Earlier, we had covered why non-fiction sells better than fiction. After reading it, if you’ve been wondering whether there are any non-fiction genres where you can make a mark, this post should help. It provides a short introduction to the different types of non-fiction books that you can write. Find out which one you are most qualified to take up.
Different types of non-fiction books
In some of the categories, we are combining several independent genres for brevity.
Biography / Autobiography / Memoirs
If you are reading this post, chances are you are just starting your publishing journey. So publishers wouldn’t be chasing you yet to publish your story (i.e. autobiography). But writing a biography (someone else’s life story) is definitely an option.
If you know successful people who’ve made a mark in their sphere of work, and you have the writing skills to make their story come to life, then you should consider writing a biography book or memoirs of someone who led a life that readers would find interesting. The big advantage is that the person you are writing about is famous (even if you aren’t) and that can sell your book.
Think about all the books you read in school, college. You had no choice in choosing what you read, did you? Whether it was related to science, arts, engineering, medical, maths or any other discipline, the educational institution dictated the syllabus and the recommended text books. All you had to do was meekly follow instructions.
Across other schools and colleges, hundreds of thousands of students did exactly the same. Imagine the number of copies sold for those books. Not all academic books find their way into the mandatory reading category though. There are publishers (like Tata McGraw Hill) that primarily focus on academic books.
Guides / Manuals / Handbooks / Technical books
If you don’t particularly like dealing with people – whether it’s in real life or in books – here’s a nice comfy zone for you to explore. No characterisation. No ambience setting. No plots. But a whole of instructions on accomplishing a particular task or comprehensive information about a particular topic.
Generally used as a source of reference, you’ll find these books in offices, hospitals, libraries and homes as well. Unfortunately, real people will buy and read your work. So, I guess there’s no escape. You will need to have an insight of how people think and work, so you can write the manuals in a way that’s appropriate for human consumption.
Real life can often be stranger than fiction. And it takes a special type of skill to report news in its myriad forms (events, analysis, information) in a way that makes it interesting to a niche or mainstream audience. Though audio visual journalism has exploded over the last few decades, the original form of journalism (writing) still constitutes the biggest chunk.
With the explosive growth in the internet, the traditional model of print journalism is being supplemented with online journalism where the rules of the game (in gathering, packaging and disseminating journalistic content) are constantly evolving. We have covered many aspects, related to careers in Journalism, in a separate series.
Travelogues / Travel Literature
This can take many forms. Travel journals / logs are the more formal form of literature that travellers create during the journey. This may be either to educate others who might be interested in treading the similar paths or to support themselves (i.e. helps in meeting their own travel expenses).
Travel writing can also take the form of tour guide books. Then there’s travel fiction, which might draw about factual journeys, but it could include aspects of creative writing.
Self-help / Self-improvement
Another genre that rakes in the big money. Everyone has problems. And many of them are looking for ways to tackle those. There are very few who can afford expensive personal advisors. For the vast majority, books are an easier, cheaper and more accessible way to tap into the wisdom of experts, in the comfort of their homes.
If you consider yourself an expert in any area (where it’s public speaking, time management, inter-personal skills, anger management), and you’ve already been sharing it with friends, family and colleagues, you could take it to the next level.
Write a self-help book and make a bigger impact. Change lives. Change the world. And yeah, make some decent money too. It could also launch or boost your career as a guest speaker, coach and consultant.
Are there any other important non-fiction genres that we haven’t listed here? Do you think any of these would interest you? Let us know in the comments?