What if you want to write about something, and 1001 or more writers have already covered the topic – can YOU write about it? Of course you can. This question comes up over and over again with my students. There’s little that’s new under the sun, so no matter how many books are there on a topic, your book will be new and different, because you wrote it.
Trust yourself. If you’re a new writer, trusting that your ideas are valuable is one of your major challenges in writing nonfiction. Look at it this way. You’re unique. No matter what your experience, education level, and no matter how young or old you are, you have YOUR way of looking at the world, and your opinions as are valuable as anyone else’s.
A tiny digression… some words about terminology: “books” means ebooks too, of course. If I mention “books” anywhere, I mean both. If I specifically use “ebooks”, I mean ebooks only.
Here’s why trusting yourself is important: to write nonfiction, you need to have an angle — a slant, or a point of view, if you will. New writers haven’t developed trust in themselves, so they want to conform. This is death to your nonfiction — forget conforming. You don’t want to write an endless series of “me too” books. Your ideas, opinions, skills — everything that makes you who you are — are valuable. Use what you are.
If you have a point of view in total opposition to what everyone believes about a topic you may write a very popular book. Don’t go out of your way to be contrary or controversial. But if you have an opposite point of view to perceived wisdom on a topic: you believe what “everyone” thinks is wrong-headed, go with it.
Courage! If you can learn to trust yourself, you will write nonfiction which sells. So, with that in mind, let’s look at five tips for getting fast nonfiction book ideas.
1. Establish Your Mindset: Yes, It’s ALL Been Done Before — but It’s Never Been Done Your Way.
“I can’t write about weight loss, because there are too many books on it,” said Sophie, one of my students.
“Why do you want to write about weight loss? Are you trying to lose weight?” I asked.
Sophie responded that she’d lost a massive amount of weight at Weight Watchers some years before. Hence, her dilemma. The Weight Watchers company produces books on weight loss.
“Will you rip off their ideas, methods and recipes?”
“NO!” Sophie was shocked at the very idea.
I suggested that she start writing. When she sent me a draft of her ebook, she hadn’t mentioned Weight Watchers at all. Sophie wrote about her own experiences losing weight, the divorce which precipitated her weight gain, and techniques and tips for weight loss which she found valuable. Her book was different, because she wrote it.
You can write about anything you like, no matter who’s written about it before. They’ve never written about it in the way you’ll write.
Tip: writing is discovery. You’ll learn what you think about a topic as you write about it, so don’t worry if your mind’s a blank before you start writing.
2. If You Care, Readers Will Care Too: What Do You Care About?
What do you love, hate, avoid? What challenges are you facing? Whatever your challenges, hundreds of thousands of people have similar challenges.
If there are few books on a topic, you face the opposite situation from the writer who wants to write about something that’s highly popular. Again, trust yourself. Write a short ebook – ten or 20 pages. See if you sell, before you write a longer book.
3. Fascination: What Do You Wish Someone Would Write About?
Maybe they’ve already written about it. Visit Amazon’s Top 100 Best Sellers in Nonfiction. Does the list contain anything that’s similar to your topic?
One of my students wanted to write about an obscure app. My general rule of thumb is that if 10,000 people are interested in something, you’ve got a market. As always I suggested that he test his idea: write a short ebook, and watch his sales.
4. Learn It, Write It: Beginner’s Mind Is Priceless – and You Can’t Get It Back.
What are you learning? Your state of mind when you’re learning something is valuable, because you can’t unlearn what you know. In the 1990s, I tried to convince my editor at a major publishing house to give me a contract for an advanced book on a subject. She said: “No, the market’s too small. Give me something for beginners.”
I’ve always kept that in mind, and so should you. In every topic, there are always more beginners than experts. If you want to write for experts, go ahead, but if you’re new to a topic, you’re perfectly placed to write for other beginners – and it’s a bigger market.
5. Your Journal – It’s Your Ultimate FAST Resource for Nonfiction Book Ideas.
You know I love journaling. I love it because it’s a constant source of ideas.
I’ll prove it to you. Take five minutes, and just start writing. Write about whatever comes to mind. You’ll be surprised at what comes out. If you keep journaling daily for five minutes, over time, you’ll end up with an amazing resource. And you’ll never run out of ideas again.
So, there we have it. I hope you’ve decided that you have an unlimited source of ideas for nonfiction: yourself. Start writing.
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