nonfiction book myths

Nonfiction Book Myths: 5 Myths to Ignore

Salmaan Ahmad

Salmaan Ahmad

August 7, 2023

Worried about nonfiction book myths you’ve heard of? If you’re engaged in nonfiction book writing, you may have some questions about the possibility of your book’s success. You may have a great idea for a book, but you’re not sure if it’s worth the time and effort it will take to write it. If you’re experiencing these doubts, you may have fallen for some nonfiction book myths. Which of these nonfiction book myths do you still believe?

Nonfiction Book Myths 1. Nonfiction Books Aren’t Popular

One of the recurring nonfiction book myths is that people don’t want to read nonfiction. While fiction still outsells nonfiction, the nonfiction book market is huge. People want books that give them the facts and know-how they need to get through their daily lives. They also appreciate books that help them enhance their lives through greater knowledge or practical tips.

According to reports from booksellers and online sales, the top nonfiction categories are:

  • Religion and Spirituality
  • Biographies and Memoirs
  • Business and Money
  • Self-Help
  • Cookbooks, Food and Wine
  • Politics and Social Issues
  • Health and Fitness
  • Parenting and Relationships
  • Education and Teaching
  • Crafts, Hobbies and Home

These numbers are for print books and e-books combined. If you look at these categories, you can see that they are quite broad and include many different sub-categories. That’s good news if you plan to write a nonfiction book that fits into one of these categories, and most of them will.

The more subcategories your book can fit into, the easier it will be to market. You can target a wide variety of readers. For instance, the religion and spirituality category can include everything from books on Christianity to books on meditation and mindfulness. If you’re writing a book on using spirituality to enhance your life, you may also appeal to readers of self-help books.

Are you writing a cookbook that also tells people how to incorporate fine dining into their everyday lives? Your book may be a cookbook, but it could also fit into the “home” category.

Help yourself and others with a self-help book

Self-help is a broad category that includes books for people looking for ways to improve how they manage money, improve their job prospects, or find lasting love. Think about which categories your self-help book might cross over with.

Nonfiction book writing is a way to appeal to many readers who have diverse interests. You should never feel that your book’s topic is limited to a select group of people. If you write a compelling, useful book, you can find a wide audience for it.

Some categories are more difficult to break into. Memoirs and biographies, for instance, are challenging for new writers to break into. The most successful memoirs are by celebrities or people connected to a famous event. These books may start off strong with big sales, but they have a short shelf life. Biographies can be big sellers, but only if they’re written by well-known writers.

Bearing that in mind, the categories listed here are wide open for any writer with a good idea and a solid marketing plan.

Nonfiction Book Myths 2. Nonfiction Books Don’t Make Money

One of the more persistent nonfiction book myths is that nonfiction book writing isn’t as profitable as fiction writing. It’s certainly hard to argue with the phenomenal sales of fictional works like the Harry Potter series, Stephen King’s books, The Bridges of Madison County, or other blockbusters.

On the other hand, some nonfiction books have also been huge bestsellers.

According to Book Authority, the following are the top nonfiction bestsellers of all time.

  • Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art: This 2020 book by James Nestor is a study of how humans breathe. It is a scientific, cultural, and evolutionary history of this basic human function that will change how you think about your body and your consciousness. It’s a combination of history, science, and self-help designed to help you slow down and become more mindful.
  • When Breath Becomes Air: This bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist is by Paul Kalanithi and Abraham Verghese. Subtitled, “What Makes Life Worth Living in the Face of Death,” it is Kalanithi’s account of his final days living with incurable cancer. His hope was to help others facing a similar journey. The book discusses relationships, mortality, and the legacy that we leave behind.
  • Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky: This critically acclaimed book examines human behavior and neurobiology to answer all our questions about our mysterious human ways. The author is a professor of biology and neurology who won a McArthur Foundation “genius” grant.
  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland: This 2019 bestseller by Patrick Radden Keefe focuses on the 1972 kidnapping and murder of Jean McConville. Keefe uses this event to discuss the “troubles” of Northern Ireland and the atmosphere of fear and paranoia of those years.
  • The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben MacIntyre: This 2018 book was shortlisted for the Giffords Prize and named a Best Book of the Year by the Economist. It’s the story of Russian spy Oleg Gordievsky, who was a double agent for the British intelligence service for over a decade.

It’s also a nonfiction book myths that you have to be a bestseller to make money. While it’s nice to have a book top the charts, it isn’t necessary. You can publish a book that makes steady, respectable sales. If people find it useful or interesting, the book can be a source of continued income for years. You may only need to update it every year or so to maintain its relevance.

Nonfiction Book Myths 3. Self-Published Nonfiction Books Are Low-Quality

One of the nonfiction book myths about self-publishing is that it’s only for low-quality books. If you want to be respected in your field, you may think, you must publish with a traditional publisher.

In fact, there are many reasons that an expert might choose to self-publish instead of going through a publisher. One of them is speed. If your book is on a timely subject, you can get it out while the subject is still hot instead of waiting months to get it accepted and then printed by a publisher.

Another reason is to have control over where and how you sell your book. Selling it through your website—or giving it away to build a lead magnet—are viable alternatives to selling it through traditional venues.

Nonfiction Book Myths 4. You Don’t Have What It Takes to Write a Nonfiction Book

Do you think you have to be a superstar writer or thinker to publish a nonfiction book? It’s just another of those nonfiction book myths.

With time, dedication, and a regular writing schedule, anyone can produce a book. You don’t have to be a stellar writer or a great word stylist. Your book will sell if it offers information that your readers want.

If you want to write a book, it’s clear that you have something to say that others will find useful or helpful. Your passion, your knowledge, and your experience are a powerful combination that can help people by informing and enlightening them.

If you know you have expertise in a subject but aren’t sure about your writing style, you can hire a ghost writer who will turn your ideas into engaging, readable words.

Your readers are out there. They’re waiting for the book that only you can write.

Nonfiction Book Myths 5. Nonfiction Books Are Boring

Well, all the people turning nonfiction books into bestsellers would disagree with this and other nonfiction book myths. Nonfiction books can inspire, enlighten, and educate people. A great self-help book can change a reader’s life, and a book on relationships or spirituality can help people see the world in a whole new light. This is one of those nonfiction book writing myths that has no basis in reality.

Don’t Fall for These Nonfiction Book Myths

Do you have an idea you’d like to see in print? You can write that book and find those readers. At Publishing Xpress, we specialize in working with first-time, self-published writers. When your nonfiction book is ready to be printed, we’ll be ready to help it look its best.

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