How to Plan Your Non-Fiction Book in 5 Steps Have you decided to write a non-fiction book? Or are you just entertaining the idea of becoming an author?

By Sara Tyler

Key Takeaways

  • Before you dive into writing, take some time to run through these five simple steps to make sure you are on the right track.
  • The most important part of your schedule is having some accountability to ensure you stick with it.
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I am a book coach who has helped over 100 aspiring authors start, write and publish their stories in the past three years. So, I know that the biggest issue with new authors is knowing how to begin. I will share my best strategies to help you plan your nonfiction book in this article.

So, before you dive into writing, take some time to run through these five simple steps to make sure you are on the right track. They will save you a lot of time and frustration later on.

Related: 5 Critical Reasons to Stop Procrastinating and Write Your Book Now

1. Make a SMART goal

Do you want to inspire others with your story? That is a noble goal for a new author, but unfortunately, it's not a SMART one.

SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. By creating a goal using this strategy, you can make sure that you are setting realistic expectations for yourself and your book.

Instead of a vague goal like wanting to inspire, without a realistic way to measure the results of inspiration, a SMART author goal might sound something like, "I want to sell X copies and receive X amount of reviews within 30 days."

Sales and reader feedback are better ways to measure how inspiring your book has been to readers and fit within the SMART goal strategy.

2. Outline your story

I am not talking about your book outline right now. That will come along later. For now, you just want to have a rough idea of your story. To do that, start by thinking about the books you read and the movies and TV shows you watch. Think about the elements of a story and how they fit.

What is the setting? Who are the characters? What is the problem or obstacle? What are the major events? What is the climax? What is the lesson or takeaway from the story?

Now, consider the story you want to include in your nonfiction book. Take notes on your:

  • Setting
  • Characters (hint: you are the hero, always!)
  • Problem/obstacle
  • Major events
  • Climax
  • Takeaway/lesson

Related: 6 Ways Your Book's Content Should Fit Into Your Content Marketing Plan

3. Create a book concept (or 2!)

Most nonfiction books written by entrepreneurs turned authors will fit into one of two styles:

  • Creative Nonfiction (i.e., a personal memoir)
  • Business Nonfiction (i.e., sharing your industry-specific knowledge, processes, experiences, etc.)

Both of these options will use the story you already outlined throughout. But now, you can create a book concept based on one or both writing styles. Write out a 4-6 sentence description of your book concept. If you want to write creative nonfiction, your description should focus on the journey and the transformation that you went through. If you want to write business nonfiction, focus on the process you discovered and the results.

If you aren't sure which writing style you want to pursue, try making two distinct descriptions to help you decide which one aligns more with the story you want to tell.

4. Perform a self-assessment

If you think you can plan, write, and publish your nonfiction book without outside support, you are setting yourself up for failure. Take a few minutes to ask yourself honestly your weaknesses and where you might need professional help.

If you need:

  • Help planning, outlining, and writing your book — look for a … book coach.
  • Support with your storytelling, focus, and flow — look for a … developmental editor.
  • For professionals to check your grammar, punctuation, and spelling — look for a line editor and proofreader.
  • Someone to design the book cover — look for a … graphic designer.

And so on and so forth. Be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot do when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing your book, so you can plan and budget for the help that you will need.

Related: Planning to Self-Publish Your First Book? Avoid These 6 Rookie Mistakes at All Costs

5. Make a schedule

You want to include writing and publishing deadlines such as book and chapter outlines, chapter first drafts, editing, formatting and publishing. If you identified any areas where you will need help in the previous step, make sure you give yourself enough time to find and hire experienced freelancers or an all-inclusive publisher.

Last but not least, the most important part of your schedule is having some accountability to ensure you stick with it. This can be in the form of a friend, family member, or someone you hire.

There you have it. These are my five steps to planning your nonfiction book to save you time, money, and a ton of frustration later on.

It shouldn't take you more than a few minutes to complete each step. You can tackle them all at once or break them up into smaller tasks. Just make sure you go in order since the results of each task will directly impact the decisions and direction of the next one.

Sara Tyler

Publisher and Author

Sara Tyler is a bestselling publisher and author who uses her experience to help travel-loving mompreneurs write and publish books in order to market themselves and/or their businesses.

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