Genres: Different types of Non-fiction books

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.

Academic books

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.

Journalism

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?

6 thoughts on “Genres: Different types of Non-fiction books”

  1. Raghavendra

    Exceptional work on the website Mr. Sameer, hats off.
    I read everything you wrote, which brings me to my question. According to you, which genre is the best for the present Indian market and are there any chances of publishing outside India? What are the steps to be taken to achieve that? Thank you again for taking the time.
    Regards

  2. Sameer Post Author

    Hi Raghavendra,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Coming back to your query. Let me flip it back and ask you – which genre do you excel in?

    Don’t worry about what genre is selling in India or abroad. It’s tough to time the market and ride the popularity wave by following the flavour of the season.

    This post may help: How to choose a genre for your book.

    You can publish outside India by following the same process that you would back home starting with the query letter.

  3. Kamna

    Hi Sameer, not sure if you are still following this thread.. the article was very helpful, thank you for that 🙂 I want to make a book on children activity + story book. what about the pictures and activities do I need to sketch it and color it as well.. not sure how to go about it. help pls 🙂

  4. Dechen Kezang

    This was really helpful. Thank you.
    I’ll be honest. I’m not a writer but I hope to be one, in the span of a few years at least. I am working on a ‘coming of age’ novel and I will probably be done in about another six months. I am actually Bhutanese, but the market there is still developing limbs. I was wondering, because I know nothing about the disparity among receptions of different writing styles in the Indian market. How is humour-styled fiction received here?

  5. Shreya Tiwari

    I’m a 15 year old girl and writes stories as well as poems but I want to get my stories published….what should I do….

  6. Sheldon Bass

    Good post topic. I did, however, chuckle a bit at your assessment of Academic books. It often takes a greater understanding of the human psyche’ (requires a relational person) to present this information in a manner palatable to the mind. Hence, the ability to connect to the reader’s interest bone, is, in my estimation, a must for academia. Yes, the syllabus and list of required reading in school left me wanting to either yawn or wretch. And yet, out in the real world where truly useful education occurs, I began finding books in this genre from writers who knew how to capture the imagination while delivering information in a memorable way. In short, there are good Academic books and there are poor ones. Our systems of education seem to just now be considering this. Finally. Kudos on creating a beneficial post.

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