Episode 101 – How to Make Your Nonfiction Book Stand Out

By Beth Brombosz, PhD

Apr 25

I’m going to be honest with you for a minute. The publishing space is getting pretty crowded, especially in popular niches like business or health and wellness or even cookbooks. That means that your book is competing for attention with many other books out there. How do you get the attention of potential book buyers? How can you make your nonfiction book stand out from the crowd and make it onto readers’ bookshelves?

There are three big places where you can make your nonfiction book stand out: writing, design, and marketing. In today’s episode, I’ll walk you through a few tips to help you make your book stand out in each of these three areas. You’ll get some food for thought, and hopefully you’ll come up with a few action items that you can follow to improve your book. My goal is that by the end of the episode, you’ll have an action item or two that you can implement right away to make your nonfiction book stand out.

In a crowded niche? Here's how to make your nonfiction book stand out from the crowd with better writing, design, and marketing.

WRITING

The first area where I think you should focus to make your nonfiction book stand out is your writing. Let’s face it: a book with terrible writing is doomed to fail. The more dependent your book is on the text you write, the more important your writing becomes. If you’re publishing a coffee table book that’s primarily beautiful photos to look at, you might be able to get away with some bad writing. But, if your reader really needs what you’re teaching in the text of your book…it needs to be good.

The best and most important thing you can do to make your nonfiction book stand out with your writing is to focus in on your ideal reader. You need to make sure that your book is the best possible book to solve their problems and pain points. That comes from really knowing your ideal reader well. You need to know what makes them tick to understand how you can use your words to help them transform their lives.

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That means the first place to start is with a deep dive into who your ideal reader is. If you don’t have a written avatar for your ideal reader, I strongly encourage you to create one. If you need extra help, go back and listen to Episode 3 of the Blogger to Author podcast, or download a copy of my free workbook, “5 Steps to Creating Your First Book.” There’s a set of worksheets in there that will help you create your ideal reader avatar.

When you know who your ideal reader is in great detail, you’ll also know what they’re struggling with regarding your book topic. For example, if you’re a fitness pro or nutritionist who is writing a book about using macros to lose weight, you’re probably already planning to explain what macros are and why they’re important. But, if you didn’t do a deep dive into your ideal reader, you might not have realized that she doesn’t have the tools she needs to track macros, or that she feels like she doesn’t have the time to do it. She might feel completely overwhelmed by the process. Lucky for you, because you understand that about your reader, you can address all of those problems in your book.

If your book addresses all of the major issues your readers are having, and if it explains the solutions to those issues clearly, it will automatically stand out from the crowd. A book that actually solves problems and helps people have a transformation is a good book. Word will spread that what you teach in the book works. When your book truly helps people, readers are going to recommend it to their friends, who will then recommend it to their friends, and so forth. That is the secret to writing a good book.

You’ll also want to make sure your writing is clear if you want your nonfiction book to stand out. Make it as easy to read as possible, especially if you’re not writing for a very technical audience. (If you’re writing a textbook or a book for rocket scientists, you can get more technical.) The easier your book is to read, the more likely readers are to keep reading.

Capture their attention in the first paragraphs and chapters of your book. And, make it easy for them to get through those chapters. Even give them a quick win—that’s a surefire way to get readers to keep reading. They’ll be so intrigued that they have to find out what other breakthroughs and wins are in the rest of your book. Bottom line: make it as effortless as possible for your reader to follow you on the journey in your book.

If you struggle with doing this on your own, you might consider hiring an editor. Many editors offer developmental editing, which will help make sure your writing is clear and that you’re effectively communicating with your reader. If you can’t afford an editor, have some smart friends read through your book, and give them a list of questions to answer as they read through it. Are the major points of your book clear? Have you explained yourself adequately, and have you fully addressed any pain points or objections? When they know what to look for, they’ll be able to give you better feedback.

DESIGN

I do think that the content of your book is the most important thing—bad writing can’t make up for a beautiful book. BUT, having a well-designed book is a close second. If the content of your book is really stellar and amazing (basically life-changing), it can make up for bad design if your book really entertains people or improves their lives. But, for most of us, having great design will really help your nonfiction book stand out. That’s why hiring a professional book designer can really uplevel your book.

When it comes to book design, the most important thing is your book cover. In general, people are very drawn to the visuals on your cover. (If your book is for visually-impaired readers, it may not be as important.) Your cover needs to sell your book. There’s a reason why there’s an idiom about judging books by their covers. People do judge books by their covers—all the time. Having a professional designer help you with your book cover can be worth every penny, especially if that professional does a lot of work with books.

Beyond the cover of your book, the design of the interior of your book is also really important. Yes, there are many books out there that are text-only and that have a relatively simple design. But, for many of you listening, a professionally-designed book interior can really serve your reader well and improve their experience with your book.

Ask yourself, “How does the design of my book set my readers up for success?” If it doesn’t, you might need to rethink your book design. For example, does your book invite a lot of introspection? If so, you might want to add in some journal pages. Is your book pretty text-heavy? You might want to add in some call-out boxes with important quotes or take-home messages for your readers. Those boxes can help drive home the big points you’re trying to make. Need to present some of your information in tables? Make sure that those tables are set up so they’re conveying the information in the best way possible and that they’re easy to read.

The big point here is to think about user experience. How can the design of your book improve your reader’s experience? You might go through and look at some of the books that you’ve really loved. What design elements have they included that helped you get more out of that book? How can you do something similar with your book?

Also make sure you strongly consider the design of your book if you’re in a very visually-oriented niche, like cooking. Cookbooks are well-known for having beautiful photographs and overall design. If you want your cookbook to stand out, you’ll want to make sure it’s beautifully designed, too.

MARKETING

I know a lot of authors like to avoid thinking about marketing. But, the amount of effort you put into marketing your book is directly proportional to your book’s success. Writing a book is not a “if you build it, they will come” sort of deal. If you want readers to find your book, you need to put in the effort to tell them it’s there.

Here’s the good news: many authors don’t want to put in the effort to market their books. I’ll even admit that I’m guilty of this. I often have so many other tasks going on each week that marketing my books falls to the bottom of my to-do list. But, if you’re willing to make marketing your book a priority week after week, month after month, that effort is going to give your book a huge advantage.

The first step to help your nonfiction book stand out with marketing is to see what else is out there in the market. What other books are there in your niche and how are they selling? What are readers and reviewers saying about those books? Spend some time investigating your competition, but try not to get into that “my book isn’t good enough” headspace. Instead, I want you to focus on figuring out how your book is different.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What does my book have or teach that other books in my niche don’t?
  • How is my message different from what’s in other books? Why would readers be drawn to my unique message?
  • Does my book give readers different results? Do I have testimonials to back that up, or can I get them? (Check your book reviews to see if you can glean any testimonials from them!)
  • Does your book solve any unique problems or pain points that other books have missed?
  • Is there anything unique about your background or personal story that resonates with readers? Can you use that to sell more books?

If you want to help your nonfiction book stand out, the first thing you should tackle is your messaging. Make sure you tell prospective book buyers why your book is different. How will it uniquely solve their problems better than any other books they’ve purchased? What makes your book special, so special that readers absolutely have to have it on their bookshelves? When you nail down what makes your book different, you can tell your readers why that’s appealing, and why they should buy your book.

You should also take some time to think about how you can make the delivery of your marketing unique. Are flatlays totally overdone in your niche? Well, then maybe you don’t want to use a flatlay of your book to capture readers’ attention on Instagram. Visuals are so important these days, especially when you’re marketing on social media. There’s a lot out there competing for readers’ attention. Can you do a better job at grabbing it?

Here are some marketing methods that you might be able to use to help your book marketing stand out:

  • Video/live video
  • Humorous posts
  • Raw/real images (especially if there are a lot of highly-curated feeds in your niche)
  • In-person events, like book signings (particularly effective if everyone’s focusing their efforts online)
  • Marketing to very niche audiences

There are many, many ways to market your book. But, I would encourage you to think through some unique, out-of-the-box ways to bring attention to your book that other authors in your niche aren’t doing. The more your marketing stands out, the more your book will stand out.

YOUR TO-DO LIST

I know I’ve just given you a lot of information here, and I don’t want you to be totally overwhelmed by everything you have to do. So, before we sign off, I want to help you create your action item based on what you’ve learned. First, I want you to consider where you’re at in the book creation process. If you’re planning the content of your book or writing, focus on the tips I’ve given you for writing. If you’re wrapping up your manuscript, focus on the design tips. And, if you’ve already published your book, focus on marketing. Don’t worry about the part that isn’t directly in front of you—that gets totally overwhelming.

Then, I want you to sit and write down three to five actions that you could take based on what you just learned. If you want, while it’s fresh in your brain you can write down everything you might need to do, but then narrow that list down. Take a look at those to-dos and pick out the one task that’s going to have the biggest impact on making your nonfiction book stand out. Then, schedule time to implement it. When you’re finished, focus on the task with the next biggest impact, and repeat.

The key here is to take bite-size chunks and work on them. Don’t get bogged down by everything you can and might do. Instead, find the tasks that will have the biggest impact, that will help your book stand out the most. Spend your time doing those tasks. Then, move down the list. Not only will you feel less overwhelmed, but you’ll be using your time efficiently. I know you don’t have a ton of time to spend on this, so efficiency is key.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

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In a crowded niche? Here's how to make your nonfiction book stand out from the crowd with better writing, design, and marketing.