What are the Different Non-Fiction Genres? (Nonfiction?)

There are many non-fiction genres but people don’t give it too much thought at first. I guess it’s because the genre breakdowns aren’t as exciting as fiction. Even still, I think they’re pretty cool!

What are the Different Non-Fiction Genres? (Nonfiction?)

Whether or not it’s nonfiction or non-fiction (can someone help me? I really don’t know), if you want to publish a not fiction book it’s important to understand at least the basic breakdown of the genre.

Non-fiction genres

Let’s start with a big list of common non-fiction genres. Ones you’ve probably already thought of.

  • Journalism
  • Essay
  • Biography
  • Memoir
  • Science
  • Technical
  • Opinion (also called op-ed)
  • History

You still with me? Straightforward, ish.

But maybe you’re wondering why genre matters, why we’re talking about it at all.

If you want to be a freelance writer, knowing the difference between non-fiction genres will be a great asset!

First reason: you will know what type of writing you do (I write bios or I write history, for example).

Second reason: you will know what types of publications to pitch your writing to. If you write op-eds, for example, you’ll go to publications that publish op-eds. Not everyone does so it pays to know this before you pitch!

Third reason: if you’re thinking of writing a book one day, word count changes based on your genre. Yes, in non-fiction genres too! Understanding what you’re writing will make all the difference.

What are the Different Non-Fiction Genres?

Don’t worry, we can go deeper

Once you dive into the wonderful world of non-fiction writing you can get into the nuance of the craft.

Going deeper and refining your writing style by genre makes you a stronger all-around writer. It also allows you to offer more specialized services to your clients.

And, thus, charge more for your expertise.

Here are a few more examples to get your wheels turning. For the complete list head on over to Wikipedia.

  • Creative nonfiction
  • Dictionary/Encyclopedia/Thesaurus
  • Textbook
  • Theology
  • Philosophy
  • Handbook/Guide/Manual
  • Letter
  • Literary criticism
  • Academic

Yes these are all legitimate genres and ways you can write for money. So think big, think outside the standardized package and lean into your natural strengths.

Extra reading: What is Prescriptive Non-Fiction?

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There are many non-fiction genres but people don't give it too much thought at first. I guess it's because the genre breakdowns aren't as exciting as fiction. Even still, I think they're pretty cool!

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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Platform Building: Smart and Strategic Tips for Writers

What are the most important things a writer can do to be smart and strategic about platform building (instead of being overwhelmed)?

No matter what kind of writer or author you are, this question is so important to ask.

Smart and strategic platform building tips for writers

What is a platform?

First I want to address this confusing term because it’s part jargon and part new word use. The way I’m using the phrase today is defining “platform” as it pertains to a writer. In many cases this is called an author platform. However, it can also apply to other types of writers.

At it’s most basic definition, a platform is the sum total of a writer’s ability to sell their work. It combines visibility with connections through established distribution channels.

The risk when pouring energy into platform building is you’ll either spend time focusing on areas that don’t pay off or you’ll put too much effort into one area and neglect other, equally important areas.

Here is an example of a well-rounded author platform:

  • Social media followers and existing contacts/fans/readers/email subscribers—30%
  • Knowledge and expertise on your topic—25%
  • Personality and follow through—25%
  • Previous work (articles, books, etc.)—20%

Extra reading: Learn more about author platforms

Extra credit: How to Set Up a Basic Author Platform from Kirsten Oliphant

So now we come back to our original question: how can a writer be smart and strategic about platform building, instead of being overwhelmed?

Tips for platform building

As you can gather from my example, your biggest ROI from platform-building activities comes from your circle of friends and followers.

But these people can’t just click “like” on your chosen online profile. They need to be fans—active, engaged, wallets-out fans.

Here are my top four suggestions for platform building (for growing and maintaining your following) without letting it take over your life

Platform building tips

Tip 1: Get clear on why you want a following

To some writers the “why” is obvious. And perhaps it makes sense through the lens of platform building. But still, think about WHY you’re trying to attract people to you and your writing.

There are no wrong answers here, but it’s important to know what your goal is so when things get hard or you get busy, you can stay laser-focused on your objective.

Think about why you want a following and write it down. Then figure out how to get this following. Do it! It’s worth 30% of your platform!

Extra reading with worksheets: Four Decisions Every Writer Needs to Make

(Or go direct to the worksheets in my resource library)

Tip 2: Make strong, authentic connections with your followers

Making connections with other human beings may seem like a big ask for writers who are introverted or shy.

But in today’s world, “if you write it they will come” isn’t a thing. We have to figure out how to build relationships with others. We need them in our tribe just like they need our writing. It’s a symbiotic relationship but it doesn’t happen without effort or by accident.

How you do this will look different for every person because you have to work with your strengths.

For some people, making connections means you publish high-quality articles in publications your ideal followers read.

For others, this means gaining a following through speaking at events or hosting workshops and showcasing your expertise on a topic.

Another example of how a writer can build relationships is by going all-in on a social media platform and building a huge following of loyal fans by showing up and doing the work.

This could mean:

  • Following your ideal readers
  • Engaging in discussions with your ideal readers and your existing followers
  • Leaving thoughtful comments on other people’s posts
  • Joining and becoming an active member of the community (or starting one)

While the “how” varies from writer to writer, the important piece to keep in mind is it must be true to who you are.

How do you best connect with people? Lean into that. It’s the only way these relationships will be authentic and genuine.

Extra reading: Make Stronger Connections with Your Ideal Clients

Tip 3: Optimize your online channels for your audience

Whether it’s a social media profile or your personal blog, it’s important to put due care and attention into your online presence.

As a writer, you’re the brand. How you present yourself online matters.

Make sure your profiles are consistent across the web and that your “about statement” reflects who you are as a writer. When you’re in platform-building mode, this isn’t the time to be cute or vague. State who you are in a clear way and write it for your ideal follower.

The same goes for your website. Ask yourself if your site or blog is an accurate reflection of the type of writer you want to be known as. If not, fix it. Get it up to snuff or make it private. Make sure it’s attractive and loads quickly and is easy to find.

Don’t assume people are aware of what you do or even understand it. Do you know the details of your entire network? Lay everything out for your followers like it’s the first time they’ve ever stumbled across your site or profile.

Optimize your website and social media channels for your audience. It’s time to put yourself out there by making yourself discoverable.

Remember, if you don’t take control of your brand story someone else will.

Extra reading: Five Tips for Optimizing your Social Media Profiles

Extra credit: How to Avoid Social Media Overwhelm

Tip 4: Have a strategy

You want to be consistent and smart about strengthening your platform, right? OK great. So you need a strategy. Even if you’re a pantser who doesn’t plan.

I’m serious!

Without the structure of a strategy (or at least the framework of a general direction) it will be too easy to let platform building go by the wayside when urgent things crop up.

Because this is a long game, which means it’s always important but rarely urgent. Which means you have to build these activities into your schedule and make it a part of your daily life.

Here are a few things to think about when creating a platform building strategy:

  • Who do you want to connect with?
  • Where are your potential friends and followers hanging out?
  • Which channels or networks will have the biggest payoff for you?
  • Where are you the most comfortable, the most yourself?
  • You can’t be everywhere so which networks will you focus on?
  • What can you do or post consistently to build your visibility, credibility and authority?
  • How can you serve your followers and build relationship with them?
  • What scheduling tools or services can you use to help you execute your strategy and stay on track?

Extra reading: Five Step Social Media Strategy for Writers

Platform building is a lot easier if you have a road map to follow

Yes, the plan has to change sometimes so it also needs to be a bit fluid. But it’s easier to adjust something in existence than it is to sit around wondering how on earth you’ll increase your influence so you can attract that agent or get a new client.


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What are the most important things a writer can do to be smart and strategic about platform building (instead of being overwhelmed)? Great question!

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

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What’s an ISBN? Do I Need One?

What’s an ISBN? This is a great question! It’s an industry acronym, short for International Standard Book Number. I know, jargon. You’re not supposed to use industry jargon. But we’ll let this one pass—just know that ISBN is a number your book gets when you publish it.

ISBN Explained

Oh wait, so all books get them?

It depends. If you’re publishing your book and selling it on your own, then you don’t have to get one. However, if you want things like distribution and placement in bookstores, then you do need to have one.

Don’t worry if you already published your book without getting an ISBN—you can still get one post-publishing. It’s fine. As long as you have the number you can add it as a sticker to your book or give the number to the distributor. Really, it’s fine.

What if I wrote a book but someone else is publishing it?

Whoever publishes the book obtains the ISBN. Think of it this way. Whoever is taking the financial risk on the book is the person, business, or organization who applies for the ISBN.

Does one ISBN cover an ebook, a paperback and an audio book of the same book?

No. You will need three separate ISBNs. Also, if you publish an updated edition you’ll also need a new ISBN for that. Oh, and also a hardcover and in 17 different languages? Yes, all different ISBNs.

Where do I get one?

Every country has its own way of doing it. In Canada, you apply for an ISBN through the Library and Archives Canada at no cost. In other countries there may be a fee or service charge.

Is an ISBN the same as a bar code?

No. A bar code is a graphic with vertical lines that gets scanned at a retail outlet. The ISBN is a 13-digit number. That said, you can have your ISBN translated into a bar code.

Still more questions? No problem, just let me know. But I hope this has at least unravelled part of the mystery to the question what’s an ISBN. Crazy-boring, hey?

Other resources

What's an ISBN? It's an industry acronym, short for International Standard Book Number. Just know that ISBN is a number your book gets when you publish it.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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Do I need an ISBN? Do I want an ISBN? Do I have to have an ISBN? What's an ISBN? Does someone else take care of the ISBN? What's my responsibility anyway?

What If My Book Idea Isn’t a Book?

Do you have a book idea? If you’re like most people, you do. I don’t know what it is, but so many of us want to write a book one day.

What if your book idea isn't a book? Alternatives

What if my book idea isn’t a book?

There are a few reasons your idea may not be a good fit for a book. For starters, books (in general) should be evergreen. “Evergreen” is a jargon term meaning “always relevant.” I guess “timeless” is another fitting definition. The point is, your topic needs to have some shelf life if it’s going to be a book.

Another point of measurement is you’re not qualified to write the book you have the idea for. Is it a specialized non-fiction topic you’re not trained in? It’s probably not a good fit for you.

And sometimes the idea we have isn’t big enough for a book. Like, you literally don’t have enough words to fill a book on this subject. It’s best to understand this before diving in and saving yourself some blood, sweat and tears.

Wondering if your idea is big enough for a book? Check out this post on average book lengths organized into genres.

So what do you do if you discover your book idea isn’t a book? Rather than letting the idea go full stop, here are a few suggestions for repurposing the idea so it still gets out there into the world.

Alternatives for your big ideas

While on the surface it may seem devastating that your idea isn’t a book I say don’t lose heart. There may still be a place for it. Consider these outlets.

  • Blog post
  • Article
  • Teaching series
  • Webinar/podcast episode/video
  • Booklet/novella
  • Screenplay

If you have your own website, then writing and publishing blog posts is an easy way to share your ideas and foster conversation.

Alternatively, you can take a freelancer approach and pitch articles to magazines, websites and other outlets.

A teaching series could involve a series of articles or blog posts and could address a different topic or takeaway in each piece.

Producing your idea as an audio or video piece could allow you to explore new areas of your business and reach a different audience.

And even if your idea isn’t a book-length one, it could still be a short booklet, novella. And who’s to say it can’t be developed into a screenplay?

See what I mean? Just because your idea doesn’t turn out to be a book it doesn’t mean you should give up on it. Just apply a little creativity.

Other articles about publishing

Do you have a book idea? If you're like most people, you do. I don't know what it is, but so many of us want to write a book one day.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

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How to Write a Book | 4 Steps to Get Started

If you want to know how to write a book you’re in the right place. If you want to write a book but don’t know what to do next, you’re in the right place. And if you know you need a solid plan in order to write your book then I’m your biggest fan.

is it time to write your book

So you’ve decided to write a book

For better or worse, I’m results-driven more than idea-driven. I love finishing. Therefore, when a great idea comes up, the first thing I do is break it down into smaller pieces and figure out how to make it happen. I know this approach isn’t as exciting as allowing adrenaline to fuel your writing passion. But what’s the goal here, to feel good or to finish writing your book?

Over the years I’ve helped organizations and individuals publish many, many pieces (articles, books, magazines and more) on deadline. Which is more difficult than you may think.

More often than not the writing part of the process comes down to four steps:

  • Find your why
  • Choose your theme
  • Find your genre
  • Schedule writing time

Do you want the worksheets that go with this training?

I’ve created worksheets to complement this training, available for download. This is a free resource but it’s part of my resource library and you’ll need a password. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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Now, on to the training.


How to write a book

Step one: Find your why

Think about why you want to write a book and also why you’re the right person to do it. If you take a few minutes to figure out your why you may find you have many reasons. Try and choose a main (primary) reason. This primary why will help you create the rest of your book-writing (and marketing) plan.

Here are examples of possible why’s:

  • Build an audience or platform
  • Be known as an authority in your area
  • Make money
  • Tell an important story people need to hear

There are no wrong answers here. One person’s why isn’t morally superior to another’s why. Be honest and figure out the primary reason behind why you want to write a book. Write it down. This will help keep you motivated when it stops being fun and starts being hard work.

Step two: Choose your theme

The next step is choosing your book’s theme. Every story has a theme—an overarching point. In her book Story Sparks, author Denise Jaden asks writers to review seven simple themes and choose the one that they’d most like to read a book about.

  1. Love
  2. Faith
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Trust
  5. Survival
  6. Honour
  7. Acceptance

From here, once you have a focus word, you can take it deeper. Instead of “love” your theme may become “love conquers all” or “love comes at a price.” Find that driving point behind your story an write it down. This will help you develop your story line and characters down the road.

Step three: Find your genre

This step is super practical. You need to know which genre your book fits into so you know what your word count should be. Because, yes, there are rules and the word count change based on your genre.

In general, the main objections I hear to this step are around following the rules or choosing just one genre. Trust me when I say, in general you should follow the rules. Please. For everyone’s sake. Also, this step will help you SO MUCH with step four.

Once you know your genre then you’ll have a word count range for your book. If you’re at this stage, check out the genre/word count list I’ve curated. (Psst it’s also in the worksheets in my resource library).

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Step four: create a writing schedule

Once you know what genre your book is you’ll know more or less how many words you need to write. See? Super practical! Your next step is decide when you want to complete your first draft. This can be arbitrary but it should be realistic. Once you have a date in mind, work backwards, breaking your word count goals into months and then days.

A few things to keep in mind

First, figure out how many words per day you can write. It’s different for everyone so learn what works best for you and build your schedule around it.

Second, build a realistic writing schedule. To write a book you need blocks of focused time. How much do you have available? What do you need to put in place to protect it?

Third, create strategies so you stick to your schedule. There will be days you don’t feel like writing. Find ways to write anyway.

When creating a writing schedule make sure to answer these questions:

  • What’s your deadline for finishing your first draft?
  • How many words is your book going to be?
  • Break it down, how many days per week are you going to write?
  • How many words can you write per day?
  • How many words per day do you need to write to meet your deadline?

If you want more on this, check out my training on creating a writing schedule.

If you want to write a book but don’t know what to do next, you’re in the right place. This workbook will guide you through the four steps you need to take BEFORE you start writing.

if you want to write a book, following these four steps will help you accomplish your goal

I work as a project manager for my day job, which often looks like bossing people around and saying no to things. In reality, a project manager brings big ideas to life and organizes tasks in a way that makes it possible for the team to get things done. This role helps people prioritize and keeps an eye on the big picture. It’s a thankless job but an important one, nonetheless.

When I first took on this role it took me a while to realize most people don’t think like I do. Motivated by enthusiasm and emotion, people tend to dive into exciting tasks without thinking about how it will go or when it should end. Then, when it becomes cumbersome and less fun…and other projects come up…it gets put aside, unfinished.

The people I’ve met at my workshops and speaking events are much the same. They get a great idea for a book and dive into writing with little (or no) regard to when they want to finish or how long it’s going to be. And then, when the project becomes messy or other ideas crop up…the great idea gets left behind on the hard drive, unfinished.

My goal is to help more people finish their big, exciting projects by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable and realistic steps. I hope this training has helped you! Please let me know how you fare.

By the way, my next live iteration of this workshop is June 13 to 15, 2019 at Write Canada.