by Naomi Dunford

Hello, and welcome back!

In yesterday’s edition of “let’s write a book strategically”, we discussed the purpose of your book, the primary aim that it’s designed to achieve. Today, we’re talking about what kind of book it is.

Let’s face it – you have an inconceivable amount of knowledge stored in your head. Your life and business experience has given you wisdom, insight, and understanding that you never could have predicted. You could write lots of books about lots of things. In the Write a Book With Me program, we tackle what to put into the book you’re writing, and what to leave out.

But how in the heck are you supposed to decide what book to write in the first place?

Now, you may already know the answer to this question. You may have long ago decided you’re writing your mother’s life story, or a practical guide to low-light gardening, or a tell-all memoir of your crazy summer in Phuket. If you’ve already decided that, then you can go about your business and I’ll see you tomorrow.

But if you’re anything less than 100% sure, keep reading, because I can probably help.

​Most non-fiction books fall into one of three categories:

  • They’re theoretical.
  • They’re practical.
  • They’re narrative.

There can be overlap between the categories, but most books predominantly fit in one. With modern books, you can usually tell from the title and subtitle which category the book fits into.

Let’s look at some examples.

Here are some real-life books about sleep:

  • Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. (This is a theory book.)
  • The Book of Sleep: 75 Strategies to Relieve Insomnia. (This is a practical book.)
  • Sleep Demons: An Insomniac’s Memoir. (This is a narrative book.)

Here are some real-life books about getting rid of your stuff:

  • Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. (This is a theory book.)
  • Real Life Organizing: Clean and Clutter-Free in 15 Minutes a Day. (This is a practical book.)
  • The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store. (This is a narrative book, and also a book with a very long subtitle.)

Here are some real-life books about business:

  • Contagious: Why Things Catch On. (This is a theory book.)
  • Outrageous Email Subject Lines: Over 700 Subject Lines For Any Situation. (This is a practical book.)
  • Confessions of an Advertising Man. (This is a narrative book.)

​So how do you decide which kind of book you should write?

There’s no one right book, but there are just-right books for certain situations. Here are a few things to consider.

First off, get clear on why you’re writing your book in the first place, as we discussed yesterday. Your intended goals will inform all kinds of decisions you make about what goes inside those pages, particularly this one.

Next, give some thought to who this book is intended to be for. For a non-fiction book, your general choices are “The Industry” and “prospective customers and clients”.

  • “The Industry” tends to like theory – thought leader stuff, books with good talking points, and so on. So if you’re shooting for “credibility” or “making a name for yourself” or “building professional respect” or “getting on conference panels and stuff”, you’ll do better with a theory book than a practical book. (Things with “why” in the subtitle tend to work well here.)
  • Prospective customers and clients tend to like practical books. They tend to like things they can use or implement. If you’re using the book as an info-product to sell on your website, practical is the only option worth considering. Notice how nothing in the Karma Store starts with “Why”. Most of them are ebooks, and they all teach how to do something very specific.
  • If you’re shooting for money, practical is better. Way better. ALL the better. Leave the theory at the door. I’m struggling to find any non-fiction exceptions to this rule.
  • As a general guideline, practical books are usually the fastest to write. You’re a working professional and you’re good at your job. Teaching people to do the things you tend to teach and do doesn’t take a lot of effort. Exceptions include anything that involves pictures, including cookbooks, wardrobe guides, design tips, and such.
  • Narrative books can be quick as well if you’re very clear on the narrative you’re telling before you begin. If you focus on your SOAPs, outline, and blueprint, your narrative can come up very quickly indeed. (SOAP stands for Stuff on a Page, which is everybody’s favorite step in WABWM, and also a charming acronym.)
  • Writing “the book of your heart”.Writing a book is a big deal, and a meaningful rite of passage. There’s a lot to be said for writing whatever freaking book you WANT to write, and ignoring any “shoulds” altogether. Love and desire and passion and care can break through writer’s block like nothing else can. So if you really LIKE the idea of writing a certain book? You may want to just go ahead and write that book.
  • The “getting your wiggles out” book. On the other hand, there’s a lot of merit to writing a book you DON’T care about that much, simply to get your book-writing sea legs. My first itty bitty ebook, which I talked about yesterday, was written like that. I knew I had to get an info product out quickly or the lack of it would start getting conspicuous. I picked something that WASN’T my dream so I didn’t saddle it with too much pressure.

And remember… most people who write a book end up writing more than one. This means the pressure on this particular book being The Right One is pretty low. It feels high, because we’re authors, and we take ourselves very seriously indeed. But it doesn’t matter that much. First books are supposed to be fun. :)

​So there you have it!

When you’re deciding what kind of book you should write, now you have some guidance to help you get comfortable with whatever choice you make.

That’s it for today!

Tomorrow we’re talking about how “good” your book has to be. You might be surprised by the answer.


P.S. As a reminder, registration for Write A Book With Me 2021 is now open – get in before the doors close!