Nonfiction authors, listen up.
There are books that don’t live up to their promises. From authors who only consulted themselves about what should be in their book, and how it should be presented.
But this also creates an opportunity, because the existence of books that don’t measure up makes it that much easier for you to be outstanding.
How? When writing nonfiction especially, you need to draw widely but focus narrowly. Being able to draw from a variety of sources and even outside of your area of expertise helps you bring new life to the topic you’re covering, even when covering that topic very narrowly.
Here are some tips for becoming a hero to your readers as a nonfiction author:
Learn to Listen
Everyone talks about how to find your niche or locate your market. Has anyone mentioned just listening? Attentive listening to other people is an advanced human skill that is guaranteed to make you rise above other author marketers. People—clients, co-workers, friends, bosses—are constantly telling us what they want. We only have to tune in.
Listen to conversations in your real life, but also tune into conversations online. Social media, Reddit, and Quora are all excellent places to find conversations happening about even the most niche topics.
Be a Beginner
It’s so difficult for seasoned experts to recapture “beginner’s mind,” yet it’s the only way to understand from the inside what people need to get started. How can you recapture that outlook? Try doing something new yourself, something that makes you feel awkward and uniformed. It can renew your taste for beginner’s mind.
If you have old journals, articles, or anything else you wrote from the beginning stages of researching whatever your author expertise is now, look back on those. See what questions you had, what things you seemed to understand immediately, and what you got wrong.
Broaden and Then Focus Your Research
Nonfiction writing demands rigorous research. It’s not merely about presenting facts, but about weaving a narrative that resonates with your audience. This means going beyond surface-level information to provide detailed, accurate presentation of information. Remember, every piece of information must serve the purpose of your narrative.
At the same time, research broadly on topics that are related to your niche. See where there are overlaps or lessons that you might be able to apply to what you’re writing about, giving a fresh take on old subject matter.
Walk the Talk
Dictating to others can become a habit. Specialist authors are invited to speak and taken more seriously. Life can become a lot of talk. Taking action exposes you to the bracing test of the marketplace. Nothing will contribute to your authenticity more than putting your ideas into action.
Use Authority, but Be a Companion
Expert guidance is highly valued, and so it should be. Whether you’re an expert author or a beginner, remembering that we’re all on a journey, even if it’s only for the time we spend together, reminds us to be a good companion—not just a teacher, to share the journey, and not to stay above it all.
Being new at something means being passionate about it. It means finding everything we can get our hands on about the subject of our fascination, and consuming information with gusto. If we can keep learning, we’ll be able to keep alive our connection with that passion.
Empathize with Your Readers
Understand where your readers are coming from. When you align your writing with their needs and aspirations, you become more than just an author; you become a trusted advisor and companion on their learning journey.
When you get connected to where your readers are really coming from, when you understand the thing they most need to find out or conquer, you’ll become their hero.
You’ll be the one with the answer they didn’t know they were looking for, the advisor and companion with a wealth of experience to share. Writing from this place is sure to make you a hero to your readers.
Finally, they’ve found someone who understands them and knows what they need. Isn’t that what we all want?
Editor’s note: This article was originally written by Joel Friedlander and has since been updated and expanded by The Book Designer editorial team.