What Kind of Best Selling Nonfiction Book Will You Write?

You probably know there are two major types of books: fiction and nonfiction. Fiction includes a number of genres, including literary stories (the classics), poetry, drama, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and more.

Nonfiction books are based on fact or on the opinions of the author. Not based on a story made up to entertain, as fiction would be, nonfiction is usually written by a subject matter expert.

Books are defined by their topics, by their audiences (books for children and young adults can be either fiction or nonfiction), and by their buyers. Trade books are intended to be sold mostly to and through mainstream bookstores and libraries. Textbooks are written for schools and are categorized as El-Hi (for elementary and high school students) or for the college market. Mass-market paperbacks such as romance novels are sometimes in bookstores, but they’re predominantly found in grocery and discount stores. Two other book categories are those sold directly through book clubs and mail order, along with other products. Religious books are bought in Christian and mainstream bookstores.

About 20,000 of the more than 100,000 new nonfiction titles published each year are trade books. A large portion of these (about 5,000) are for children and young adults.

Books are also categorized by their binding and paper quality. They can be hardcover, trade paperback (higher-quality paper), or mass-market paperback (lower-quality paper).

Nonfiction falls into many style categories that include:
• Autobiographical/Biographical—your own life or that of another person
• Informational—eating right to slow the aging process
• Nonfiction Narrative—your experience running a business or coping with a particular challenge
• Persuasive—your opinion on an event that has already happened or on what should happen in the future, hoping to influence the opinions of others
• Procedural—how to conduct a job interview, step-by-step
• Reference—definitions of terms or proper etiquette
Is your book narrative nonfiction on business that will be published as a trade paperback? Or is it a reference book on nutrition that will be published as a hardcover?

A book must be at least 49 pages in length to be factually classified as a book. Of course, it can be hundreds of pages, but shorter books are generally the trend. Consumers judge value, in part, on the number of pages, and it is good to shoot for a book of 150-250 pages, unless your book calls for more pages (like a complete book of computer software) or less (such as a gift book of quotations).

To complete an average-length book of 100-225 pages, with from 200 to 400 words per finished page (this varies widely by page size and type size), you will need to write between 25,000 and 80,000 words. The average first-time author will do well to write between 500 and 1,000 words a day, while professional writers can deliver way more than 2,000 words per day. So it might take two to four months, or roughly 500 hours, for you to write your book. And because most authors don’t write every day, the calendar time can easily double.

So althought it isn’t very romantic to do some planning about what kind of book you want to write – how long, what type, what topic – it is part of making it to the best seller list.

Did you know that over 2/3 of books sold are sold to women? And that most women’s purchases include books on mind/body/spirit, finance, career, relationships, health and wellness (including diets) and other self-help categories? Knowing who you are writing for and what they are likely to buy is a great way to begin thinking about how you’ll create your own best seller.

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  • jen  On January 14, 2008 at 10:29 am

    thanks – your information is what I’m looking for.

  • xondie  On July 6, 2008 at 2:41 am

    Thank you so much for this. This page offers exactly what I need and nothing I don’t need.

  • Junocat  On October 3, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Thank you. I would like to write a Sci-Fi and I know my target market will be men in their 30’s and 40’s with an interest in science, adventure and who love to read. I know that women also enjoy science fiction, but not as many.

  • Nick Smith  On November 28, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Thank you for your information.

  • Cassie  On June 2, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Thanks – very useful information. I never can remember how many words equal a page, etc.
    I know I want to write nonfiction, but I have several ideas and can’t write about them all at once. How do I choose? I wrote a blog about it today at http://bellydancediaries-cassie.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-do-you-choose-writing-topic.html.

    I would welcome any comments and advice!

  • Exie  On January 18, 2012 at 6:09 am

    Thank you for the information. I have just finished my first non-fiction novel and questioned if my 33,500 word count was enough. I do have another chapter I can add, I think it might be a good idea!
    Thanks again

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    Thank you for the info

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