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What Genre Is My Book?

A few weeks ago, I was asked what I do for a living. When I said, ‘I’m an author,’ the gentleman said, ‘Oh, what do you write? Crime?’  ‘No, romantic comedies.’  ‘What, like Dame Barbara Cartland?’  ‘Er, no. She wrote historical romance.’  ‘So not like that E. L. James either then?’  ‘No. She writes erotica.’  He looked disappointed by this and sloped off, presumably to go and lose himself in a gritty murder or a rampant bodice-ripper.  What is a Book Genre? So what genre is your book and how would you describe it?  In simplistic terms, a genre is the category or style of a book - for example, romance, crime or horror. It comes from the French word, for ‘type.’ In essence, it describes the type of story being told.  There are many book genres, ranging from dystopian to horror (more on that soon) but two of the most popular book genres, in terms of sales figures right now, are romance and crime.  Bestselling names in the romance genre include authors such as Danielle Steele and Sophie Kinsella, whilst for crime, authors such as Ian Rankin and Martina Cole reign supreme.  Romance has an enduring, escapist appeal and has seen a huge variety of its authors and titles consistently topping the bestseller charts for a number of years. The tales of love overcoming adversity, sometimes whilst in sun-soaked climates, set in sprawling castles or with a good dose of humour, continue to enchant and enthral readers of all ages and from a wide demographic. Romance Subgenres But, to make things more complicated, there are also subgenres within each genre. As my Cartland vs E. L. James example shows above, just because there’s a lot of kissing in two different books doesn’t mean the reader is going to get the same kind of romance in both. So, when looking at genre, it’s important to also consider subgenres. In romance, the subgenres are plenty – often crossing over into other genres:  Romantic comedyParanormal romance Fantasy romance Queer romance Christian romance Young adult romance New adult romance Historical romance Regency romance Contemporary romance Erotic romance Romanic suspense  The list goes on…and, much like love itself, there’s something for everyone.  Crime Subgenres But readers, and authors, don’t always stick to enjoying just one genre. As I’m an author of romantic comedies, you won’t be surprised to learn that romance is my favourite genre, but I am in no way adverse to any others. I have just finished reading The Affair by Hilary Boyd, an often dark thriller about a married woman having an affair, who then finds that her ex-lover begins to stalk her.  As most writers know, reading across all genres helps hone your craft enormously.  In recent times, crime and thriller novels have seen a huge resurgence in popularity. Perhaps due to the odd times we are living in, it is the appeal of good triumphing over evil and justice prevailing, which explains why so many readers are keen to lose themselves amongst their pages.  Cosy crime, described as a gentler form of the crime genre, has also seen a massive rise in readership in recent times. Authors like Richard Osman and M.C Beaton are hugely popular in this book category.   Let’s look at some more crime and thriller subgenres:  Cosy mysteries Classic detective/PI Police procedural Hard-boiled crime Thrillers (legal, medical, forensic, military) Suspense thriller Psychological thriller  Book Genre List There are frequent debates as to how many different book genres exist. During my research for this article, I read claims that there were approximately thirty-five varying book genres, whilst other articles insisted there were around fifty.   I have therefore pulled together a book genre list (excluding subgenres) which I consider to be the most prominent ones – with some details as to how they may be defined. Fantasy Categorised by works including elements of magic or the supernatural. This can encompass high fantasy, like Tolkien\'s Lord of the Rings and George R.R. Martin\'s Game of Thrones, or magical children’s books, like Rowling\'s Harry Potter. But it also includes steamy novels like the fae-filled series A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Sci-Fi Sci-fi stands for ‘science fiction,’ meaning it looks at outer worlds with a heavy leaning towards space, technology and science. Think aliens, time-travel or exploration to other planets. This includes anything from Star Wars to Ernest Cline\'s Ready, Player One. Speculative Fiction This can encompass all the above – basically anything with a twist of magic – but can also include fabulism and magical realism. That’s to say stories based in our world (past or present) with a hint of magic. Think Chocolat by Joanne Harris, or The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow. Horror When you say ‘horror book’ most people think of Stephen King – for good reason. Horror is known for its frightening, often graphic, elements and paranormal elements. Anything from The Shining to The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells. A subgenre of this is Gothic books, such as the classics Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and Brontë\'s Wuthering Heights – think eerie and spooky, more than blood, guts and monsters.  Mystery Fiction that includes a mysterious occurrence and a gripping plot to be solved. This can include a good old-fashioned Agatha Christie ‘whodunnit’, or bestselling novels like Flynn\'s Gone Girl.  Crime Stories that incorporate a crime being committed and illustrate the protagonist’s struggle to solve it. Think Lee Child, P. D. James, and Martina Cole.  Historical Books defined by a time period from the past. Fictional stories based in a historical setting such as the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn or Gabaldon\'s romantic Outlander novels set in eighteenth century Scotland. Or many of the books by Tracey Chevalier or Philippa Gregory.  Thriller A step up from Mystery, more edge-of-your-seat stuff, this fiction is often charged with lots of excitement. For example, a life-or-death scenario, huge stakes, cliff-hangers and action. Think of all of Dan Brown’s books, or modern classics such as Hawkins\' Girl on the Train or Larsson\'s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Western Fiction focusing on the American Frontier. Genre usually set in latter 19th and early 20th century, centred around the lives of cowboys and gunfighters. Although more modern stories, such as Proulx\'s Brokeback Mountain (as the tale of two cowboys falling in love set against the backdrop of bigotry and judgement) was a huge hit when it won the National Magazine Award for Fiction in 1998, and then went on to become a Hollywood blockbuster.  Romance Romantic relationships are at the heart of this genre (if you’ll pardon the pun!) Stories may follow various tropes including star-crossed lovers, love triangles, unlikely lovers, and soulmates. As we saw earlier, it can reflect anything from Me Before You by Jojo Moyes to Jackie Collins\' works. Erotica Fiction designed to arouse the reader with explicit sexual scenes and imagery. The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy was the highest grossing book series of the last decade.  Dystopian Part of the science-fiction genre, dystopian novels usually describe a frightening aspect of the future, such as oppressive governments. Think Sweeney-Baird\'s The End of Men, Atwood\'s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Mandel\'s Station Eleven. Literary Literary fiction concentrates on real-life issues and, unlike commercial fiction which is plot-driven, this form of storytelling is a lot more character-driven. It also often has a more complicated or convoluted story structure, using a more complex vocabulary. Sally Rooney has had great acclaim in this genre with her books Conversations With Friends, Normal People, and Beautiful World, Where Are You.  Children\'s Fiction This is a broad subject that includes everything from picture and board books for very young children, through to Middle Grade and Young Adult. Classic Middle Grade authors would include Roald Dahl, and more contemporary novels would include Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Sophie Anderson\'s The House With Chicken Legs, and The boy At The Back Of The Class by Onjali Q. Raúf. These books are written predominantly for 9-12 year olds, and often cover important life lessons.   Likewise, Young Adult (for 13-18 year olds) is very varied in style, themes and content, and includes books such as Angie Thomas\' The Hate You Give, Suzanne Collins\' The Hunger Games, and They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera.  Why is Genre Important? You might ask yourself whether the question of book genre really matters. Surely it’s the plot and characters that are important, not the category?   Well, genre does matter as it acts like a building block to establish where your book will sit in the market and what readership it’s likely to attract.  By having an awareness of what genre your book is, you’re able to carve out not only your own unique voice, but also an audience who enjoys reading that genre of novel. You are enabling your readers to identify your book as one which they will enjoy reading.   Being able to neatly categorise your book into a particular genre means you’re creating a strong author brand in a genre where other authors have already established themselves. You’re creating a foundation for (hopefully) solid book sales and letting agents, editors, booksellers, and readers know what to expect from your work.  For a book to therefore become successful, the writer, reader and marketer must all possess the same vision and understanding of what the story is and how it’s being told.  Agents and Editors It also makes prudent sense to have identified what book genre your novel is, when the time comes for you to pitch to agents and publishers. Targeting the right publisher and agent for your work, via the genres they publish and represent, means that you will be giving yourself the best possible chance of achieving representation and publication.   I once read a great quote from an agent who said, ‘Imagine yourself in a lift with the agent of your dreams. You have ten seconds to pitch your latest novel to them before they get out. How would you describe it to them?’ This elevator hook or pitch should draw in the agent, enticing them to ask for your manuscript. It would also, if it has done its job properly, give them an idea of where your book would sit alongside their current authors and in the market generally.  For instance - sending your completed manuscript to an agent who represents science fiction, when you have penned a rollercoaster 110k word espionage tale, is a waste of not only your time, but also that of the agent.  Booksellers and Librarians When someone is looking for a book, the first thing they do is head for the shelves categorised by genre. If the genre of your book isn’t clear, and it’s wrongly categorised, then it won’t reach your ideal market. Your Readers Establishing an author platform in the book genre you write in means you stand a good chance of readers of that genre returning for more. It’s therefore essential to create a certain anticipation in your prospective readership, so they know what they can expect from you. This is why authors often write in just one genre – and don’t spread out into others without either waiting to become very established or writing under a number of pseudonyms.  How to Identify the Genre of Your Book To increase your novel’s chances of success, you, as the author, together with your publisher, agent and marketing team, should have a certain expectation as to where your book will fit into the market.  Where do you imagine your novel sitting on the shelf in a library or in a book store? Which other authors would it sit comfortably beside? Is it a heart-warming romantic comedy, in the vein of Jenny Colgan and Trisha Ashley, or a political thriller similar to that of Ken Follet and Jeffrey Archer?  Book genres often cause a degree of heated discussion amongst the writing, reading, publishing and agenting communities.  Everyone, to a greater or lesser degree, has a different idea of what each genre represents. The question of what each genre should carry, can elicit strong feelings, not to mention very differing views. Even book covers in particular genres can cause much debate about their style and substance. How often have you read quotes on the cover of books which have said things like, ‘For readers who love Maeve Binchy’ or ‘For fans of Stephen King?’ This is a publisher communicating a book’s genre to its readership.  This is a clever marketing tool, designed to appeal to the loyal readers of these authors, that your novel is in the same book genre as these giants of commercial fiction and therefore they would enjoy yours too. The most important thing is that you, your agent and editor agree (or, if you are self-published, you are consistent with your marketing). So, How Can You Define the Genre of the Book You\'re Writing? My advice would be:  Read a lot of books and see what elements are featured, and which chime with yours. Familiarise yourself with the book genre options out there and how they relate to your book. Identify the genre elements that are contained within your novel. How do they reflect those? Pull together a short list of potential genres and also subgenres. How does your novel compare with others in those categories? Concentrate on the most relevant genre/subgenre for your book. Think about the audience of the books that you enjoy reading in your favourite genre. Are they the same readers who you think would enjoy your book?  Check out book genre labels which are often featured for each of the different book genres for Kindle reads. Do any of these relate to what you are writing? For example, words such as ‘dark’ and ‘conspiracy’ are often applied to books in the Thriller genre.   Remember, you’re not trying to explain the entirety of your book, you’re trying to advertise its aesthetic. You are aiming to create a similar air of anticipation amongst the book-buying public, so that they too will be drawn to your novel.  Once you have done that, take a look at your own book and ensure your writing style, characters, and plot stick to one (at most, two, genres). For instance, if your spy is getting more action in the sheets than the streets, ask yourself whether you are really writing a spy thriller – or a spy romance novel. Then amend accordingly.  Determine Your Genre Nailing the genre of your book is not the most important element of your writing journey – at least not to begin with.   However, the importance of identifying the most appropriate genre and subgenre of your book, should not be underestimated. Finding that commercial aspect to your writing and to your novels is crucial, if you are to identify a reading audience for your book and appeal to their reading tastes – not to mention hook the right agent and editor.  So, have a clear genre (and audience) in mind when you start plotting and writing, and make sure you don’t veer too much into too many other styles and categories. It’s the first step to ensuring your readers will one day find your book and savour every page – no matter which genre it ultimately finds a home in!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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A Guide on Writing Memoirs or Autofiction

A Guide on Writing Memoirs or Autofiction Many people have lives that would make incredible stories, yet it can be difficult to figure out how to unpick that life and set it on the page. How do you write a memoir? And is memoir the only option?   In this article I will be walking you through different ways to write your life story and offering tips to help you get started and narrow your focus.  What is a Memoir? A memoir is a first-person account of someone’s nonfictional life story that uses the techniques and crafts of fiction to make it a page-turning read. The word comes from the French word for “memory” or “reminiscence.”   The promise to the reader is that whatever is inside is as true as the author can make it. Of course, writing your exact memories is challenging as very few of us have photographic memories. Readers will forgive small fictions, like writing out a conversation verbatim when you only remember the jist of what was said, but not larger ones.   There are plenty of examples of authors who made up memoirs. The best known one in recent years was James Frey in A Million Little Pieces. Readers felt betrayed and angry because the author had broken the pact and the promise. However, if you still want to use a kernel of the truth but not be beholden to it, read on to learn more about autofiction and other options. Do Memoirs Sell? Memoirs are incredibly popular, especially in the age of COVID. Some recent examples are the Obamas’ memoirs: A Promised Land was 2020’s bestselling book (2.4 million copies in one year alone) and Becoming was also an extraordinary bestseller (came out in 2018 and has sold 3.4 million as of the end of 2020). Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime (2016) provides an interesting and heart-breaking account of race in South Africa as he recounts his life with his signature humour.   I don’t know about you, but I am unlikely to ever become President of the United States and have people desperate to know my story. Luckily, people are also hungry for stories from people who haven’t brushed fame or become public figures. This is evidenced by memoirs such as Educated (2018) by Tara Westover. Her memoir’s about growing up as a fundamentalist Mormon and her quest for education—her first day of school was university at Brigham Young when she was a teenager. Maid (2019) by Stephanie Land is about an impoverished white woman cleaning the houses of the ultra-rich. The Glass Castle (2005) by Jeannette Walls, is about her eccentric, nomadic upbringing and her troubled father’s dream of a better life. Roxane Gay’s Hunger (2017) focuses on her relationship with food and her body, as informed by trauma. Many of these have also been adapted into TV shows or films, showcasing memoirs have massive crossover appeal.  Memoir vs Autobiography (and other options) Memoir is part of a spectrum from narrative nonfiction to fiction inspired by fact. You might realise, once you start working on your story, that there are gaps in knowledge that have been lost to time. Or perhaps you’d like to weave several generations together, which of course moves it away from your own lived, first-person experience.   Many people ask, ‘are memoirs nonfiction?’ The answer is yes…and no. Let’s take a look at how flexible written memories, and this genre, can be.  Memoir As we said, memoir aims to be true with small liberties. It rarely starts with your birth and tells the story in a straight As we said, memoir aims to be true with small liberties. It rarely starts with your birth and you telling the story in a straight line, ending with however old you are when you finish writing it. For example, Mary Karr has written three memoirs: The Liar’s Club (1995), which focuses mostly on her childhood, Cherry (2000), which focused more on her late adolescence and blooming sexuality, and Lit (2009), which focuses on her journey of faith and her divorce. Trying to focus on all three of those in one book would have been too much and they wouldn’t have had the space to be as hard-hitting. There is also nearly 15 years’ difference from the first memoir she wrote and the last—the memoir is a snapshot of the writer as much as the contents of the book, as the tone is affected by the author’s age and experience.  Autobiography  Autobiography, by contrast, does tend to be more linear. The author here functions more as a historian. It tends to be less intimate, more expansive. There’s less room to zoom in on certain moments and it can feel more of a summary of a life. This is useful if you want to know what, say, Benjamin Franklin, Malcom X, Nelson Mandela, or Agatha Christie thought about their own lives, but autobiographies are less common for people who aren’t public figures.  Autofiction If you realise that there’s no way to tell the story in a compelling way while remaining fully married to truth, or the truth is unknowable, you may consider autofiction.   There has been a lot of discussion of the ethics of writing fiction based on truth, particularly if the subject has not been made aware (just fall down the rabbit hole of “Cat People” or “Kidneygate / The Bad Art Friend” to see discussions on this). Autofiction still focuses on yourself but gives the story the opportunity to come alive in a different way. You can even write it in third person, if you wish. You can change timelines more dramatically or add characters or subplots who are amalgamations or completely fictive. Because you haven’t promised it’s a straight memoir, readers are fine with this.   On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019) by Ocean Vuong is a great example of autofiction — the main character, Little Dog, is a Vietnamese refugee living in America, writing a letter to his illiterate mother he knows she will never read. Vuong is also a gay Vietnamese refugee, and his mother does not read English or Vietnamese. The story delves into his grandmother and mother’s stories in third person, as well as his own, yet crucially it’s sold as fiction and he doesn’t give us a detailed post-mortem of what is or isn’t true.   Other well-known autofiction authors include James Baldwin, Ben Lerner, Rachel Cusk, Tao Lin, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and more. This is sometimes also called the autobiographical novel, with ‘novel’ signalling that it’s leaning heavily into the fictional side. Autobiografiction And to make things slightly more confusing, there’s also the term autobiografiction, which combines autobiography, fiction, and essay. Stephen Reynolds coined the term in 1906 and describes it as a “record of real spiritual experiences strung on a credible but more or less fictitious autobiographical narrative.” It’s often published anonymously or under a pseudonym, and many queer people used this form to express themselves in times of oppression. It’s not as common a term and tends to be lumped with autofiction: indeed, you could make an argument that Vuong’s book falls more into this category in some respects as there are essays within it.   So, now - the nitty gritty. How do you get started on your project based on truth?  Tips for Writing a Memoir (or Autofiction) Start Researching Now – and Beware the Skeletons Even if you don’t think you’ll start writing your memoir for a while, start gathering information as soon as you can. Depending on the project: sign up for a trial of, interview your family members, start journaling about your memories, look up articles in, flip through photo albums or belongings, request court or other official documents.   It’s so easy for these things to become lost, or for us to tragically lose those close to us, taking their memories with them. You might also have to prepare yourself for more secrets potentially coming to light. You might need to have a discussion with how family members might feel about sharing the truth. Yvette Gentile and Rasha Pecoraro discovered this when they started properly digging into everything for their podcast Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia (2019). The TV adaption I Am the Night (2019), starring Chris Pine, added an entirely fictive noir subplot to make it more dramatic on the screen.  What’s Your Promise to the Reader? How fictional do you plan to be? You don’t necessarily need to know immediately but notice if you start to shift further away from the facts.   This happened with my current project: it focuses on three generations, so I knew it would always have an element of fiction since my grandmother died before I was born, so I can’t exactly ask her how she felt about any of the facts we know. My mother also wrote her sections and I edited over them, and we made-up certain details or massaged timelines so the scene was more evocative. Each draft has had it depart more from the truth and become its own entity. I felt conflicted about this before I realised that my goal is to use the truth as a jumping off point. I don’t actually owe the reader the truth; I owe them a good story. For me, it was more freeing, and I also knew I’d feel less exposed if the project is ever published.   This brings me to:  Check in With Your Mental Health I barrelled right into my project, thinking I was ready. From a craft standpoint, I was – but not from a mental standpoint.   If you are still processing your trauma, you might consider some therapy first, so you are better protected if you have to delve into some painful memories. Remember: it’s all right to take a break and come back, and it also might still be challenging once you return.   As Mary Karr says in her 2015 how-to The Art of Memoir (highly recommended!): “I’ve said it’s hard. Here’s how hard: everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.” Focus on Experiences and Emotions Whether memoir or autofiction, your reader wants to experience what it was like to be you or this version of you. You might find you’re tempted to relay the information quite factually, but it may read cold. This is fine for the first draft as you focus on story, but when you edit, focus on making it come alive.   Don’t Attempt to Cover Your Whole Life As mentioned, there won’t be room. Think of those touchstones, the main themes you wish to draw out and examine. Again, it might take you a while to hone in on this. That’s all right, as long as you’re willing to set aside writing that doesn’t serve your overall purpose. Save it for another book, potentially! Engage the Reader from the Beginning One thing I found in my previous draft was the opening was too slow and needed a clearer hook. Read the openings of some memoirs and notice how they draw the reader in. And of course…  Read a Lot of Memoirs and Autofiction & Examine Form I’ve recommended a large selection of creative memoir novels I’ve enjoyed in this article, but there are so many more incredible ones out there. The bestseller charts on Amazon are a good place to start (though do consider ordering from an independent bookstore!). Some are even written in innovative and experimental styles, such as In the Dream House (2019) by Carmen Maria Machado. Reading a lot of memoirs or autofiction might give you some ideas on how you can lay out your story.  Think About Tone For some projects, humour might work very well (Trevor Noah, Mary Karr, Caitlin Moran). For others, it might be horribly jarring, and you should consider a more sombre tone. Experiment with this until you find the right voice and approach.  Remember Your Reader You, of course, have no idea who is reading your work once it’s out there. But memoirs have a common theme: they all seem to focus on making sense of the past to inform our present. With a lot focus on healing and letting go, these can be cathartic for both the writer and the reader. That’s the magic of memoir: your book may save your readers without them knowing they had a void that needed filling.   I hope this article has helped you consider how you might start thinking about writing your memoir, or whether taking a more autofictional approach works better. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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A Complete Guide to the Different Genres of Nonfiction

You have decided you want to write a nonfiction book, but what’s next?  While some readers may lump all nonfiction books into one category, authors should understand there are numerous genres that nonfiction falls into. Nonfiction genres are not one-size-fits-all and determining which area your book belongs is important when pitching, selling and promoting! In this article I will be walking you through these various genres along with nonfiction examples to help you correctly label your book. What is Nonfiction? Nonfiction is any literary work that is fact-based, intended to present true events and information as accurately as possible. Fiction, on the other hand, are narratives that are drawn from the imagination. Nonfiction books focus on what is real. While narrative nonfiction is presented as a story versus expository nonfiction being more explanatory, both are still devoted to informing readers of the facts. These include books such as, Becoming by Michelle Obama, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Nonfiction Genres List Every author knows that making an outline before writing sets the blueprint for your book. But before you can get to that stage, you need to identify your target audience. Determining which genre of nonfiction your book best fits into is the guiding principle you should begin with. For example, if you choose to write historical nonfiction your audience, word count, and formatting will be completely different than for an academic text. Understanding and selecting the best nonfiction genre is crucial to success. Let’s look at the most popular genres in nonfiction… History History nonfiction writing involves recounting a historical event or specific time period. While authors can frame how the information is presented, all information presented in history nonfiction must be verifiable, factual, and historically accurate. An example of a popular historical nonfiction book is Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham. The work presents the story of the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine in April 1986. Biographies and Autobiographies Both biographies and autobiographies focus on retelling a life story, but the two genres are different. Autobiographies are written about and by the author. Biographies are third-person narratives, where the author tells someone else’s story (while still remaining accurate and factual). Unlike autobiographies, the subject of the story can be living or dead when writing biographies. One of the most famous autobiographies is Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. Memoirs A memoir tells readers about significant moments in the life of the author. Memoirs are sometimes confused with autobiographies since they are both written from the same perspective. However, what differentiates the two is that memoirs may be written about a shorter period of time, such as a specific event or experience in the writer’s life. Examples of memoirs include The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl and The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. Travel Writing Travel writing is a nonfiction genre with several of its own subgenres. Travelogues are sometimes called travel memoirs, where the author discusses personal travel experiences. Travel guides are another form of travel nonfiction, providing information about destinations and reviews. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is one of the most well-known travel memoirs, with a critically acclaimed film adaptation. A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal by Anthony Bourdain, is another great example, focusing on the late Bourdain’s travels across the globe and culinary experiences. When it comes to travel guides, Arthur Frommer, Eugene Fodor, and Rick Steves are some of the most recognised travel writers. Philosophy Philosophy nonfiction includes exploring topics like the purpose of life, ethics, and a deeper understanding of humanity. Though the names of traditional philosophers such as Aristotle, Confucius, Plato, and Voltaire might first come to mind, modern writers are changing the landscape. Now, more than ever, the philosophy genre is becoming more accessible, and writers are making their books more digestible to a wider audience. Philosopher Bertrand Russell has written several books in this genre, with The Problems of Philosophy providing a brief glimpse into some of the deepest philosophical questions. What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy by Thomas Nagel, is another accessible option that is meant for beginners. Religion and Spirituality  The religion and spirituality genres are just as broad as the concepts themselves. Authors can choose to write from first-hand experience or focus on teaching about a specific practice. It is also possible to have them as a subgenre, such as self-help books, helping readers on their spiritual journey. Theology, focusing on the systematic study of God and religion, can also fall into this category. A best-selling book in this category is Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, where the famous author discusses Christian beliefs and addresses criticisms based on philosophy. Self-Help The self-help genre is surprisingly (or perhaps not!) one of the most popular categories on nonfiction. Here, authors can teach readers anything from new skills, how to manage finance, maintaining happiness, and even parenting or starting a new business. Feeding the Soul (Because It\'s My Business): Finding Our Way to Joy, Love, and Freedom by Tabitha Brown teaches lessons in hope, while Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki is a classic personal finance book. Science Writing about science clearly falls into the nonfiction category, as it is grounded in observation and evidence (not to be confused with science fiction). When writing science nonfiction, authors are required to include reputable references throughout their text and ensure that all studies are thoroughly fact-checked. These books may be a compilation of complex academic research, or they may be condensed and distilled into easier-to-read literary works. The Cosmic Machine: The Science That Runs Our Universe and the Story Behind It by Scott Bembenek is a great example of a book simplifying complex scientific topics for readers. On the other hand, a book that has shaped scientific literature throughout the centuries would be Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Medical The medical genre of nonfiction writing includes books about healthcare, technology, and patient care systems. Another broad genre, authors can write about mental health, clinical conditions, well-being, nutrition, and more. Medical books can also be instructive in nature, highlighting terminology or serving as study guides to medical professionals. Anthony William’s Medical Medium series is an excellent example of just how much this genre can encompass. Psychology Psychology nonfiction books serve a wide range of purposes. Some are more clinical in nature, while others may fall in the self-help category. Authors can help readers understand how the brain works, improve memory function, or even assist with relationship building. An interesting example is The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks. The book consists of various cases studies from Sack’s patients that highlight different brain functions. Art The art genre of nonfiction writing largely falls into two categories—writing about actual art, and guiding people on how to create art. For example, a person interested in learning about various artists and their work might read Artists: Their Lives and Works by Ross King. A reader interested in drawing could consider How to Draw Cool Stuff: A Drawing Guide for Teachers and Students by Catherine V Holmes. Crafting Craft writing teaches readers how to make decorative items by hand. Craft books provide instructions on how to execute these projects and can cover everything from paper flowers to knitting. For example, The Unofficial Book of Cricut Crafts: The Ultimate Guide to Your Electric Cutting Machine by Crystal Allen is very niche, whereas Low-Mess Crafts for Kids: 72 Projects to Create Your Own Magical Worlds by Debbie Chapman targets a much broader market. DIY Do-It-Yourself is another popular nonfiction genre. These books guide people in everything from home plumbing to car maintenance. How to make homemade beauty and haircare products are also popular topics, along with gardening and woodworking. 40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead by David Toht teaches readers how to make chicken coops, sheds, fences, and also covers gardening. The Martha Manual: How to Do (Almost) Everything by Martha Stewart is a more complete DIY manual that covers a wide range of projects. Photography The photography genre is one of the most popular nonfiction coffee table genres, and is highly influential. Photography books capture moments throughout history in real-time through photographic collections. These may also be instruction books teaching people how to shoot photography. Digital Photography Complete Course: Learn Everything You Need to Know in 20 Weeks by David Taylor is an instructional book, while Photography: The Definitive Visual History by Tom Ang showcases photographs and more. Gardening Popular nonfiction genres include gardening and plant care. Authors can focus on a particular type of gardening, such as in Vegetable Gardening for Beginners: A Simple Guide to Growing Vegetables at Home by Jill McSheehy. Or the topics can be more general, such as The Complete Gardener\'s Guide: The One-Stop Guide to Plan, Sow, Plant, and Grow Your Garden by DK. Food, Drink & Cooking Cuisine is another popular nonfiction genre. Whether you want to write recipes, reviews, or restaurant guidebooks, there are quite a few options with this genre. An example of a recipe book would be Tieghan Gerard’s book (with a very long title), Half Baked Harvest Super Simple: More Than 125 Recipes for Instant, Overnight, Meal-Prepped, and Easy Comfort Foods: A Cookbook. Whereas Eat Better, Feel Better: My Recipes for Wellness and Healing, Inside and Out by Giada De Laurentiis combines recipes with personal stories. Computers and Software The computers and software genre is quite comprehensive - just think of all the technology we use every day. These books may be about specific software tools such as Microsoft Office or on programming languages such as Java and Python. For example, Upgrading and Repairing PCs by Scott Mueller teaches readers how to troubleshoot and optimize computers while CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide by Mike Myers prepares people for certification. Health and Fitness The sales of health and fitness nonfiction spike in January (no surprise there) and include everything from workout programs and health related guides, to tips on how to achieve certain health goals. Books in the health and fitness realm include, NOT A DIET BOOK: Lose Fat. Gain Confidence.Transform Your Life by James Smith, and The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation by Michael Matthews. Political Science The political science genre can include books that discuss local governments or those that cover politics on a global scale. A couple of examples of political nonfiction include Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright and The Populist Explosion by John B. Judis. Business and Economics Business and economics is a big genre that covers everything from case studies of specific companies to economic theories in practice. Books like Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt gives an overview of economic principles. Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston looks into various corporations and their practices that can make the world a better place. Parenting and Family With millions of parents in the world, parenting and family is a wide-ranging genre. Parenting books might be about teaching kids a new skill, how to balance parenthood and relationships, psychology, and practical guidance. No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child\'s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson is a mix of psychology and advice. Education The education nonfiction genre includes educational theories, practical standards, instructional materials, and topical guides. An example of an education book includes The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America\'s Broken Education System - and How to Fix It by Natalie Wexler. Music Music nonfiction writing can encompass many different areas, including modern-day musical styles or musical history. The books can also be instructional in nature. Two examples of music nonfiction books are How to Read Music in 30 Days: Music Theory for Beginners by Matthew Ellul and Concise History of Western Music by Barbara Russano Hanning. And that’s not all… All in all, whatever you’re an expert in – write about it – because someone, somewhere, will benefit from your expertise. There are so many types of nonfiction and these genres are just the tip of the iceberg, within them there’s a large array of subgenres you can write. Whether you want to share your love of witchcraft with the world, or want to teach people how to train their llamas, as long as you categorise your nonfiction book into the right genre and know who you are writing for, you stand a chance of success! For more advice for writing nonfiction check out our blogs on writing a nonfiction book proposal and writing creative nonfiction. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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How To Write Creative Nonfiction

When I read Dancing in the Dark by Caryl Philips, I wasn’t quite sure what I was reading, as it was unlike any novel I’d read previously. But I was curious how the author crafted the “voices” or dialogue, which were so finely tuned and authentic it made me feel as though I was in the thick of the plot as it unfolded. Eventually, it dawned on me that the book couldn’t solely be classified as a novel per se, as the story was based on “real life”; because of its biographical and historical context it sat comfortably within the genre of creative nonfiction.  What is Creative Nonfiction? The term creative nonfiction has been credited to American writer Lee Gutkin, who first coined the phrase in the journal he founded in 1993: Creative Nonfiction. When asked to define what creative nonfiction is Gutkin says simply “true stories well told.”   Expanding on Gutkin’s definition I would add that the main difference between creative nonfiction – also known as narrative nonfiction - and other genres is that in creative nonfiction the focus is on literary style, and it is very much like reading a novel, with the important exception that everything in the story has actually happened.   Essentially, creative nonfiction incorporates techniques from literature, including fiction and poetry, in order to present a narrative that flows more like story than, say, a journalistic article or a report. In short, then, it is a form of storytelling that employs creative writing techniques including literature to retell a true story, which is why emphasis is placed on the word creative. I would underscore that it is this aspect which distinguishes the genre from other nonfiction books; for instance, textbooks which are, as implied, recounting solely of facts – without any frills. Types of Creative Nonfiction The good news is that the expanse of creative nonfiction as a genre is considerable and there is ample scope for writers of every persuasion, in terms of categorisation and personal creative preference. Some terms you may be familiar with, and some are essentially the same, as far as content is concerned – only the phrasing may be interchangeable.   Memoirs Memoirs are the most commonly used form of creative nonfiction. It is a writer’s personal, first-hand experiences, or events spanning a specific time frame or period. In it you are essentially trying to evoke the past… and by the end you will, no doubt, hope to have successfully conveyed the moral of your story. Not in a preachy kind of way but in a manner which is engaging, informative or entertaining.   You should note that there are important differences between a biography and a memoir: in writing a biography you need to maintain a record of your sources – primary or secondary – that will stand the rigours of being fact-checked.   A memoir, by contrast, is your recollection or memory of a past event or experience. While they do not necessarily have to be underpinned with verifiable facts in the same way as a biography, there’s more scope for your creative or imaginary interpretation of an event or experience.  Literary Journalism In the early days of the genre literary journalism hogged the headlines; it was, according to The Herald Tribune, “a hotbed of so-called New Journalism, in which writers like Tom Wolfe used the tools of novelists — characters, dialogue and scene-setting — to create compelling narratives.” The way this fits into the creative nonfiction genre is that it uses the style and devices of literary fiction in fact-based journalism. Norman Mailer and Gail Sheehy were exceptionally skilled exponents, though, arguably, critics contended that both could, on occasion, be so immersed that some of their writing was tantamount to an actor who inhabited their character via method acting.  Reportage and Reporting  Ultimately, the primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to communicate information, just like a reporter. If you choose to pursue reportage it is imperative that you pay close attention to notes and record-keeping as reporting is not – as with other elements of creative nonfiction – based on your personal experiences or opinions and, therefore, has to be scrupulously accurate and verifiable.   Personal Essays Other types of creative nonfiction include personal essays whereby the writer crafts an essay that’s based on a personal experience or single event, which results in significant personal resonance, or a lesson learned. This element of creative nonfiction is very broad in scope and includes travel writing, food writing, nature writing, science writing, sports writing, and magazine articles.  Personal essays, therefore, encompass just about any kind of writing. They can also include audio creativity and opinion pieces, through podcasts and radio plays.   The Five R’s of Creative Nonfiction  In Lee Gutkind’s essay, The Five R’s of Creative Nonfiction, he summarised the salient points of successfully writing creative nonfiction and, if you followed these instructions, you’d be hard-pressed to go wrong:  1. Real Life I daresay this is self-explanatory although as a storyteller, instead of letting your imagination run riot you must use it as the foundation. Your story must be based in reality - be that subject matter, people, situations or experiences.  2. Research I can’t emphasise strongly enough that conducting extensive, thorough research is of paramount importance and, not to put too fine a point on it, this is not an area you can gloss over – you will be “found out” and your credibility is at stake. And, no, Wikipedia doesn’t count – other than perhaps as a starting point. Interestingly, by the company’s own admission: “Wikipedia is not a reliable source for citations elsewhere on Wikipedia. Because it can be edited by anyone at any time, any information it contains at a particular time could be vandalism, a work in progress, or just plain wrong.”  3. W(r)ite Not technically an “R” but we get his point… Put succinctly by William Faulkner: “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it\'s the only way you can do anything good.\" 4. Reflection No-one can negate your personal reflections, but you should be aware, given that what you’re writing is based on “fact” that someone mentioned in your article or book may not necessarily agree with your perspective. The fallout can be devastating and damage irreparable. A case in point was the debacle following publication of Ugly: The True Story of a Loveless Childhood by Constance Briscoe. In the best-selling “misery memoir” the author accused her mother of childhood cruelty and neglect; her mother rejected the claims and said the allegations were “a piece of fiction” and sued both her daughter and publisher for libel, and lost.   It goes without saying that when writing about people who are still alive you need to be especially cautious. Of course, you’re entitled to your own unique perspective but, as Buckingham Palace responded to the Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry – which may yet find its way in book form – “some recollections may vary”.  5. Reading It’s often said that the best writers are also voracious readers. Not only does it broaden your horizons but it’s a perfect way to see what works and what doesn’t. And, as William Faulkner admonished: “Read, read, read. Read everything –trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You\'ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you\'ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”   How to Write Creative Nonfiction We now know what kind of creative nonfiction exists, and what to bear in mind before writing, but when it comes to starting your story…where do you begin?  Structure While it may be tempting to jump straight in and start writing, you will save yourself a headache if you begin by deciding upon the structure or form you want your work to be based on. This doesn’t need big whistles and bells, you just need an outline to begin with, something to shape your thinking and trajectory. It’s always worthwhile to know what direction you’re headed in. Nothing is set in stone - you can always add to it or amend accordingly.   For planning there are different models you can employ but I find it easiest to think along the lines of a three-part play: act one, I open by establishing the fundamentals of what I am going to present; act two, allows me to build upon the opening by increasing the dramatic effect of what’s unfolding; and act three, I bring my thesis together by pulling together different strands of the story to a logical, coherent narrative and, even better in some circumstances, a cliff-hanger.  In your outline you should bear in mind the main elements of creative nonfiction and the fact that there are some universal literary techniques you can use:   Plot and Setting  There are many things from your past that may trigger your imagination. It could be writing about an area you grew up in, neighbours you had – anything which can be descriptive and used as a building block but will be the foundation upon which you set the tone or introduction to your piece.  Artefacts  Using what may seem like mundane artefacts can be used effectively. For instance, old photographs, school reports, records and letters etc. can evoke memories.  Descriptive Imagery  The most effective way to ensure your characters are relatable is to work on creating a plausible narrative. You must also have at the forefront of your mind “Facts. Facts. Facts.” I can’t stress enough how your work must be based on fact and not fiction.  Dialogue  Also referred to as figurative language, when using one of the most effective ways to set the tone of your work, the language used in dialogue must be plausible. You simply need to step back and ask yourself, “Does this sound like something my character would say?” There’s no greater turnoff for a reader than dialogue which is stilted.   Characters  If you want your readers to be engaged, they have to “buy what you’re selling” i.e. believe in your characters.   Top Creative Nonfiction Writing Tips Stick to the Facts  Even a mere whiff of fiction in your writing will automatically disqualify it as creative nonfiction. To make sure you haven’t transgressed it’s easier to avoid doing so altogether. Although it’s fine to incorporate literary techniques which include extended metaphor, allegory, and imagery, among others.  Research You will also need to make note of the references you have relied upon. Not only is this good housekeeping it is also what’s expected of a professional writer. There are a multitude of places you can begin your research: family recollections/oral history; my local library serves aspiring writers well with both a respectable catalogue of physical books and online resources such as the British Newspaper Archives; Ancestry; and FindMyPast, among them. These are invaluable tools at your disposal and the list is by no means exhaustive.   Checklist  So, to conclude, what are the takeaways from this guide?   Firstly, methodically work your way through the checklist contained within the 5 R’s. Also, remember, whatever your interest, the extent of creative nonfiction dictates that there’s likely to be a market for your writing.   But, at all costs, avoid falling into the cardinal sin of making things up! It may be tempting to get carried away with being creative and miss that the finished product absolutely must be anchored in facts – from which, no deviation is acceptable.   Indeed, please ensure everything you’ve written is verifiable. You never know when someone is going to fact-check your thesis or challenge an assertion you’ve made.  Best of Both Worlds All in all, creative nonfiction is a wondrous way of telling an important and real story. Never forget that even though you are writing about factual stories and scenarios, you can still do so in an imaginative and creative way guaranteed to bring your readers on a journey of exploration with you.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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Jan Cavelle’s Achievements in Business and Books

Entrepreneur and Jericho Writers alumna Jan Cavelle is phenomenally successful, having grown her own 20-year-strong business from scratch and published a book of expert insights into growing a business, ‘Scale for Success’, with Bloomsbury in 2021. Whether it’s a business or a book, the journey is never easy - and Jan kindly shares her experience of non-fiction publishing with us here.   January 2020 seems a different world away for all of us.  I was paying little attention to tales of an old lady dying of some unknown disease in remote China.  In fact, I had gone off-grid, telling no one what I was doing.  It was too big, too heart-stoppingly important to me.    One chilly day that January,  I hauled myself upright at around three in the morning and drove to London, terrified of missing my appointment.  I spent most of the four-hour wait in a tourist hotel pushing congealed eggs around my plate and wondering just how many cups of tea it was possible to drink.  Finally, I walked around the corner to the hallowed offices in Bloomsbury Square to stare in awe at the Harry Potters on display in reception.   I had gone off-grid, telling no one what I was doing. It was too big, too heart-stoppingly important to me. But let me take you back a little.  My childhood dream was to write a book, but life and, as a single parent, an abrupt need to make a living took over.  I started a business on a shelf under the stairs in our tiny Victorian cottage and, from non-auspicious beginnings, grew it to something mid-size.  Single parenthood and solo-entrepreneurship are both a recipe for isolation, so it would be years before I met other entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs are an interesting bunch.  They come from all sorts of backgrounds and work in virtually every sector.  They are hugely driven, often obsessive, yet the majority are far less judgemental, far less worried about who they are talking to, and more interested in the quality of what is being said.  Most – definitely not all, but most - are highly intelligent and have great stories to tell.  By chance, I saw a business publication advertising for a blog writer. Remembering my writing dreams,  I answered, and thus started a decade of writing for a digital publication called Real Business.  I also joined Jericho Writers.  When I finally parted company with the business, my first thought was retirement.  It took about two weeks for me to miss writing.   I went back to writing articles, but the dream of a book still niggled.  I started working my way through the Jericho Writers resources, focussing on the merits of attempting either self- or traditional publishing.    It took about two weeks for me to miss writing. I had decided to write about sales, my strength - and with the confidence I gained from the articles, I was somewhat cavalier about the writing.  However, to play safe, I submitted my first draft to be assessed by one of the Jericho Writers team.   My editors had always been rather nice to me, so I was unworried when it came to the feedback phone call.    By five minutes in, I was having to ask for a couple of minute\'s break because I was crying so hard that I couldn\'t actually hear. The expert tore it to shreds.  The concept was wrong, the writing careless on fact and atrocious on style.  It was the very definition of tough love.  It says much for my love of writing that I kept going, and much for his judgment that when I re-visited the manuscript a few months later, I was beyond appalled that I had even considered anyone reading it.    Chastened, I wrote another manuscript.  I followed all the instructions on the Jericho Writers website and researched likely agents and publishers.  I treasured the reply that told me it was well written (but not for them).  Elsewhere it was silent.    Relaxing in the glorious summer of 2019,  I had another idea.  People often advise you to write about what you know, and what I know best is how hard it is to scale a business.  I also knew that it is a business stage that many people struggle with.   Suddenly, I realized I had a subject that could potentially be of genuine use to a reader, unlike my somewhat self-interested previous attempts.  My problem was that I was no expert.  But I did know other people who had achieved the leap successfully.  I started off by attempting to interview friends and get their expertise.  Not an easy experience, with both parties in unfamiliar roles and keen to get back to the usual bottle of wine.  I dug out old contacts, people who I barely knew.  I trawled the net endlessly for businesses that looked on an upward curve.  A massive hulk of a book, going from start-up through scale-up, started to take shape.  People often advise you to write about what you know... Suddenly, I realized I had a subject that could potentially be of genuine use to a reader. At around three-quarters of the way in, I realized that I had forgotten the trad vs self-publishing quandary, and worse, I now had an obligation to do something with this thing to the people who had kindly given their time.  Back to my Jericho Writers knowledge bank, I went.  I knew that many of the people interviewed would be less than impressed unless it was traditionally published.  Old school, perhaps.  I spent a month putting together three submissions.  The one to Bloomsbury bounced back on my email.   That bouncing email was the wild piece of luck that we all need from time to time.  Tired and frustrated, I sent a quick tweet off to Bloomsbury to tell them the email was down. It was just before Christmas, so perhaps it was the festive spirit,  but I received a charming reply suggesting I send a brief outline of what I had been trying to send through to the respondee\'s personal email.  I thought no more about it.  Other publishers, too, were notably silent.   I was dumbfounded over Christmas to receive an invitation to come into Bloomsbury\'s offices. Hence finding myself pushing around the congealed egg in January.  The initial meeting was held in a room full of would-be writers, all of them having the weaknesses of their proposals pointed out to them by the editors.  The size of my project was demolished as being far too broad and my use of UK entrepreneurs was no use to a global publishing house.  I argued - I can split it.  I can get other entrepreneurs.  I was packed off to the country to form a submission.  Luckily I could still draw upon Jericho for it.  I muttered \"possibly for Bloomsbury\" into the ears of overseas entrepreneurs and found it a magic key to get them talking.  Hearing back is not a quick process.  The book had to be approved by several layers of international hierarchy.  At each stage, I was genuinely stunned and delighted to have got that far.  Finally, however, a contract was offered, and I was on my way to being (magic words) a published author.  I muttered \"possibly for Bloomsbury\" into the ears of overseas entrepreneurs and found it a magic key to get them talking. \'Scale for Success\' came out in February 2021 in the UK and July in Australia and America.  It contains the stories and wisdom of 30 genuinely amazing people from across the globe.  I didn\'t want to go for the Bransons or the Musks (not that they would have talked to me either), but I wanted relatable people, and I am still stunned by their stories.  Working with a range of people meant a vast amount of extra work.  They all had to be found, convinced that the idea was good, interviewed, and their approval of what I had written obtained.  If I hadn\'t so loved hearing their stories, it would have been a nightmare.  Non-fiction is unbelievably overcrowded.  The self-publishing market has gone wild under the \"a book is your business card\" mantra.  Looking for a backup plan, I spoke to a few of the publishing coaches who take a fat fee for helping you self-publish.  All were confused by my expressed desire to write \"a good book.\"  Entrepreneurs of decidedly mixed-level writing skills are employing hugely expensive PR companies to tout them as the next Tolstoy.  There is little chance to compete in the sunshine with that if you are writing for the love.   Reviews on Amazon are so precious – I can read the stars but haven\'t got the nerve to read the words.  As for the future, I am having a bit of a ‘what-now’ moment.  I produce a stream of business interviews and articles for my website and other publications, but I would love to do another book. Whether Bloomsbury or any other publishing house would love me to do another book is something for the future.  About Jan Jan Cavelle is a writer and entrepreneur who successfully grew and ran her own business for over 20 years. She was chosen as one of the first 50 Female Entrepreneurial Ambassadors to represent the UK in Europe and has been invited to speak on Newsnight. Jan contributed to Real Business for many years and her first book, ‘Scale for Success’, was published by Bloomsbury and cited by publications such as Elite Business, Irish Tech News, Medium, and the Undercover Recruiter.   Find out more about Jan here. Buy ‘Scale for Success’ from here. Interested in Creative Non-Fiction? We offer a six-week crash course that could be the perfect way in to your new project, taught by Galley Beggar Press\' Sam Jordison. Find out more here. Read about finding an agent for your non-fiction here. Learn how to write a non-fiction book proposal here. Getting rejected by literary agents? Here\'s what to do next.
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How to Write a Memoir

We get loads of enquiries from writers wanting to write their own life story. Sometimes it’s just a personal project. Sometimes it’s for friends and family. Sometimes it’s intended for commercial publication. But the question we’re asked is always the same. Where do I start? That’s an easy one. Follow the rules below. 1: Tend Your Expectations Writing your life story down is massively worth doing, but please don’t think that it’s easy to get published. It’s not, if you’re after commercial publication. Only the best stories will get taken on by literary agents and publishers, and only then if they are really well written and well told. Of course, you can always self-publish, too. 2: Keep It Simple Many memoirs fail because they try to over-complicate. Keep it very simple, but be sure to do the simple things well. That means: Start at the beginning and move forwards chronologically from there. (If you’re not doing this, have a good reason, and be talented at it.)Keep the reader in your shoes. Talk about what you saw, what you did, what you felt. Stay in the present moment of your story.Don’t digress.Don’t tell your story in diary form, unless you keep a journal as compelling as Sylvia Plath’s. A diary is a very stop-start type of experience. You need to write a flowing narrative that keeps the reader engrossed.Don’t lecture.Remember to stay descriptive. You may remember what Heathrow looked like in the 1950s, but most of us don’t, so tell us. That’s why we’re reading your book. 3: Research Research the market. Find out how professional, published memoirs are written. See how those writers handle the things you need to deal with. One book we recommend you look at is Please Don’t Make me Go by John Fenton. We recommend this for two reasons. One: we worked on it with John, so we’re fond of it. Two: it’s a masterclass in memoir writing. Very simple, but very, very good. Other memoirs of note might be Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth, Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Nafisi Azar, or Where am I now by Mara Wilson. Look at these and other memoirs you like and ask yourself what all these have in common. It could be a poignant insight into off-piste topics (Mara Wilson’s musings as a former child star turned writer), or a knack for colouring the ordinary to make it unusual, compelling (Jennifer Worth’s years as a midwife in London’s East End). There may be other great, well-written memoirs from celebrities you like. What Happened by Hilary Rodham Clinton might be a compelling memoir, but a readership was already in place for her. Publishers would have considered this (before looking at a manuscript) when offering her a book deal, so try to pick out books from relatively unknown writers (or unknown before publication) wherever you can when researching the market. Also, do get a proper idea of length. For commercial publication, and to have a chance with a literary agent, you’ll probably want to produce a manuscript of between 70,000 and 100,000 words. If you are much longer or much shorter than that, you can pretty much forget about publication almost irrespective of content. Finally, although you are writing about your own life, you may well find that some research really does wonders for what you are talking about. Let’s say you were working in Iranian oil fields in the 1950s. You’ll remember a lot, but you’ll have forgotten things, too. The more you can research that time, the more you may spark your memory. 4: Take Care With Your Style If you want to grip a reader, to make sure that your words and your story hold the attention, then you must take a lot of care with your style. That means you can’t just write as you speak. It means you need to get in the habit of challenging yourself to write clearly, forcefully, visually, so the reader can see exactly what you are telling them. For more tips on good writing, please check tips on prose style. 5: Seek Feedback Once you’re properly stuck into your project, why not come to us with the first 10,000 words or so? That’s far enough into it that we can give you detailed advice on what is and isn’t working in your writing, and how to improve where needed. The advice will cost, but for a project as important as this, it can be worth the investment. Alternatively, if you prefer to plough through and come to us with a complete manuscript, we’d be delighted to work with that, too. We’ll tell you whether your writing is the sort that a literary agent or publisher might be interested in. If it is, then we can advise on next steps regarding agents. 6: Enjoy Don’t let writing your life story become anything but a pleasure and a joy. This is your story. Enjoy telling it and be proud of it. You deserve it. Your Life Story If you’ve come through to this page, you’ve perhaps been through challenging times and have a story to tell. As far as publishing that story goes, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the market for inspirational true life stories (also called inspirational memoirs) is still fairly hot. The bad news – you guessed it – is that competition is intense and only the best manuscripts are taken on by literary agents. If you have a story to tell, please ask yourself these questions first: How will you feel if your story never gets published, or even accepted by a literary agent?How will you feel about commercializing your story?Can you tell your story in an emotive and unique way to connect with readers?How will you feel about doing PR and other publicity work? If your responses to these questions are negative, then ponder before going any further. If your answer is that you still want to go ahead, then read on. Cathy Glass Shares Her Tips Cathy Glass is bestselling author of seventeen books. True life stories, or inspirational memoirs as they are also known, have enjoyed so much success in the last ten years that they have become a genre in their own right, often separate from biography. My own first book Damaged, in which I told the story of a child I fostered, spent three months at the top of the bestseller charts. Since then Please Don’t Take My Baby, and Will You Love Me? have also been at number one, with all my other fostering stories going into the Top 10 for weeks. To date, I have sold millions copies of my books around the world, and they have been translated into ten languages. Is there a formula for writing memoirs like there is for Mills and Boon romance? One that I can pass on? Not a formula as such, but having spent some time pondering how I write these books, I have come up with a few suggestions which may be of use if you are about to embark on memoir writing (more covered in my book). If you are writing your own memoir, as opposed to ghost-writing for someone else, you will know your story better than anyone, and here lies your strength. Write straight from your heart. Think back and remember. When, and where did it all begin? Where were you? What could you smell and hear? What could you see through the window? What was going through your mind? Be there and relive it, although this may be very upsetting if you have suffered; but writing is cathartic and writing it out is a therapy in itself. Have an aim for your book (a remit) – a message you want to impart to your readers. It may be one of courage, faith, hope, or sheer bloody-mindedness. And remember when writing a true life story you have an emotional contract with your reader. You owe your reader honesty, and in return you will have your readers’ unfailing empathy and support. I have been completely overwhelmed by the thousands of emails I have received from readers who felt they knew me personally and were part of my family from reading my books. Their words of encouragement have been truly wonderful and are much appreciated. Some of these emails are on the blog on my website. Write scenes, not a monologue. Although the memoir is true it doesn’t have to be a diatribe of abuse and suffering. Write it as you would a gripping novel, building scenes, creating tension, and using cliff-hangers at the end of chapters to keep the readers’ interest. There will be highs and lows in your story, so keep the reader on a roller coaster of emotion. There will be some very sad scenes, some horrendous incidents, and some funny incidents. If there is constant and unrelenting degradation and abuse the reader will soon become desensitized and lose empathy, and therefore interest. Make your book episodic, describing in detail events that are of interest or highly poignant to your story. Leave out the mundane unless it is an intrinsic part of building the scene. You can kaleidoscope years into a couple of lines, or spread half an hour into two chapters as necessary. Your memoir should be approximately 85,000 words in length, with double line spacing, using a word processing package. If it is your first memoir, the agent and publisher may also want a detailed proposal, even if your book is already written. For writing a proposal, there are guidelines to follow, as there are for getting a literary agent. Read other books in the same genre, and consider how and why these books work. Good luck with your writing, and most importantly, enjoy it!
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How to Write a Non-fiction Book Proposal (with Examples)

I’ve written and published four works of non-fiction – and have been involved as a ghost or behind-the-scenes editor on a couple of other things too. Every single one of those books sold off the back off a simple book proposal. In no case, had I written more than about 10,000 words of text prior to the sales process. Two of those books, I sold for £4000 (about $6,000) each. The books sold reasonably well, given their fairly niche material, and they continued to generate an income of about £2000 a year for years afterwards. Nice outcome, right? But those were fairly niche books. (They were on the subject of writing and publishing, which, as proprietor of this website, I ought to know a bit about.) I also sold a book off the back of a non-fiction book proposal that had multiple publishers bidding for the rights, and ended up being sold to HarperCollins for £175,000 (or about $250,000). That was a two-book deal, admittedly, so you can divide the numbers by two to get a per book amount. But still: $250,000 for a proposal of less than 10,000 words? That’s crazy. Now, I’m not guaranteeing that kind of outcome for you. Assuming you can write really well, the ceiling price for your book proposal will be determined by its subject matter. My book on “How To Write” was a niche-type book for a niche-type audience and it earned a niche-type advance as a result. The book I sold for a lot of money had to do with British history, and was presented as the kind of book that you could give your dad for Christmas. The potential audience for that book was very much greater, so the advance was correspondingly greater too. But although I can’t guarantee outcomes, I can guarantee to show you how to write a book proposal that will really work for a literary agent and a publisher. I’ll provide a sample proposal and give you examples of what to do (and what not to do) as you put your proposal together. And we’ll start off by considering what publishers actually want from you. Their wants drive what you need to give them. In effect, we can just build a template book proposal where all you have to do is fill in the blanks. Easy, right? Write A Non-fiction Book Proposal In 4 Steps: Prepare a query letter – include a book overview, target audience, USP, writing CV, and motivation for writing.Add a bio – including a professional resume and platform, i.e. social media, blog, mailing list etc.And a market overview.You’ll also need to send sample chapters, book outline, and introduction. What Is A Book Proposal? And what do publishers want from it? A book proposal is a pitch to a publisher. Quite likely you reach that publisher via a literary agent, so the first pair of eyes on your work will be those of an agent, but either way, your final target is a publisher. So when you\'re writing a non-fiction book proposal you need to think about what makes your book stand out. Your pitch offers the publisher the opportunity to acquire a non-fiction book, authored by you, on the subject set out in your proposal. In exchange, the publisher will (assuming they’re keen to proceed): agree to publish your workpay you an advancepay you royalties if and when your advance is ‘earned out’ by book sales. You will receive a slice of that advance payment once a contract is agreed. The remainder of the advance will be paid out, typically, (a) on acceptance of a complete manuscript, (b) on hardback publication, and (c) on paperback publication, if you have one. If the book only comes out in one edition, the last two chunks will come as one. Clearly, publishers make their money by acquiring books with commercial potential, so it makes sense to pitch them with interesting ideas. But will your idea make any money for the publisher? Maybe, maybe not. There are dozens of dud proposals for every one good one, so any publisher will want to know: Subject: What do you want to write about?Audience: Why do you think anyone would be interested?Competition: What other titles are there in your area? Or, to be rather more accurate: what titles in your area have made money? That’s important, because those comparable books will form an important part of any acquiring editor’s in-house pitch at the time of acquisition.Angle: How does your book differ from everything else that’s out there? Why is the particular angle you bring feel urgent, necessary and compelling?Authority: What qualifies you to write on this topic? Why should anyone listen to you?Platform: What platform do you have to generate publicity or visibility for your book? Answers might include large followings on social media, or a regular broadcast presence, or a position as columnist on a major national newspaper or magazine.Title: It’s almost possible to overlook the title, just because it’s so damn obvious. But a great title counts for a huge amount. A good title should do two things. It should communicate what the book is about, but it should also do that in a sexy, edgy, novel, exciting way. A book called A Journey of Self-Discovery would be unpublishably bad. A book called Eat, Pray, Love could just be an international hit. Or just think how many extra sales Yuvral Noah Harari achieved by calling his first book simply Sapiens. That’s a huge subject with an utterly enticing one word hook. Perfect! Do likewise.Intended word count: Honestly? You won’t know this until you’ve written your book. But say something. 70-90,000 words would be about right for most memoir. A 100,000 word book would be about 350 pages in print, so think roughly how long you want your finished book to feel. Anything over 120,000 words will have a slightly epic quality for the reader (and be more expensive for the publisher to produce), so only aim for high or very high word counts if the subject matter is really worth it. (The American Civil War: yes. One somewhat interesting murder in Minnesota: no.) All that is to look at your proposal from a publisher’s point of view, but they have to think about things from a readers’ perspective as well. So they will also want to know: The pitch to the reader: How would you go about pitching the book to a reader, rather than to a publisher? Does that pitch feel compelling, or a bit flat?Writing skills: Can you write decently? What is the actual experience of reading your book going to be like?Detailed subject matter: What is your book actually about? It’s all very well to say (for example), that your book will be a history of Rome. And good – that’s clearly the kind of subject matter for which there is a perennial market. But what will be the actual, detailed, chapter by chapter content? You need to be able to outline that content, and do so in a way that will make sense to someone who has little prior knowledge of Rome’s history. Those questions have to be answered by the proposal you offer to the publisher or (normally, in the first instance) to a literary agent. In effect, your proposal will simply go through these questions one at a time and answer them in a way that will give the strongest possible reassurance to the people holding the checkbook. What Should Be In Your Book Proposal:A Template A non-fiction book proposal template might run roughly as follows. (Why only “roughly”? Well, several reasons, really. First, non-fiction is a very varied field, and the basic template will need to bend a bit depending on what’s on offer. Secondly, there’s no required industry-standard format, the way there is with screenplays. That gives you some wiggle room. And third, you may be stronger in some areas and weaker in others. There’s nothing wrong with constructing your proposal so as to make the most of your assets!) Right. So things may vary, but a good place to start is as follows: 1. A Covering Letter (Or Query Letter) Your covering letter will deal with the following elements: Purpose: Explain why you’re writing in the first place.Example: “Dear Annie Agent, I am writing to seek representation for the attached book proposal, A Puzzle in String”Subject matter: Explain what the book is about.Example: “My book is a popular science book that explains string theory in terms that laypeople can understand [etc etc].”Audience: Explain who you think will be interested.Example: “The book will appeal to anyone interested in understanding the most fundamental aspects of the universe we live in. It will appeal to broadly the same people as bought Steven Hawking’s Brief History of Time . . . etc, etc.”Angle: The world mostly doesn’t need more books. So why does it needs yours? Why is yours the one that readers will want to pick up, given the vast range of options they already have?Example: “My book differs from the other books on the market in that it …”Personal background: Explain (in brief) who you are.Example: “I am the Professor of Physics at XYZ University . . .”(Optionally) Motivation: In some cases it can help to explain why you felt driven to write this book.Example: If you were writing a book on silence, you might want to mention (say) that you had spent six months living, in silence, as a hermit.Documents: Explain what documents you are presenting.Example: “I attach the following documents . . .” A good letter will run to no more than two pages. (If you were a novelist, we’d suggest your letter run to no more than a single page, but the rules are a bit different for non-fictioneers. You have a little more room.) 2. A Professional Bio Your self-description needs to cover (usually) two elements: Here’s where you set out something like a professional resume. Even here, do bear in mind your audience. So let’s say you are a professor of physics. If you were applying for a job at the Harvard physics faculty, you’d presumbly list out your scientific papers in some detail. But you’re not. You’re talking to laypeople, so you can just say, “I have authored more than 70 scientific papers . . .”You should also set out your platform, assuming that you have one. That platform will include any way you have of reaching your target audience: social media, broadcasting, journalism, a blog, a mailing list – anything. Do note that publisher have pretty high standards here. Have 15,000 Twitter follows? OK, that’s impressive. That’s a lot more than I have. But you’d need several hundred thousand to move a publisher’s stony heart. Typically, you will either bring significant authority (“I’m a physics prof”) or a significant platform (“I have more than 2,000,000 followers on Instagram”).It’s pretty rare that an author brings both, but if you have both – brag. And what happens if you have neither platform nor authority? You’re scuppered, right? You don’t stand a chance. Not a bit of it. When I wrote This Little Britain, my history book, I had no relevant platform to offer, and I certainly wasn’t a recognised authority on the subject I was writing about. But so what? I had an interesting theme. I could write well. When agents and editors (and, ultimately, readers) saw my book, they just wanted more of it. And in the end, that’s the heart of the whole thing. In short, authority and platform are great, but if anyone tells you they’re essential – well, they’re just plain wrong. Great writing plus a great idea will work fine every time. Oh, and since I had neither platform nor authority, my book proposal for that book didn’t include a personal bio at all. I knew my agent would choose to say something about me to the publisher – but he’d just say, “Look, this guy isn’t an academic, but he writes really well and I think you’ll love his material.” That was enough. No one ever asked me for a resume at any point. 3. A Market Overview A market overview is also crucial. You’ll need to provide: A swift definition of your market as you see it. Be as precise as possible here. Don’t tell agents/publishers that your book will appeal to “all intelligent book buyers” or “anyone interested in science.” That’s marketing piffle and it’s not true. Define your audience as precisely as you canExample: “This is a book of popular physics, part of the broader popular science market. Because the book lies at the harder end of the science market, it’s likely to appeal to those science readers with past enjoyment of quantum physics, astronomy, …”Measures of engaged audience size: You want to give publishers some kind of metrics for the possible target audience – but be sober here, not expansive. If you are writing a book about Ireland, for example, it’s just stupid to say, “The worldwide population of Irish, Irish-American, and other Irish descended people is estimated at a staggering …” Yes, you may arrive at a large number that way, but it will be a large, meaningless number. Much better to say, “Declan O’Guinness’s recent TV series drew audiences of X, and Nuala FitzShamrock’s history of the Irish Faminine spent Y weeks on the NYT bestseller list.” You could even add non-media related metrics such as, “X% of Americans claim Irish descent, and of those Y% have visited Ireland at least once.” It’s quite hard to get useful measures of engaged audience size, but you are better off giving a few hard stats rather than a larger number of fluffier ones.Offer an overview of major recent titles plus, if you want some older classics – but publishers will certainly be focusing primarily on titles of the last 2-3 years. Don’t just list out the titles themselves, but include details of author, publisher, publication date, ISBN, page count, formats (eg: hardback, paperback, e-book, audio), plus price points for each. These things matter a lot to a publisher, because they’ll instantly be able to tell what kind of market currently exists for these books. (They can also check, which you can’t, what the sales history for these titles are.) So if the only current publishers for your chosen subject are academic publishers with books priced at $100+, it’s unlikely that a trade publisher will think that a mainstream market will exist for your book. You will want to provide data on at least 5 comparable titles, but 10 would be a better number to aim for.Provide any data you have on sales / prizes won / publicity achieved. This can be hard, by the way, because this is an area where publishers will have paid-for sources of data that you don’t have. All the same, it’s worth making some effort here, simply because you can show yourself to be a professional, market-aware author – something that every publisher loves to see! The easiest way to guesstimate approximate sales is by looking at Amazon sales ranking . . . just be aware that those rankings are very volatile, so they can be an unreliable guide.Example: “String Theory for Idiots, by Prof Quentin Quark (Pub: Penguin Random House, 2018) is currently ranked at #1,800 in’s overall bestseller list. Format, pricing and ISBN details are: …)”Angle: Crucially – provide a short summary of how your book differs from the competition. What makes yours special? Why does the market need your book? This last point is the crucial one. Sometimes, you might come across an idea that just hasn’t been done. In that case, just say so. To take the example of my This Little Britain, I wrote a book about British exceptionalism in all its forms. The central question was, effectively: in what ways does British history just look different from the histories of its European neighbours? Weirdly, no one had ever really taken that question as the subject for a book like mine, and it was of obvious commercial potential. A crucial part of the pitch for the book involved simply explaining what my idea was and pointing out that no one else had done it. Publishers were already half sold, right there. Yes, there were lots of history-of-Britain books – and those were the comparable titles I identified. But there was nothing taking my exact angle. And my angle was a good one. So the proposal sols, and sold very well. With my two books on writing and publishing, I couldn’t claim to have any earth-shatteringly new idea . . . but I could claim to bring a particular angle. (What was it? Well, weirdly, at that time there were a ton of “How To Write” type books out there, but there was nothing that just promised to be a completely comprehensive, non-gimmmicky resource for serious writers. So I offered to write that book – and teamed up with Bloomsbury who owned the strongest brands in the writing/publishing area. They liked the idea and we agreed a deal. I wrote the book in the two months it took them to generate a contract, and handed the book over almost literally as soon as the ink was dry.) In any case, the point here from your point of view is that you have to bring something new to the market you are writing for. It is the newness and urgency of that idea which will go a long way to determine whether your proposal succeeds in generating offers or not. 4. Sample Material So far, the material we’re offering to the publisher includes stuff about the book (your query letter, that market overview) and about you (the bio.) But we do also need to give publishers a really good taste of the work itself, which means you will also need to supply: A. Sample Chapters But you will also, mostly, need to include sample chapters from the book itself, to give the agent and publisher an idea of whether you can actually write. Can you write engagingly for a broad audience? Or do you have the capacity to turn fascinating ideas into a dry-as-dust ocean of boringness? If your book is narrative non-fiction, you will need to include the first three chapters from the book, because the narrative won’t make sense any other way. For subject-led non-fiction, the chapters can be non-contiguous. For This Little Britain, I just submitted a fairly random scatter of chapters – ones that were fun, engaging … and hadn’t required a whole heap of research to write. B. A Synopsis You need to give a detailed synopsis of the complete book. If you are writing narrative non-fiction, that can take the form of a regular synopsis, but probably a good bit longer than you’d offer for fiction. Aim for about 2,000 words, if you’re not sure – though again, these things are very variable. In some cases, indeed, you’ll find that narrative non-fiction – such as memoir or travel books – simply demand to be treated like the novels they resemble. And that will probably mean that you need to write the whole damn book, that a proposal will simply not be enough. Sorry! (Though you can always get a proposal over to an agent. At the very least, a good proposal will start a very useful conversation with an interested agent.) OK, so much for the narrative-type work. What about the more subject-led non-fiction? And the good news here is that you may be able to get away with relatively little. For each of the three non-fiction works for which I’ve submitted proposals, I basically offered a 3-4 page bullet-point style summary of content. Now, I should probably admit right away that (a) I’m lazy, (b) my writing track record enables me to be a bit lazy, with the implication – (c) – that you should probably offer more than 3 pages of bullet points. But still. If you’re writing, let’s say, Paleo Science: What’s fact, what’s myth, and what matters to you, a detailed skeleton outline should be fine. Don’t go crazy. C. An Introduction As well as sample chapters and a detailed outline, I strongly favour including the introduction that you intend to appear in the final finished book. That intro should act as a kind of manifesto for the book. It needs to proclaim, in effect, “Here’s why this topic is so important and so urgent that you have to fish $20 from your pocket right now this minute and buy this book.” The manifesto is partly a communication of facts. (For example: “If sea levels continue to rise at their current rates, 47% of lower Manhattan will be underwater by 2029.”) But it’s also partly a process of seduction. You are seeking to entice the reader into seeing the world your way. That’s where strong writing comes into its own – and indeed, this will probably the most important chapter you’ll write, as it’ll be the most influential in that buy/don’t-buy decision. Quite likely, you’ll find that actually writing that intro will bring your own project into greater focus, even for you. You’ll realise exactly what it is about your project that drives you so much. Communicate that passion to the reader, and you are onto a winner. How To Write A Terrible Book Proposal And also: how to write quite a good one! This entire post was in fact prompted by a sample book proposal I saw recently. The writer was a proper expert in his field. He was passionate about his knowledge. He could write decently. He felt that his material was incredibly important, and that sense of passion communicated itself freely and authentically in his writing. What’s more, his book had a clear and sizeable natural market. There was a real dearth of books offering the slant and angle that he could bring to bear. All good, right? Green lights all the way. Except . . . He wrote things like this: In 2015 I spent three months in the Himalayas investigating how young Tibetan monks and nuns were trained from the age of eight.  The purpose of their curriculum is … [then got into some detail on how those monks and nuns were trained.] And that’s good. (Because – wow! – this guy learned about the way Tibetan monks and nuns are trained. I want to know about that!) But it’s also terrible. Because the information is delivered in a way that drains all the exoticism, all the human interest, out of the anecdote. There wasn’t in fact even an anecdote. Just a piece of information offered without any human colour. Worse still, the proposed book was all about bringing higher human values into education. This drily delivered, almost ignored anecdote could actually work as a touchstone for the entire book. So if I had been writing that proposal, I’d have actually opened my introduction for readers with something like this: It’s not quite dawn. A rose light is creeping up the flank of Mount Yabbedeedoodha across the valley. Down in the still twilit valley, I can see water buffalo and yak drowsily munching.This is a time when all humans should still be in bed or, at best, brewing the first cup of coffee to get ready for the day ahead. Except that I’m not in bed and I’m not alone.I’m here in a hall of forty shaven-headed novice monks and nuns. The youngest of them is only eight. The oldest is sixteen. I’ve come here as a specialist in education, but I don’t feel very specialist in this crowd.I’m not here to teach anything. I’m here to learn. Now, OK, deathless prose that is not. But you get the point. It places the author and the reader in some very special place. Human. Specific. Exotic. Located in a precise place and time. The reader’s response is rather as it would be at the start of a novel. Why are we here? What’s going to happen next? What are these child-monks about to teach this Westerner? It’s those questions that compel attention. It’s that human anecdote which seduces the reader into the author’s project, and the author’s passion. If you can get your actual writing to strike the right seductive tone, you will succeed. And if not? Well, you will probably fail, because in the end readers will read your book for pleasure and interest. You need to deliver those things, or die. Want More Help With Your Book Proposal? If you want more help with your proposal, we’ve got plenty of help to supply: Get feedback on your proposal Get one of our professional editors to review your book proposal and give you detailed advice on what to fix and how to fix it. Our full range of editorial services is here. You probably want the agent submission pack service, but if that isn’t quite sufficient for your needs, just tell the office what you’re after and they’ll be able to sort you out. Learn in detail how to get published We have a fantastic video course on how to get published – it just tells you everything you could possibly want to know about how to find age Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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Literary agents for travel non-fiction

So you’ve written a travel memoir and want to find an agent to represent it? Easier said than done, because there are so many agents, with so many preferences and requirements, so many different sites to explore and notes to take. If you’re writing a travel tome, it also needs to set itself apart. Think about what makes books like Into the Wild, Eat Pray Love, or Under the Tuscan Sun appealing to readers. We’ve at least made your agent search easy through AgentMatch. Agentmatch And How To Use It On AgentMatch, there are plenty of travel-loving agents, and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. travel) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. This site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Become a member.
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What is creative writing in non-fiction?

‘Creative non-fiction’ is one of the trickiest terms in writing. Non-fiction means being factual. Creative means using imagination. Isn’t that a conflict? At one end, you have textbooks, how-to books, academic and professional work of every sort. In areas like this, factual expertise and clarity matters hugely. Imaginative writing and creative insight may actually get in the way. At the other end of the non-fiction writing game, you have some genuinely creative areas. Travel writing is one. Memoir and biography can be another. Factual reconstruction of particular historical episodes another. If you want to read a non-fiction book that reads exactly like a novel, then try Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It’s completely true. But it reads like a novel. Capote, in fact, called it a non-fiction novel. It’s famous partly because of its genre-bending format. You can also find historians writing quite creatively (try Simon Schama’s Rough Crossings). And some of our own clients have used our help to achieve bestselling success in the memoir category, if you look for John Fenton’s Please Don’t Make Me Go, or Barbara Tate’s amazing West End Girls. Both these books had the freshness and creativity of novels. If you’re keen to write creative non-fiction, then you need to acquire a novelist’s skills but deploy them to your own factual ends. You can get a real quick survey of the core novelist’s tools on this blog. You can get a more in-depth guide to those skills by browsing our full set of writing resources. Either way, the core of creative writing in non-fiction is to create immediacy, to get close to character and to the drama of the unfolding moment. Using web-based resources is a good first step on the path to writing successful non-fiction, but it’s only a first step. Other bits of advice would be: Read a lot. You won’t succeed in non-fiction unless you know the market you’re trying to write for.Take a course. It’s one thing learning from books. It’s quite another getting personal feedback from a top tutor as you start to develop your skills. Courses these days can be quite cheap and can be done from home, so it’s not the hassle that it once used to be. We offer some brilliant courses, so check them out here. Depending on exactly what you’re writing, you may even find that a ‘how to write a novel’ course will be the right one for your particular project – but if in doubt, just ask.Start writing and get help. Finally – crucially – the only way you’ll learn how to write better is to start writing. Just get stuck in. You’ll learn masses simply by plunging in. Then, once you’ve got a good chunk of the manuscript written, you can get expert feedback on what you’ve done – what works, what doesn’t work, what you need to do to fix it. Using that support wisely can make all the difference between a book that publishers love, and one that just accumulates rejection letters. And whatever your project, good luck! More On How To Write A Book Link to: How to Write a Book (10 Doable Steps for New Writers) How To Write A step-by-step guide
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Is There A Market for Poetry Writing?

The first thing to ask about the poetry market: does it exist? Few make money from poetry. Seamus Heaney may have done, but he had a Nobel Prize. There is also, of course, the rise of the Instagram poets like Rupi Kaur, Lang Leav, Atticus, and so on. Here’s what you need to know. Selling Beauty Poetry remains a niche market. Even large bookshops will typically just sell acknowledged classics, academic anthologies, and a few books by today’s most famous poets. Few poets ever reach this level. More important for beginning writers are the specialist poetry magazines and poetry presses, the heart of the poetry scene. A collection of poetry might well only sell a few hundred copies. Few will make a profit. Poets themselves seldom make any money from their work. People who buy these books are poetry aficionados and will buy these books from ads in poetry magazines, from poetry festivals, etc. Getting Published It may be easier to walk across hot coals than to become a published poet. It’s fine to write poetry for yourself and friends, but suppose you really want to get published. What then? Agents rarely accept poetry submissions, and big publishing houses are interested in making money. Your ultimate aim should really be to interest the smaller poetry presses. Even if you aspired to be an ‘Instapoet’, it really is better to know if your poetry resonates with readers at the most critical levels, before you go and post online. In nearly all cases, these presses will only pick up a new poet if they have a track record of publication in the poetry magazines. As a rule, you should aim to have had 6-8 individual poems published in magazines before it makes sense to try and publish a collection. So start submitting good quality work as soon as you can. Poetry Magazines Some of our favourite magazines are The Rialto, The North, New Writer, Ambit, and Anon – but there are zillions of others. For a good place to browse go to Poetry Library, or The Poetry Kit. All magazines have their own submissions procedures, but as a rule, you should send out no more than half a dozen poems with a stamped addressed envelope for a response. It’s competitive getting accepted, so prepare for rejections before you get anywhere, and don’t expect speed either. Three months to get a response is normal. If and when you get 6-8 poems accepted by these, then is the time to start approaching publishers. Self-Publishing There is one other option, which is self-publication. This isn’t a fast-track way to get well-known, to make money, to get your work into bookshops, or anything else. It could lead to more, but it is a way to get bound copies of your work for you to distribute (or sell) to families and friends, at least. The easiest route for most poets is simply to go to your local printer. Get quotes for printing and binding copies of your work, and go with the best. This won’t be too expensive, and you won’t be ripped off. Beware of any ‘publisher’ advertising online for your work. Real publishers don’t solicit work. Anyone who wants you to pay to publish your work will print the work, but they will not publish it in any normal sense. Your work will not appear in bookshops. You will not make money from it. And there are lots of bandits out there. (You have been warned.) Who knows, though? Rupi Kaur self-published her poetry. Now Milk and Honey is published by Andrews McNeel. Good luck. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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How To Find A Literary Agent For Non-Fiction

Here’s how to find non-fiction book publishing literary agents, what kinds of non-fiction they’re looking for, and how to give them what they want. What Does A Literary Agent Do? So, why should you try to get an agent for your book? What do agents do? Well, literary agents work with writers to help them promote their work, pitch it to publishers and other professionals in the industry, and act on their behalf. Some agents also help writers to edit their manuscripts. They are key figures who help negotiate, and co-ordinate between writers and editors/publishers. What Are Non-Fiction Agents Looking For? All agents are looking for the same thing: saleable manuscripts that might make money. Whilst specialist or academic non-fiction isn’t on the cards (you’ll need a book proposal to pitch to non-fiction publishers, in this instance), non-fiction literary agents are looking for: Anything celebrity-led, and written by or endorsed by that celebrity;A strong and compelling personal memoir;A funny, moving, exotic tale of travel;A popular science tome;A narrative-led history;A biography, if the subject in question is genuinely famous;A major new diet and motivational work;A strong, quirky one-off. What no one’s looking for is niche. Guidebooks in minor subject areas, books of local history, biographies of little-known subjects, aren’t sought after. These books may well sell to the right publishers, though mightn’t sell for enough money to make it worth an agent’s while to get involved. In such cases, it’s fine to approach publishers direct. Where Can You Find Non-Fiction Literary Agents? Very few agents specialise in non-fiction. Most literary agents handle fiction and non-fiction, literary and commercial work. Some specialist non-fiction agents do exist, but you’re better off seeking a good all-purpose agent for your work. I’ve sold four non-fiction books myself, it didn’t occur to me to switch to a ‘specialist’ agent, and I’m quite certain that I wouldn’t have achieved a better outcome if I had done. What matters is the quality of the agent, not whether they specialise in a certain area. There are however exceptions to this general rule, namely: If you are writing a cookbook, health, diet or how to book, you may well want an agent who specialises in this niche. You may need a prolific presence first. It’s not an easy area to crack.If you want a ghost-writer to tell your story for you, you probably want an agent who has worked in this way with previous clients, but be realistic. Very few personal stories are interesting and commercial enough to justify the cost of ghost-writing so in general, if you want a story written, you’ll need to write it yourself (or ask us to help.) If you need more details, use agents’ websites to narrow down who’s interested in what, and do look at this guide on how to find a literary agent. How Can You Give Literary Agents What They Want? First, you need to decide what you are going to present to agents. With fiction, you always need to write the whole book. With non-fiction, you can often get away with offering agents a book proposal – that is, an outline version of the book you intend to write. If your book is strongly story-led (true of most memoir, for example), you’d be advised to write the whole thing before seeking agents. If your story is more subject-led, it’s usually fine to work off the back of a proposal. Second, you need to deliver a wonderful, saleable manuscript. That means: Strong, popular, entertaining writing (even if your subject is an extremely interesting one, people won’t want to read what you have to say about it if you write badly, so don’t).Write for the market. It’s obvious, but most non-fiction manuscripts aren’t written for the market. If you’re not sure what your market is, go to a bookstore and get the answer. Third, if you get knocked back by literary agents (non-fiction or generalist) – or if you want to give yourself the best possible chance before you approach them – then go and get professional advice. We’ve helped propel non-fiction books into print. Authors brought us ideas, talent, work ethic. We brought knowledge of the market, contacts, and expertise in writing. Put those things together, and you can have a powerful combination with eventual success. That’s how to find a literary agent for non-fiction. Best of luck. More On UK Literary Agents
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