If you’re not a fan of research, you’re not alone. But, you must do the right research to sell more books. You may feel stagnant spending hours researching something. You may prefer “doing” over researching.
But when it comes to writing a non-fiction book, research is a huge part of the doing.
I know. Research is unsexy.
But when it comes to self-publishing a book, research is well worth your time.
The only caveat is this: You must plan your research out ahead of time so that it doesn’t become a time-wasting trap. You don’t want to steal away precious writing time with inefficient, unorganized research.
The right research doesn’t just happen. It takes a plan.
Types of Research When Writing A Non-Fiction Book
When planning your book research, you want to research two things about your topic idea:
Its viability as a book for sale on Amazon
The actual subject matter of your topic
Research and Validate Your Topic Idea
One of the most common mistakes new authors make when self-publishing on Amazon is not researching their book topic based on Amazon’s algorithm. When you properly research your book topic instead of wishing and hoping, people find your book, and you set it up for success.
Research Amazon Best Sellers
Researching a viable book topic is all about tapping into what shoppers on Amazon are searching for.
A good starting point is to check out the Amazon Best Sellers. Here’s how: Do a Google search and type in Amazon Best Sellers. Then go to the Books category. Scroll through and see the different categories of what’s popular. This will give you a good idea of what’s popular and what’s trending to try to spark some creativity on what you might want to write about.
So, if you look under Business and Money the number one bestseller is often Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Then you can take it down to a specific category, such as investing. This will give you a very good picture of the topics that are actually selling. Keep moving down to more specific categories.
For example, if you go to Real Estate, you could then look at Job Hunting and Careers. Within each category, there are all kinds of sub-topics, so you can really drill down into some very specific areas. Keep going through this exercise to generate a list of ideas.
Use Research Tools
You can also choose to invest in a Kindle keyword software tool such as KDP Spy, Kindle Samurai or KDP Rocket. I personally use KDP Rocket. By using one of these tools, you can write a book knowing that there’s actual demand for your idea before you start writing. You can also see how competitive certain niches are and whether or not they’re worth your time.
When writing a non-fiction book, there are tricks to speeding up the process, as I talked about in Secrets To a Super Speedy First Draft. Doing the right research plays a big role in saving time. It helps you know what topics are worth your time. This will help you become more successful more quickly.
Your topic will also dictate the amount of research you’ll need and the length of your book. A highly technical topic will obviously require more research than a topic that’s based on your own personal experience. If you’re not sure how long your book should be, I talk more about that in the Ideal KDP Book Length for Non-Fiction.
Gather Credible Information for Your Topic Research
The second type of research is the actual content of your book. When performing this type of research, you want to have a system to organize all of your research. When writing a non-fiction book, you can interview past clients, other experts in your niche, or reference other books on your topic.
Put together a system where you can refer to all of this information in one central location. It can be in whatever format you like, in Google Docs, Evernote or Asana — whatever works for you. The point is to have a system to stay organized and a place to find what you need when you need it.
Use Primary Sources When Writing A Non-Fiction Book
It’s critical to consult trustworthy sources for your research, especially when writing a non-fiction book. You want to rely on primary sources as often as you can. That can be direct information about a topic in the form of eyewitness accounts, historical documents, statistical data, speeches, autobiographies, surveys, interviews, and letters, etc.
Remember, Wikipedia sources content from the public, which means it is not a primary source. Its information is not always 100% accurate. When writing a non-fiction book, do some preliminary reading to get more familiar with the information that’s available on your topic. Remember to read with your end goal in mind. While something might be intriguing or interesting, it might not be useful for your purposes.
Execute Your Research Plan
So when you’re writing a non-fiction book and the desire to research eludes you, think about these sage words from Ryan Holiday:
“Writing the perfect paper is a lot like a military operation. It takes discipline, foresight, research, strategy, and, if done right, ends in total victory.”
Remember, there is power in knowledge and information. When you validate your topic and include the right information, you will write a quality book that sets you up for success. So, do your research efficiently and expertly. Who knows? You may even learn to love it in the process.
What is the ideal KDP book-length when writing a non-fiction book? Is a long book better?
Many would-be authors worry that readers will not take a short book seriously. In fact, the average nonfiction book on Amazon is 10,000 words, which translates to 80 pages. Many of the misconceptions on the ideal book-length are leftover from outdated publishing industry standards. In years past, a thick book spine was the advertisement for the title on a bookstore shelf. It represented more shelf-space and made it more visible to shoppers. Not so today, especially when it comes to self-publishing. Most self-published books today appear online, and they get the same amount of listing space on Amazon as a 1200 page book.
Consider Writing A Series of Shorter Books
If you’re writing about a lengthy topic, you might want to think about breaking your topic down into a series of shorter books. Rather than spending many months writing one long book, you can write several short books over a period of time.
While there is no minimum or maximum length for self-publishing on Amazon, I personally recommend at least 10,000 words for non-fiction. That said, if you can cover the subject effectively with fewer words, do that. The point is, your book should provide the information the reader expects. No more, no less. Evaluate your book’s length based on your readers’ needs and the questions they’re asking. Don’t fill space just to have a certain number of words. Answer your readers’ most pressing questions and solve their immediate problems.
In the post, Secrets to A Speedy First Draft, I talked about my Note Card writing system for making your writing go much faster. If you followed that technique, go back to your stacks of note cards and see if you can organize them in different ways. Try to come up with a series of shorter book topics that you can self-publish on Amazon. For more tips, download my Faster Writing Cheat Sheet.
Consider How Length Impacts Your Printed Book
It’s important to realize there are some page restrictions for printing and binding a paperback book. When setting up your print file on KDP, Amazon will notify you if your book is not thick enough for the title to appear on the spine. Also remember, a large number of pages means higher printing costs. That means you would need to charge a higher price in order to make a profit.
Position Your Book For Kindle Short Reads
Amazon does not make all categories available to self-publishers. You’ll see a list of category selections when you first set up your book on Amazon, and you’ll notice the open categories will change from time to time. If you write a high-quality short book, Amazon may automatically place your book in a restricted category called Kindle Short Reads. This is a hidden category that you won’t see among the category choices when first uploading your book to KDP. A book is considered a Kindle Short Read if it takes the reader anywhere from 15 minutes up to 2 hours to finish it. The page count can go up to a hundred pages, or less.
Because this category isn’t open to everyone, it will have less competition. So, if you write a high-quality book that ranks in Kindle Short Reads, you may be able to target more categories, keywords and build a bigger audience more easily. When my books earned a spot in these categories, they ranked higher for certain keywords and categories. I wasn’t even aware Kindle Short Reads existed until the day I noticed my book was placed there, but I was happy to learn about it!
When writing your book, you can position your book to fit the Kindle Short Read parameters. Over time, if Amazon does not automatically place your short book in this category, contact Amazon Author Central and ask them to consider it as a Kindle Short Read. To do this, complete the Contact Us form on your Amazon Author Central Page. Make sure to include your ASIN (your book’s Amazon number) and specify if this request is for an ebook, paperback book, or both.
Set Your Target Number of Words
By setting a predetermined length for your book, you’ll write smarter. You’ll avoid wasting time. You won’t write more than necessary, and you’ll eliminate extraneous information. When you have an idea of how long you want your book to be, you’ll write faster and more efficiently. To learn more, watch my video tutorial below.
If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, the idea of writing a book can be overwhelming. You have a business to run, so you have precious little time to waste. For many busy people, just getting started and finishing the first draft is hard. The key is to have a plan and start writing as quickly as possible, so you can write your book faster. I’ve uncovered some secrets on how to write a super speedy first draft. I’ve used this technique on my published books, and it saves so much time. No more wasting time on the wrong things or staring at a blank computer screen.
I call it the Note Card Technique. To see it in action, watch my video tutorial below.
To get started, you’ll use 3×5 note cards to flush out your outline for your book topic. You’ll find that breaking the process down into smaller steps will be more doable and a lot less overwhelming.
Several packs of 3 by 5 notecards.
Colored pens (5 or 6 colors)
Step 1: Write One Word Per Card
To begin with, let’s look at how to brainstorm different ideas around the topic of gardening. On each card, write one word that comes to mind about the general topic. For example, you could write the word “soil” on a card. You could then write “seeds,” “tools”, etc. Continue writing each idea that comes to mind on the cards. You’ll just have one word on each card. Keep coming up with ideas and writing the words on the cards. Don’t stop. Don’t edit. This is just brainstorming.
Step 2: Create Subtopics For Each Word
Next, brainstorm subtopics for each of these words. Write each subtopic word on a separate card. Place those cards under the main word card. For instance, you’ll have a pile of cards for soil, a pile for seeds, and a pile for weather. To illustrate, let’s look at the topic, soil. Using a new colored pen, list different ideas about soil: soil for succulents, soil for vegetable gardening, soil for hot weather, soil for winter weather, etc. Write those subtopics on each card in different colors.
Next, take that pile of cards, put it aside. Go to the next pile and start working on a new pile. Eventually you’ll create separate piles of cards that will form your outline. As you move through the process, take each stack of cards and further develop your topic on the cards.
Step 3: Organize Your Ideas
Now, using all of your topics and subtopic cards, you can organize your ideas. You can move the cards around to develop your outline. Move the different subtopics around to organize your thoughts and ideas. In time, the stacks of cards will form the chapters of your book.
Step 4: Write From Your Cards
Meanwhile, grab one of the stacks of cards and move to another location in your room. Start writing out your ideas from those cards. Expand on the topics and subtopics to write each chapter. To make the process go even faster, there are a few ways you can use voice recognition. The first way is to speak everything into your phone using the Rev app, and then have it transcribed. The second way is to transcribe it yourself and speak everything into the voice recognition on your phone. I’ve found that using my phone keeps me from going directly to editing mode on my computer. In the early stages of the first draft, you want to keep the ideas flowing – so try to avoid your computer at this stage.
Step 5: Edit and Polish
Finally, think of the topics as a series of smaller articles assembled into one book. Each article then becomes a chapter. After you’ve organized the structure and expanded on each chapter, copy and paste all your work into a document on your computer. Once you have your first draft complete, you can begin the editing process.