and pen) everywhere you go. Some writers may agree with the pen and paper strategy, while others prefer a tablet or a smartphone. The advantage of an electronic note-taking approach is that the notes can (and should) be copied to a safe storage instantly after new points have been written down.

Read

It is elemental that the author thoroughly understands the topic. Reading, listening and viewing all kinds of stories about the subject is helpful.

Interviews

Interviews of people who know something about the topic not only adds information to the research, but also adds color to the book. I couldn’t agree more. In addition, interviews can be the most fun part of the entire research project.

The scene

Movies are made of scenes, as well as many fiction books. Nonfiction book can also use the same techniques: have interesting characters, a plot and a conflict.

Folders

Jeff Biggers recommends organizing research material into folders. He uses physical folders, but the concept is the same if you use folders on your computer. Again, it is vital to backup folders to a safe place if anything terrible happens to your computer’s hard drive.

Enough research

It is likely that all nonfiction authors do more research that they can use for their books. It is inevitable. It is practically impossible to know in advance if a lead or a hint of information will lead somewhere that is valuable for the book.

I believe one of the best ways to restrict the amount of research work required for a nonfiction book is to really carefully plan its scope. And one of the best ways to quickly assess the scope is the Table of Contents of the planned book. It is even possible to show the TOC to someone else, say, an editor, agent or publisher and ask their opinion about the book’s planned scope.

10 items writers should include in a nonfiction book proposal

2017-10-21

Authors who are planning a nonfiction book can submit a proposal to publishers (or agents) once the book concept is crystal clear in the author’s mind. The manuscript doesn’t have to be ready. The potential of the book is evaluated from the information delivered in the proposal. This applies to nonfiction books only, and here are ten items that publishers and agents typically expect to find in a proposal.

eyeglasses on computer keyboard
These ten items for a nonfiction book proposal were originally outlined by Marisa Corvisiero

1. Title and Word Count

The title doesn’t have to be the final one, since it is often changed by the author or the publisher during the publishing process. Nonfiction books can have a title – subtitle structure which allows explaining quite a lot about the book.

In the era of ebooks, the traditional wisdom for the length of a nonfiction book (85,000 words, or about 300 printed pages) doesn’t apply anymore. For instance, we have published nonfiction ebooks that are about 50 pages, and also books that are about 500 pages.

Assuming that the author is still planning the book, the tentative word count indicates the scope of the manuscript and the amount of work required.

Many publishers also want to get a tentative idea for how many pictures, photos, schemas, tables and other elements besides text the author is planning to include in the book.

2. Tagline

A short, one or two line description about the concept of the book. The purpose is to make the product interesting and attractive.

3. Blurb

A short summary of what the book is about. What the reader will learn and the key points that will be made in the pages.

4. Structure of the Book

How the book will be organized and why. Often, however, it is better to include a comprehensive Table of Contents that shows the structure.

5. Target Market

A description of who should buy the book, who it is written for, and why they need it.

A list of competitive products belongs in this section, with analysis how this book will be different and/or better than books already in the market.

6. Author Bio

Readers will want to know if they can trust the author’s expertise. This is all about credentials.

7. Marketing Plan

Publishers want to know how large audience the author can reach. They will then add their activities to the mix. Any ideas for delivering the message to the world are welcomed by publishers. Authors must be ready to do book marketing as well.

8. Endorsements or Media Coverage

If an author can get endorsements from renowned people for the book, here is the section to mention it. Also possible media contacts, or earlier appearances in media should be listed here.

9. Table of Contents

The more detailed the Table of Contents is, the better picture the publisher gets from the book concept. This is the key element for many publishers when they consider what the book really is about and ponder its positioning in the market. For more information on the details publishers may expect to find in the TOC, read this article.

10. Sample Chapters

A chapter or two of the book should be included in the proposal. Many agents want three to five chapters, but it varies, as well as publishers’ requirements. Submission guidelines should be followed. A sample is important for publishers and agents in order to evaluate the author’s style, voice, and way of presenting the information.

Oolipo brings interactive ebooks to smartphones

2017-10-04

Oolipo is an ebook reading application for mobile devices that comes with a dedicated content creation tool. Authors can embed interactive elements into their ebooks, as well as audio and video. Once the new Oolipo ebook is ready to be published, it is delivered via Oolipo bookstore to readers who can view the book on their smartphones and tablets. This is not the first time when interactive ebooks get a dedicated system. What does Oolipo mean for ebooks?

oolipo interactive ebook reading app
Oolipo describes its mission as follows:

“We believe that reading today means watching images, gifs, and videos, listening to audio, sharing and chatting with friends, interacting with characters. That’s why we created an interactive multimedia format for mobile and tools that enable you to create new stories with them.”

Let’s study Oolipo’s proposal for rich multimedia ebooks from two perspectives: A) fiction and B) nonfiction.

A) Fiction. At the moment, all sample ebooks at Oolipo web site are fiction. The general description of Oolipo also focuses on storytelling as the primary focus for the application. If you download a sample ebook to your phone, you will find pages with text, pages with sound effects, pages with animation, and perhaps with a question which direction you want the story to take.

Oolipo is in sensitive zone here. When someone is reading a fictional book, he or she sees the book’s world her own way. Another reader may see it differently. Audio and video elements that are intended to complement the reading experience actually change the world the reader sees in her mind.

B) Nonfiction The natural application for multimedia ebooks is nonfiction and textbooks. They benefit greatly from elements like animation, audio and video. Also interactive elements like questions and answers can be very helpful to readers who are trying to learn and understand something that is new to them.

An obvious example of a remarkable tool for creating and reading rich multimedia ebooks are works created in Apple iBooks Author. It shows how interactive and multimedia elements really have a role in the future of books. Travel guidebooks, for instance, can show more about a destination with rich media elements.

oolipo bookshelf, interactive ebook library on a smartphone

Creating interactive fiction books inevitably brings the role of book closer to games and movies. It is not a bad thing – on the contrary, something new may be invented. The author has many tough choices to make if he or she wants to create a fictional book in Oolipo.

If you want to create an Oolipo ebook, you can apply principles of visual storytelling familiar from movies or illustrated narratives, use audio and voice for atmosphere, and interactive elements. The elements can be images, gifs, videos, sounds and audio files, text, animations, links to websites (or other episodes), and chat messages.

Here is a video that shows how to create stories for Oolipo:

Some day, someone will get this right – maybe it is Oolipo, maybe someone else. It is fascinating to see if we still call it a book or something else.

Learning from rejections – book cover designers share their stories

2017-09-28

Designing good book covers is difficult. It is creative work that requires that the designer is able to capture the essence of a book in an image that pleases everyone, especially the publisher’s marketing department, and is attractive from a reader’s point of view. 12 book cover designers have shared their stories on their works that were killed before they were published.

If you examine covers of different genres of books, you instantly notice how the genre defines many factors for the cover. Romance covers tend to have a man and a woman in, crime novels often have dark covers, text books show an item from the contents of the book, and nonfiction books have something about the overall theme of the book.

The most difficult book covers to design are for a genre that is so broad that it is hard to define: literary books.

3 book covers, same book3 cover designs for the same book. Left: the original book cover in France. Center: rejected cover. Right: published cover design.

Creative Review has managed to get stories from 12 cover designers on their works that were rejected. Many stories have a lesson that the designer learnt from the setback.

One of the stories and the key takeaway of the project is told by Thy Bui who was the first designer to try and create the cover for a book: “This cover was scrapped, as were a few more attempts. The final cover was designed by Sophie Burdess. So the lessons learnt? That there is almost always a hiccup somewhere along the process – accept this. And, there is no right or wrong design for a book cover. Our role as designers is to explore the options.”

Designing a cover for an ebook is the same thing as for a print book. A collection of ebook cover designs from multiple designers can be viewed, for instance, at the book cover design awards page. Each cover has a brief review. These books are very genre-specific, making judging their covers easier than, for instance, literary book covers.

Nonfiction writing tips from a writer who has won the Pulitzer Prize

2017-09-18

Bret Stephens, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, recently joined The New York Times. One of his first articles for the newspaper was a collection of tips for writing news, articles and columns. Altogether, Brett Stephens shares 15 tips for writers, from which I selected 7 that apply to all nonfiction writers.

Somy DPT-RP1 ereader: reading and making notes
1. Get to the point.
Every sentence counts, and must deliver value to the reader. Some writers (and editors) believe the first sentence is the most important to hook a reader, but surely the attention span of readers is longer. Nonetheless, in order keep the reader’s attention the story and the delivery of information must move forward without slack.

2. Write to the broad community of people.
Don’t try to impress experts of your own field with industry jargon. A normal person has to easily understand what your message is. This applies to most articles and books ever published. Naturally, there are publications that target at experts of a niche, but that is another story.

3. Authority counts.
Readers have to trust the writer’s expertise on the subject he or she is writing about. Credentials help, but usually the authority has to be built with time.

4. Establish a confident voice.
Avoid passive voice in your writing, and unnecessary filler words that don’t add anything to the information you are delivering to the reader. Confident voice is not too modest and not too hyped-up, but – confident.

5. Doublecheck the facts.
It also means checking the spelling of names, verifying the dates and times.
[I would check the links at some point as well, because nonfiction articles and books usually have links to sources and more information. As an editor of nonfiction book manuscripts I have done some fact checking and the worst errors have originated from Wikipedia that some authors had used as their only source]

6. Drop all empty phrases.
It may feel that using a cliché is a shortcut to delivering a wealth of information, but more often it is an entirely empty phrase that is wasting everyone’s time.

7. Respect your editor.
Even if you are self-publishing, you should hire an editor to improve your text. If your article or book manuscript is being reviewed by the publisher’s editor, learn from it.

Tips for improving the readability and attractiveness of nonfiction books

2017-09-01

When a publisher/author states that the most important element of a plan for a nonfiction book is its table of contents, she has my attention. That’s exactly what we have been telling to Klaava.com readers in one of our most popular articles.

man holding old books in his hands
Anyway, Brooke Warner has written an article for Huffington Post where she reminds of the importance of the table of contents, and shares five valuable tips for improving the readability and attractiveness of nonfiction books.

Brooke Warner’s tips for better nonfiction writing:

– Use subheadings to break chapters into logical chunks, and to give a reader a break.
– Consider writing yourself into the book as a guide who looks after the reader.
– Insert other elements into the book besides text. Nonfiction books usually benefit from graphs, tables, fact boxes and similar layout elements that capture something essential about the discussed topic.
– Short books are fine. Yes, it perfectly all right to write a book less than 200 pages or 40 000 words.
– Don’t write in dry academic tone, but use your own voice.

A common feature in nonfiction manuscripts is long paragraphs. Time after time, the editor will break long paragraphs into two or more short paragraphs that are easier to read. This is particularly important when reading an ebook on a screen. Subheading, indents and other simple elements help as well.

Color is an important element in nonfiction books as well. Use color in charts, pictures and of course, photographs. If the book is published as a black-and-white print edition, so be it, but the ebook edition benefits greatly from colors.

We have published nonfiction ebooks about 50-100 pages long. When the reader is aware that he or she is buying a concise book focused on a specific theme, that’s a good deal for the customer when the price is right.

Ebook news digest: guide to writing a nonfiction book, visual travel stories, PayPal for iBooks

2017-07-18

News on ebooks, writing and photography

laptop on table with papers and pen
The Ultimate Guide to Writing and Publishing a Nonfiction Book
Writing Tips Oasis

An extensive article on planning and writing a nonfiction book that starts with a Table of Contents. Klaava Media’s publishing team was sold – the importance of the Table of Contents is also one of our most popular articles. Here is a writer who knows about writing a nonfiction book. And yes, writing a book is that much work as the article suggests.

How to Tell Better Visual Stories with Travel Photography
Digital Photography School

Telling a story with images has a beginning and an end just like telling a story in writing. The article provides tips for an opening image, and for other types of pictures required to tell a travel story.

Microsoft is giving away millions of eBooks that can be downloaded for free
Techworm

Free ebook downloads for techies. Technical guides for people who are dealing with Microsoft’s products at work. If you are looking for free ebooks, why not try Traveling in Scandinavia?

The top 5 gadgets for remote work and productive workations
Meri Sorgaard

Only 5 gadgets – in addition to an obligatory laptop and smartphone? That’s quite a feat.

Review: Sony DPT-RP1 PDF Reader and Digital Notepad (Video)
The Ebook Reader

The Sony DPT-RP1 is an ereader, but not an ordinary one. It has specifically been designed for reading PDF documents and ebooks. That’s why it has a huge screen for an ereader – 13 inches. Here is a review.

What is the X-Ray Feature on Amazon Kindle?
Methodshop

A reminder on the usefulness of X-Ray feature on the Amazon Kindle ereaders and reading applications for tablets and smartphones. Other Kindle features explained as well.

Because travel is much more than exciting destinations
Travel User Guide

A user guide for travel? That’s what this is – tips, advice and reviews.

Apple is now accepting PayPal on the App Store, Apple Music, iTunes, iBooks and iCloud
Hardware Zone

PayPal is my and many other people’s preferred method for payments on the Internet, and now everyone can purchase ebooks from the Apple iBooks store using their PayPal accounts. Excellent.

Ebooks news digest: nonfiction writing prompts, best photos of 2016, breakthrough of remote work

2017-01-01

Ebook news digest January 1, 2017

laptop on table with papers and pen
Plan Your Year: Nonfiction Writing Prompt #52
(Write Nonfiction Now!)

Writing a nonfiction book or article requires planning. Often, the hard part is to decide what to include and what to exclude, even though sometimes, a writer has already processed it at the back of his or her mind before the actual writing starts. The article has many other good tips for writers.

Best Photos of 2016
(National Geographic)

A gallery of National Geographic’s 52 best images of 2016. It was curated from 91 photographers, 107 stories, and 2,290,225 photographs. Amazing images – if someone can afford to take more than two million frames, some of them better be really good.

Get to the point! Avoid these words and keep readers happy
(Articulate)

An excellent list of today’s hype words that are forgotten tomorrow. Avoid them and avoid yesterday’s empty phrases as well, such as “don’t get me wrong”, “fast forward to…”, “like … on steroids”.

What Does a Literary Agent Want to See When They Google You?
(The Write Life)

Yes, literary agents will search you on the Internet. The interesting thing is what they are looking for. An agent is not required in many countries outside the U.S., but writers can approach publishers directly. Many publishers have instructions for book proposals on their web pages. Nonetheless, the publishers are more than likely to do the same as agents do: Google the writer. More in this article.

The number of news stories on digital nomads in news sources was so high this time that I decided to list a few articles about the topic alone (it looks like remote work and digital nomad concepts have been discovered by major media companies now):

Why I quit Yahoo and Gmail when I started traveling (Klaava)

Figuring out “Remote Work” Is Figuring out “Work” (Accidentally in Code)

100 Little Things That Happen When You Become a Digital Nomad (The Sweetest Way)

6 Difficult Countries to Be a Digital Nomad (The Nomad Guru)

The 10 Best Cities for Digital Nomads (TransferWise)

Top Ten Writing Tips for Nonfiction Authors from a Fiction Author

2015-02-18

Writing is craft that some writers learn in their daily work and others learn by taking courses. You might think that nonfiction and fiction writing require very different skills, but it is surprising how many bestselling authors write both types of books. Some have started writing because they were journalists, others because they had to draft educational material for their classes.

mikael niemi, author, book signing at a book show
Swedish author Mikael Niemi signing books at a book fair.

The author of Hobbits and The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien knows what he is talking about when he offers his advice for writers. Even though he wrote fiction on his spare time at home, he wrote nonfiction for his daily work.

Here is Tolkien’s top 10 writing tips infographics from Essaymama.

tolkien, tips for writers

Tolkien’s top 10 tips:
1. Vanity is useless. Your book is important for you, but be realistic how important it is to the rest of the world.
2. Keep a stiff upper lip. (Find time to write no matter what).
3. Listen to critics. Critics – Yes, Trolls – No.
4. Let your interests drive your writing. [this is very true for nonfiction as well – a book written with both passion and facts communicates with readers]
5. Poetry as a road to prose.
6. Happy accidents. Tolkien carefully planned the books but gave a chance to new ideas as well.
7. Dreams give us inspiration.
8. Real people make great characters.
9. You may be the next best selling author.
10. Books you write may seem trite.