Nonfiction books can seem a bit simpler, since we don’t need to tackle character development or scene description; nor focus as much on conflict or intrigue. However there are some unique challenges nonfiction authors will face and I hope to address them here so you know what to expect when searching for a book editor.

Firstly, it’s hugely important for a nonfiction book to have a winning theme or premise: it needs a point and purpose that wraps everything together. A great editor might help you discover this, but more commonly, you’ll find someone to just “clean it up” – a combination of proofreading for typos and light copy editing or line editing to improve fluency, word choice and sentence structure.

That kind of light polish is normal, but most nonfiction authors would benefit from a more robust service that actually makes the book better. There’s only so much an editor can help you with, so I’d start here with my nonfiction book writing guide, to make sure you’re using all the most powerful engagement techniques.

When I work with authors, I’ll typically go through first trying to find the “big picture” stuff: what is the book trying to say, who is it for, what will they learn… what’s the point? Why is it needed? Most of this content should go in the introduction or first chapter, to set the stage and entice readers to keep reading.

Then, we need to deliver on that promise, with well-organized chapters. I do have some tips (in the guide) on how to structure chapters, such as starting with a short story or anecdote but leaving the payout or conclusion until later: you start with an open loop, raising conflict and hooking attention with a scene or event or story that they can picture, and then focus on the problem or challenge and provide solutions before bringing it together.

Regardless of your content, you can probably make a huge improvement by tweaking the first and last few paragraphs of each chapter to bracket your content and provide context; a touchstone to remind readers of where they are and why this is important or relevant. These are non things that all editors will help with, because there are few universal guides or rules to writing nonfiction, so most people will just try to clean up the language, which is the less-important part.

I strongly recommend a “first chapter critique” so I can help you revise the first few chapters and help you figure out the “point” of your book, which will also be the USP (unique selling proposition) and probably the title or subtitle. After that, most normal editing services can help clean up and organize the rest of the content.

I’ve heard a “typical” low-end price for book editing is in the $500 to $1000 range, which is reasonable, but it’s very difficult to screen an editor and I’d advise against hiring based on price alone (paying more also doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get quality; which is why you should take a good hard look at revising yourself as much as possible before sending it off to an editor).

In many cases, the nonfiction manuscripts we receive as actually a bunch of anecdotal biography snippets and some vague life lessons, which may be interesting content but it lacks any type of clear point, aim or purpose. It’s *very* difficult to all this on your own, which is why we added the “ghosted” services which include heavier revision and editing.

How to write a nonfiction book (free chapter outlining templates!)

How to Write Your Non-Fiction Book Introduction or Preface: Masterful Persuasion Techniques

Many authors hope to just send their manuscript off and receive a clean, ready-to-publish file in return. Most of the time, an editor will fix and clean it up but also make significant comments and suggestions which may require rewrites and revision to dig deeper and make the book better; this rewriting can take months and some authors may feel frustrated or fed-up with the process. If you just want to get a book out quickly and don’t expect people to read it, you may be fine. Most nonfiction books do not have mass commercial appeal anyway, so even if it’s brilliant, it might not take off.

But if you are hoping for a big success, getting the content right and getting help from an expert might be worthwhile.

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