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Self-Publishing Nonfiction: Your Ultimate Path to Freedom?

“Self-Publishing Nonfiction is not a consolation prize.”

Self-publishing nonfiction today is a recognized and legitimate way to become a published author. If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming an author, you may have also dreamt of garnering a publishing deal with a big advance.  It’s harder to get a publishing deal these days, and even harder to get paid a big advance. “Self-publishing your book is not a consolation prize,” stated Ink Authors founder Christine Whitmarsh.

The good news is that you can still fulfill your dream of becoming an author by writing nonfiction works such as business books, how-to guides, or self-help manuals. When writing nonfiction, an author has more freedom in the creative and marketing process.

Gone are the days when you need to go through hoops to get your work published. You can now have more control over the production and release of your non-fiction book by choosing the self-publishing route.


Why Traditional Publishing Sucks for Indie Authors

Aside from needing to aim for a Pulitzer-prize level of writing, indie authors face the uphill climb of finding a reputable publisher to approve their work. This can also take time- often as much as a year-long process to land a publishing deal.

And then there’s the problem of book length. When it comes to traditional publishing, 50,000 words is considered a “short” work. Normal, full-length books can range from 65,000 to 90,000 words long (while some can span as much as 150,000+ words). Self-published books, on the other hand, can be published with as little as 20,000 words! With your audience’s shrinking attention spans, shorter books can be more attractive.

Hence, it takes more time, energy, commitment, writing, editing, and sacrifice to produce any book the traditional way.

Then there is the issue of marketing and promoting your book. Many authors, especially first-timers, believe their publishing company is going to handle the book marketing and publicity. It can be a rude awakening to discover that the book promotion is up to the author for the most part. Should the book take off and begin selling, the publisher will then likely step-up promotional efforts for the book.


Nonfiction Self-Publishing Could Be Your Answer

If you have a business or practice that you’re trying to promote, self-publishing a nonfiction book is the fastest way to penetrate your niche and establish your expertise – with less publishing hassle involved.

Here’s why self-publishing for nonfiction can be your ultimate path to freedom:

  • It Gives You Instant Authority. While having a published book under your belt doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have cult worshippers bowing down at your feet, it does give you a certain air of legitimacy in your field. You can use this social proof to funnel your readers toward other aspects of your business, such as coaching, masterminds, memberships, courses, and other high-ticket offers.
  •  It Allows You to Receive Higher Royalties for Your Work. It is very common for traditionally published authors to receive only 7% to 10% royalties for each paperback copy sold. If you choose to self-publish nonfiction online, say through a popular platform like Kindle, you can earn as much as 70% from each copy sold. The royalties on print books will be less, as you must subtract the cost of printing from the sales price before you get paid.
  •  It Enables You to Access a Global Market. It takes a lot of effort, resources, time, and marketing to be recognized internationally as an author via traditional publishing. With self-publishing, however, you can publish and market your book globally from day one. Nowadays, there are no major barriers to producing your book. You can just sit down, write your manuscript for several weeks or months, edit it, have it formatted, and then upload it to any digital publishing platform.

You’ll need to meet platform guidelines, however, those are readily available online, or you can use a professional designer or book publishing consultant or company to guide you through the process. This is especially helpful for first-time authors, as the learning curve can be steep. The beauty of self-publishing is that you can choose the formats you want to publish your book in, including eBooks, paperbacks, hardcovers, and audiobooks.

But before we fast forward to the part where you publish your book both online and offline, let’s talk about getting that book done first.


Tips For Writing Your First Non-Fiction Book

Just how can you turn a seed of thought into a written piece of work? While the answer can be the subject of an entire book, here are some tips for getting started:

Start With a Problem You’d Like to Solve

The best thing about nonfiction is that you don’t need a lot of imagination to get started writing. No crazy storylines or shocking twists are required. All you need is a “seed” of an idea.

This seed of thought can be a solution to a problem that your audience faces. A lot of popular nonfiction business books solve basic human problems, such as how to be successful, lose weight, develop more intimate relationships, and many more. As an entrepreneur, coach, consultant, or business owner, you come across the challenges your clients and audience face every day- these can be the great basis for a book.

Take a closer look at your passion and profession. What problems do people in your field go through usually? Is there any wisdom or learning you wish somebody gave to you when starting out? Answering these questions will help you come up with an initial idea for your self-published book.

Perhaps you have a unique message or methodology you want to share with the world. A book is a great way to get your content out to a wide audience quickly, while also establishing your credibility as an expert. Readers will instantly assume you’re an expert on a topic when you write a book about it.

Expand Your Initial Book Idea and Break it Down into Chunks of Information

As you come up with an initial “seed of thought” as the basis for your book, it will be easier to break down this main idea into subtopics that are more detailed and in-depth. This is where your outlining skills will come in handy.

Remember the table of contents that you typically see in published books? Write something similar (except for page numbers of course), so you’ll have a clear visual representation of your book’s info structure. This will also create your writing roadmap, giving you a clear idea of the content you need to write for your book.

The selfpublishing blueprint podcast for nonfiction books

Want to know more about the process we use to consistently create bestselling authors?  Listen to our podcast The Self Publishing Blueprint


Decide Early on How the Draft Is Going to Be Written

Whether you think of yourself as a writer or not, and can clear the time to write, the best option is to write your manuscript. Remember, all successful writers use a great editor to polish their work before publishing it.

If you feel that speaking is your strong suit, you can dictate your book and turn that into a manuscript. You will need to edit it a bit more carefully to shape it into your manuscript and ensure that it reads like a book and not like it is a transcript.

If you feel like you want to, or can’t write your book, you can be the main source of ideas for the book but get a bit of help with the writing and editing. The bottom line is, you are still the author, but you can decide if you’re going to do it solo or with a team.

Ask yourself, “how do I plan to write each chapter of this book”? It takes some discipline and commitment to set aside time for actual writing on a daily or weekly basis. When it comes to getting a draft done, consistency is key.

Having the support of a writing coach, program or community can help keep you accountable and motivated, and keep you from feeling lonely or isolated as a writer.

Niche Down

A lot of writers shy away from “niching down” because they feel that they’ll get a smaller audience that way. The truth is, if you drill down to a more precise niche topic and audience segment in your field, you stand a higher chance of being seen as a thought leader.

In short, specialize instead of generalizing.

For example, instead of writing about weight loss, why not focus on a specific diet such as keto? If you’re writing a book about digital marketing, why not talk about ONE aspect of it such as SEO, social media marketing, or paid search?

Niching down allows you to give more precise, real-world information to your readers. It gives you more opportunities to express yourself, your experience, and your unique knowledge in your field.

Narrowing down your audience creates more engagement with your book. As an example, if you want to speak about getting funding for a business, the more specific you can target the specific stage a business is in, the more interested and engaged your audience will be.  Think startup vs. established business – they are at very different stages and will have different needs. By writing for a specific segment of your audience, you create more interest and sell more books. The startup will gravitate towards books on raising capital, whereas the established business may seek out books on government loans and business lines of credit.


Using Nonfiction Writing Prompts

Nonfiction writing prompts are mental markers or crutches you can use to get your creative juices flowing and come up with fresh ideas.

If you’re struggling with ideas for your next book, try the following non-fiction writing prompts:

Instructional Prompts for Nonfiction

  • Think about something you’re passionate about and have a reasonable amount of expertise in. Turn your knowledge into a bunch of “how-to” information that can then be expanded later into separate chapters.
  • Think about a personal experience that changed the way you see the world. What learnings and realizations did you garner from the experience? Use that as a seed idea for your book.
  • Think about a major problem you solved for a client and the mistakes you made while trying to solve that problem. Write a cautionary book that outlines your mistakes so people can avoid them (share what worked and didn’t work).

Informative Prompts for Nonfiction

  • Interview companies about how they handle a topic or use a tool. You can share a series of case studies that illustrate various uses. Turn these into a book. Here’s an example: “The History of Email, How 8 Companies Used Email to Engage Customers and Double Their Profits.”
  • Research little-known facts and information nuggets about a popular industry. Turn these ideas into a book. Here’s an example: “7 Things You Didn’t Know About Keto Diets”.

Story-Based Prompts for Nonfiction

  • Write a series of personal stories that have a common theme between them. For example, if you’re writing a book about money management, collect several stories from your personal experience that teach lessons about how to manage money.
  • Write a chapter that relives a harsh or difficult time in your life. The story should show your vulnerability but also demonstrate how you pursued what you wanted to achieve despite the setbacks.

Non-fiction writing prompts help a lot if you hit a wall in your writing and have run out of ideas. You can use them before, during, and even after the development of your manuscript.

There are hundreds of non-fiction writing prompts you can use (which obviously can’t fit in this short blog). Once you jumpstart your creativity with them, there’s no stopping your ideas as they begin to flow. Now, make sure to refer back to your Table of Contents to ensure that these ideas fit into your outline, or modify it to include these new ideas.


Best Self-Publishing Companies

Self-publishing can be done for both nonfiction and fiction books. The option you choose will depend on your goals for publishing, as well as the budget you have.

If you want to enter your market as fast as you can with as little cost as possible, it is best to try the online self-publishing route using the following platforms:

Best Self-Publishing Companies for eBooks

► Amazon Kindle (also known as Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP

As of 2022, there are 48.5 million active books in the Amazon Kindle marketplace, many of which are from authors with no physical copies of their books. You can compete with established authors in your niche through the Kindle marketplace.

Amazon Kindle has leveled the playing field a little bit by removing the barriers to getting your book accepted by publishers. You can directly upload your finished manuscript on Kindle Direct Publishing for free and with a relatively easier approval process. You may also promote it for free by sharing your book link via blogs or social media.

The main drawback with KDP is that higher-priced books don’t sell as much. To qualify for 70% royalties, your book’s price must be within the $2.99 to $9.99 range.

Apple Books

Though not as widely read as Amazon, Apple Books has maintained a solid level of readership in the past several years. Uploading on this platform is free, and 70% royalties can be earned on most books.


Rakuten Kobo is one of the big names in self-publishing and is a perfect option for you if you want to tap into international audiences. Kobo has a strong reach outside the United States. Its self-publishing arm, Kobo Writing Life, is user-friendly and easy to use.

Kobo pays 70% royalties on digital books priced above $2.99 and 45% for those priced below $.299. Uploading to the platform is free.


Self-Publishing for Physical Books

Self-publishing works if you prefer to have eBooks or physically printed copies of your book; we recommend you publish in both formats. After all, nothing beats the smell of books straight off the press. A printed book has more value to some readers because they can touch, feel, interact with, and take it anywhere they want. Hence, you should not dismiss the idea of printing “real” books.

If you prefer to go this route, you may check out these self-publishing platforms:

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP

In addition to eBooks, KDP offers the ability to publish print books in both paperback and hardcover. Once you set up one version of your book in the KDP platform, it will clone the information to any other format you select, making it easy to publish in multiple formats. As a print-on-demand publisher, you can use them to print, sell, and distribute your books. As an author, you can order copies at cost from KDP.

Barnes & Noble Press

Barnes & Noble Press provides the tools to self-publish and self-promote your physical and digital books (ebooks). They offer high-quality paperback or hardcover prints that can be delivered to your door within 10 days of ordering.

You may also estimate the costs of printing in advance by using the Book Printing Costs calculator on their website.


Aside from distributing eBook and audiobook formats, PublishDrive also offers print-on-demand services. This means you can print physical copies of your books in small quantities as needed.

Not ready to shell out funds for printing tens of thousands of copies? Try PublishDrive’s print-on-demand services to publish a small number of book copies. The best thing is, there is no minimum limit required to print.


So, Is Nonfiction Self-Publishing Your Path to Freedom?

Yes, it can be. But just like any field of endeavor, you need to approach it with persistence, focus, and consistency. Self-publishing has eliminated many of the barriers usually associated with book publishing. But this doesn’t mean that it is a mere walk in the park. There can be a steep learning curve and it can seem very confusing for first-time authors.

The benefits of self-publishing your nonfiction book are:

  • Ownership and control of your Intellectual Property – you get to decide on what formats to publish your book in
  • Speed to market – no waiting for a publisher to say yes to your idea… write, edit, design and publish
  • Keep 100% of royalties – minus the cut retailers like Amazon, B & N take
  • Control and final say – you select the title, content design, and every aspect of your book


This blog is committed to providing you with tools, resources, and useful information that will help you make it big in the non-fiction industry. With the huge upside of self-publishing, success is yours for the taking.

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