write a nonfiction book series

How to Plan and Write a Nonfiction Book Series

Even though I’ve been writing books for 12 years, a distinct lack of planning has held me back. What about you? Can you discipline yourself to research, plan and write a nonfiction book series?

I’m a non-expert who writes—and self-publishes—how-to books on money, freelancing, and marketing. So, if I can have a minor success in these varying topics, you experts out there can definitely write on your key topics and achieve a lifelong ambition.

When planning, don’t stop at just one book. Plan for example a trio on varied angles FOR THE SAME AUDIENCE. The titles don’t have to be set in stone, but it’s good if they follow the same vein… like:

How to Start… or Create your… or

XXX Marketing for XXXX Business or Savvy Secrets for…..

merchandise your nonfiction book series
What about Book Merchandise? So cool.

Always research thoroughly (using Amazon and Goodreads) on the preferred book title. You don’t want to compete with a bestseller of the same title (but don’t worry about a nondescript one).

Sometimes you learn from the first book that, say, the practical approach doesn’t work and you need to get to the emotional side and write a self-help book. No problem, you can still change tack, as long as you are uncovering your readers’ needs and desires and writing for that.


You can write a self-help book, a cookbook, a travel story, a window into another culture, a nutrition guide, a teacher’s handbook, an artist method, a gastronomic tale, a birthing approach, a dog handling book, a yoga handbook, a health and fitness book, a sales tips book, or a guide on productivity and lifestyle, to just name a few.

A Book Series Starting Point

The naming of a nonfiction book series is certainly the easiest bit. However, as years drift by, you might forget that you created a series name, angle and look, and proceed to get a cover designed all over again. (Ahem, like me).

So, ensure you get the BOOK COVER DESIGNS done in advance, all ready in Adobe Indesign or Photoshop, for a future designer to plop the awesome new title and blurb into. This will also be a cheaper and faster process. You should retain the native file… (meaning the file that belongs to the original program, not the PDF).

Types of Writing Research

Participant-Observer research

For travel, food, and adventure writing, Participant-Observer research is ideal. This means you’ll be taking part in the activity, noting your reactions, noting the setting, and observing the behaviour of others. Anecdotes you hear will also form a part of this and add to the colour.

Analysis and Literature Research

Collecting facts about a topic or place and then analysing them through the filter of your genre/category and audience is a crucial skill. It is best if you try to remain objective while collecting these facts before studied consideration. There are times though when you’ll need to be subjective.

Some writers trained in journalism stick like glue to the objective, non-biased viewpoint. But what could you be missing out by not including your own anecdotes and the colour of a blissful experience? 

Writers can get confused around viewpoints (1st person, 2nd person, etc). If this is you, see further reading: https://writerswrite.co.za/4-types-viewpoint-consider-short-stories/

On the other hand, topics like personal finance require up-to-date, unbiased information from proven sources like ASIC Moneysmart, Scamwatch, the ASX, and some balanced views of well-known commentators. Therefore, your observations have to mould around the theories and facts already in the world.

Literature research takes time but is vital. Image: Unsplash.

In any case, secondary literature research is usually vital for factual books. This can include journal articles, traditionally published books, related memoirs, and notable magazine articles.

Trying to rely on blog posts online is tricky; only resort to this if the source is a vocal leader in your niche (e.g. Naomi Simson, Andrew Banks, Michael Hyatt) and/or you cannot find any other peer-reviewed sources.

Are you like me and tend to get carried away, wanting to highlight many great people’s ideas…? But then the book might lose the context and impact of what we are saying (as well as treading on copyright infringement). Another way to make your nonfiction writing interesting is by using 1st person anecdotes and case studies/anecdotes of others.

Invite some of your peers or clients for an interview and (with permission of course) try to lever a story from them that will give life and colour to your chapter.

Using Stories in Book Writing

For How to Start a Freelance Business, I put a call-out on SourceBottle.com.au for freelancers with an observation about their humble beginnings. From several replies, I chose two detailed anecdotes in their own words (edited), with attribution. These slotted in nicely to provide support to what I wrote in that chapter.

People don’t just want to read the golden, glossy version of your self-help treatise or how to book. They want the raw emotions and key observations of your “before” picture. This creates an empathic bond that can take them on a ride with you throughout the book.

Remember, you can’t bore people into changing. So get rid of any repetitive, boring words with this handy guide (external link).

What is your biggest takeaway from this post on How to Plan and Write a Nonfiction Book Series?

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