How to get a non-fiction book published: Q1


I’m currently working on my third book – “Brilliant Online Marketing” to be published by Pearson in late 2010. After my first two came out last year – “How to Grow Your Business for Entrepreneurs” and “365 Ways to Cut Costs” – quite a few people asked me how I’d gone about doing it.

It was in fact much more straightforward than I’d ever imagined, and I’d encourage others to give it a go. Don’t expect glamorous launch parties, international book tours, and six figure royalty cheques. You’ll be lucky if you get any royalty cheques. But I wasn’t after all that. I’m happy just to write about topics that interest me. And no royalty cheque would have given me such a rush as seeing my book on a bestsellers shelf in Waterstones Piccadily did. (OK – don’t tell my publisher that last bit. Royalty cheques would still be nice!)

So, here, for anyone who fancies having a go at getting themselves their very own ISBN number, I’m going to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked. I’ll post as many times as I can over the next couple of weeks, answering a question at a time. Feel free to drop me a line with any questions you’d like me to answer.

Q: How did you decide what to write about?

They say that everyone has a book in them, and I think that’s true. You might be an expert on cycle routes in Surrey, the emerging iPhone apps market, or the life and music of Erick Morrillo. Whatever it is, you need to ask yourself three questions:

One, do you know enough about it? I’d spent ten years interviewing entrepreneurs, seeing what marked out the ones who grew their businesses from those who didn’t, and prior to that I’d been Client Services Director at a small business where I’d personally faced many of the issues I wrote about in my first book. For the second book I took a different approach. I’ve never run a charity, but I know a lot of people who have, so I invested a lot of time into the research phase. Either way – through experience or research – you need to know enough to be a credible expert.

Two, are you interested in it? This isn’t just a passing interest but an in-depth enthusiasm that will sustain you over several months as you struggle to put together tens of thousands of compelling words. I could spend quite a long time talking to someone about cycle paths in Surrey, iPhone apps and Erick Morillo, but I’d never be interested enough to write 50,000 words about any of them. I am though genuinely interested in how to grow businesses. Make sure you care enough about the topic you choose.

Three, will people want to read about this? If you really, really care about a subject so much that you just want to write a book regardless of whether or not a single person reads it there’s nothing to stop you. You can even get it published if you have a few thousand pounds spare. It’s called vanity publishing, and there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with it. However, if you want to write a book that’s going to make you money you need to be sure it’s on a topic other people find interesting. There are thousands of entrepreneurs who want to grow thier businesses. There are thousands of charity managers who want to cut costs. I knew I had a market. What is the market for your book?

Tomorrow I’ll answer the question: Do you need an agent?

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “How to get a non-fiction book published: Q1

  1. paulstallard

    Interesting post Alex – I’m looking forward to the next one now.

  2. Great post Alex and well done. You’ve inspired me – I’ve always wanted to get a book published & now I’m after a bestseller slot too 🙂 Watch this space…

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