From memoirs to infomercials, the world of nonfiction offers more possibilities than you could shake a pencil at.
Focusing on the right type of nonfiction could be the key that unlocks a successful writing career. The challenge is to find a match between your particular motivations for writing and the form and markets that fulfill them.
Some folks are drawn into writing by a pet topic they love. They’re so into breeding Czechoslovakian sheep dogs or cooking Bermudan desserts, that they want to share this great joy with everybody.
If this motivation doesn’t ring a bell with you right away, wait.
Maybe you’re still in the process of discovering your favorite topic.
Think about any hobbies you have. If, like me, your only hobby is singing in your car while driving to work, take a different approach. What have you always wanted to know more about? What gets you really enthused? These are the makings of a pet topic that could launch your nonfiction writing career.
The old standby magazine and newspaper articles are good markets for the topic-motivated writer. Smaller, specialized magazines are an especially great place to start. You may already subscribe to some publications covering your area of interest. If not, you should be able to find them in Writer’s Market or on larger newsstands. Also, don’t forget to ask others who share your interest, particularly professionals in any related fields. They can tell you about trade publications devoted to your area of enthusiasm.
Don’t forget to check out newspapers in your search for markets in your field of interest. Just about anything you can do in your spare time will interest lifestyle section editors at bigger papers. And newspapers publish a lot more often than magazines. An internet search will help you find the addresses of papers all over the country. Then send queries just like you would with magazines.
Newsletters are also a good market for the topic-conscious writer. Think about the various businesses and organizations connected to your interest. Using our Czechoslovakian dog example, there are local dog breeders, groomers, kennels, dog shows, animal shelters, pet stores.
Do any of these publish print or electronic newsletters for customers or members? If so, they need articles to fill those pages. If not, you could start a newsletter for them. Just think how proud you’d be to see your name on the masthead of a publication devoted to your favorite thing in the world.
Starting your own website or blog is another great way to gain nonfiction writing experience and share your interest with the world. One of the things agents and editors look for before signing a writer is a ready-made audience for a book. Gathering a following on your website or blog provides that.
Books are usually the most profitable venture for nonfiction writers. You may want to wait until you’ve honed your writing skills with shorter pieces before you decide whether to write a book, or you may want to dive right in. Either way, the trick is to make sure your book is fresh and different from the rest. This means you have to read as much as you can of what’s been published on your topic, a task that should be made easier by your consuming interest in it.
Don’t be scared away from writing a book by the size of the project. After all, a book is just a series of articles strung together. No writing project is too big to be conquered by organization and perseverance. Find yourself a good how-to book on the subject, raid the organizer section of the office supply store, and get to work.
If you’re a writer with a pet topic, follow your interest. It will lead you to a hundred rewarding markets for your work.
For other varieties of nonfiction writing, read
What Kind of Writer Are You? Nonfiction Writing Part Two: The Message and
What Kind of Writer Are You? Nonfiction Writing Part Three: The Paycheck.
Back to top of Types of Nonfiction Part One.