Do you write books on a non-fiction subject?
My first published books were in the Mind, Body, Spirit category, which whether you believe in the subject matter or not, counts as non-fiction because fiction is of course story-telling rather than imparting information. I’m in the process of re-releasing the material in those early books after the demise of the publisher and new blurb writing is in order.
All that aside, writing a blurb for a non-fiction book is different from writing one for a story, though writing for one non-fiction topic is very similar to writing the blurb for any subject.
The primary function of the non-fiction blurb is to impart information; what is the book about? What has the author got to say to readers about the subject? What qualifies the author to pontificate on the subject at all?
I find that the last point is usually best handled in the author bio. An author who writes both fiction and non-fiction is best advised to slant the bio differently. In my fiction books, my bio will mention personal interests related to my fiction genre and what other fiction books I have, while the bio for my Mind, Body, Spirit books will reveal my background in that topic.
If you read the author bios on any non-fiction book, a well-written one will give this information. For example, if I look up a random book on boat building and look at the author’s bio, these two paragraphs stand out:
“Master Boat Builder and Naval Architect Morten Olesen is the owner of the company Boatplans.dk, which for decades has delivered boat plans for home and backyard boat builders all over the world. Morten’s company, Boatplans.dk, is devoted to delivering innovative boat plans that are simple to understand.”
“Morten was born and raised on the waters of Denmark/Scandinavia where wooden boat building is a lifelong tradition. He learned about boat design firsthand from generations of experts that came before him.”
Reading this information gives me confidence that the author knows his subject and is qualified to write about it! It gets a little more complicated for the multi-genre author or those of us who write for both fiction and non-fiction markets, but the bio included in the book itself can be specific to the topic and important points can be included in the retailer bio.
On a different subject, I looked at two books, both free on the day I looked:
The first one had no author bio either on Amazon or in the book description. The second one had the following:
“Kira Novac is a holistic nutritionist, mom, and author on a mission. She wants to help you create a balanced, healthy lifestyle that is doable and fun! She loves cooking and creating tasty and delicious recipes is her passion. But she is even more passionate about teaching you how you can fall in love with her recipes and take care of your and your family’s health in a natural and enjoyable way!”
If the first book hadn’t been free, I would have skipped right past it. Weight loss books are plentiful and most of them are useless. The stand out from the blurb for the second one is the word ‘nutritionist’. If it had said ‘qualified nutritionist’ I would have felt more confident of the expertise, but as the rest of the blurb talks more about the author and what she wants to teach me, again, my belief that the book will be of value is limited. However, the blurb for this same book presents a good example of one way of doing the blurb for a non-fiction subject; bullet points:
“Inside You Will Discover:
Why you need to have your WHY
How to actually avoid the trap of boring, unrealistic starvation diets and stressful exercise programs
How to make the entire process of weight loss your new addiction so that you are naturally driven to achieve your goals
How to unleash unlimited inner motivation so that you never worry about what others think of you
How to use failure and obstacles to actually get more motivated and take massive action
How to create a healthy lifestyle you enjoy and quit “dieting” once and for all
How to stop being a victim of emotional eating”
Lessons from these examples are that if you have qualifications related to your subject, mention them! It seems obvious but it’s worth stating. I looked at several examples in this subject and didn’t find any bios with mention of professional qualifications. However, there were some with the other element worth mentioning; experience. There are books under this topic written by people who have lost large amounts of weight and are now writing a book to share their methods and help others.
In some ways, first hand experience in a topic can be better than educational qualifications, depending on the subject matter. Note that on the boat building book the author had extensive experience in the subject matter to offer.
For the blurb itself, the reader wants to know what they will learn from your book. What I personally prefer over the bullet point method illustrated above is a blurb that actually takes phrases from the chapter titles. Non-fiction books are likely to have chapter titles to indicate what that chapter will have to say.
An example from the topic of soap making:
“The pure luxury of soaps made with coconut butter, almond oil, aloe vera, oatmeal, and green tea is one of life’s little pleasures. And with the help of author Anne-Marie Faiola, it’s easy to make luscious, all-natural soaps right in your own kitchen. This collection of 32 recipes ranges from simple castile bars to intricate swirls, embeds, and marbled and layered looks. Begin with a combination of skin-nourishing oils and then add blueberry puree, dandelion-infused water, almond milk, coffee grounds, mango and avocado butters, black tea, or other delicious ingredients — and then scent your soap with pure essential oils. Step-by-step photography guides you through every stage of cold-process soapmaking.”
While this blurb is short, it does give a clear idea of what to expect from the book. I even ordered a Kindle sample of it despite a higher price than I’d like to pay for this subject matter. Another example from this topic actually listed the table of contents, much like using bullet points, to convey what information would be included.
With my own most recent release, the blurb starts with a reference to my background and relevance to the subject matter and uses a similar method to the above soap making selection to indicate what readers can expect from the book:
“Jaq D Hawkins was the first chaos magician to write of the history and elements of chaos magic for a widespread audience. Now, in this new volume, that history is expanded and the concepts, specialist terms and culture associated with chaos magic are clarified for a new generation of magic users.
Basic concepts and methods, associations with Discordianism and the teachings of magicians of the past, advice on how to survive the natural chaos that plagues those who choose the magical path … or more precisely are chosen by it, combine with an insightful perspective of the perversities of magic and the convoluted landscape of life through which the magical path leads us.
With some practical advice and basic spells designed to work within the very world of chaos wherein magic finds its direction, this book is a simple yet unequalled sourcebook for dealing with the unpredictability of magic in a multiverse of natural chaos.”
Obviously any of these books I’ve used as examples will only be of interest to someone who is already interested in the subject matter. That is a reality of non-fiction writing; any subject has a target audience that can be described as “those who are interested in the subject.” It won’t have a universal appeal, yet non-fiction tends to sell well if properly presented.
Your job, when writing the blurb, is to convey to the potential reader why YOUR boo on the subject is the one they want rather than another one on offer. What will your book offer them? Why are you qualified to pontificate on the subject? Whatever your subject, you’re up against other books written about the same topic so don’t be afraid to list the attributes that make yours better, or perhaps just easier to understand.
One other thing to remember is that if you have good review quotes you would like to include, perhaps from a recognised expert in your field, put them AFTER the description. Not before. When you’re looking for a book on any subject, the first thing a reader wants to know is what’s in the book!
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