5+1 Expert tips to pick your nonfiction book topic

According to a recent survey, 80% of adults have thought about writing a book at some point. But if you’re an aspiring book writer, the big question is: what do you write about? In fact, choosing your topic is arguably the first step in becoming an author. So, how do you choose your subject matter? At The Book Shelf, we’ve worked with over 500 nonfiction authors, so we’ll give you our top tips on topics.

#1 Know your goals 

As an aspiring writer, it’s important to know the reasons why you want to write a nonfiction book. If it’s just for fun, catharsis, or creative exploration, then your topic may be very different to a goal of making money, escaping the rat race, or building credibility in your industry. In the former case, the simple answer is write what brings you joy. If you’re writing a book purely for personal enjoyment, it really doesn’t matter whether anyone reads it. But if you want to gain an audience, you need a topic that interests them.

#2 Know your audience 

If you want to make money from your writing or gain benefits such as reputation or credibility, then it’s important to focus less on yourself as a writer and more on what your readers want. In essence, it’s not about writing what you want to write, but about writing what readers want to read. If you keep your reader in mind, it’s much easier to discover what you should write about.

#3 Know your skills 

Of course, that doesn’t mean writing about any topic that’s popular right now with readers. It means thinking about the areas where you can add value to your reader’s life, whether that’s through sharing information, a new approach, or specific skills. To do this, write a list of the things you know, love, and have experience of. What are you an expert in? What knowledge or skills can you offer the reader? Where can you add value to their life?

#4 Know the market 

The next step is researching those topics to see whether there’s a market for them. This might be doing keyword research, looking up questions on Quora, or checking out other books on the subject by scrolling through Amazon. The idea is to see whether readers are interested in this topic, whether the market is completely saturated, and what people are specifically asking about the subject. The more you know about the market, the more you can focus your book.

#5 Know which direction to go in 

Once you’ve done some research into the topics, you can start to whittle your list down to find your position in the market. Ideally, you want an area that isn’t totally saturated but has a decent search volume and level of interest. You want an area that’s specific but not so niche that no readers are likely to buy the book. Think of it like a see-saw; it’s about finding the balance between interest and uniqueness.

Final tip 

If you’re still not sure whether the topic is worth writing a book about, test the waters by answering questions on Quora about the topic or writing blogs on the subject, then measure the level of engagement and interest you get. If you’d like to talk to an expert about your nonfiction book idea and get specific tips and feedback to write your book, we offer consultancy calls. Get in touch and we’ll book you in.