Do you know enough about it to write a book?
November 30, 2015
I was working on a writing project the other day when I made a discovery. It was one of those things which shouldn’t have surprised me.
What I found was that, thanks to ereaders, a cottage industry of short books has sprung up.
When I say short, I mean twenty-five to fifty pages. Books a person can read in an hour or so. Although these shorties exist in fiction, for the most part they are little snippets on narrow nonfiction topics.
How to fix a leaking commode. How to tie a fishing knot. How to fix up your house so you can flip it. How to write short nonfiction, etc.
Two things are revolutionary about this short nonfiction trend.
First, they redefine the word “book.”
The old codgers out there, the folks chronologically gifted like I am, may push back at the concept of denoting a thirty page document on a niche topic a “book.” That’s because for the last hundred years or so we have come to understand a book as a collection of words consisting of approximately 75,000 words, if not more.
No longer. In the new world, the world of Kindles, a book can be any collection of words of any length so long as it totals at least 2,500 words.
The second revolutionary component is that people scarf up these short books like a junkie devours pills.
I know these little jewels sell because Amazon displays the sales ranking for each book.
I know, too, that I devoured a handful of them while I was researching my project.
Adding to this trend is Kindle Unlimited. For $9.99 a month, a person can read as many of them as he wants. The only limitation I know of with KU is that one can only have ten books in his KU collection at once. When his KU books hit the ten book limit, he must turn one of them in before he can download another.
All this brings me to the topic of the day.
What topics do you know enough about to write a thirty page nonfiction book?
Actually, from what I have determined thus far a person does not have to know anything about the topic to write thirty pages about it.
I’m not being cruel here. Rather I am making the point that the thirty page book world is uneven at best. Some of the shorties are really good. They fill in much-needed information on a targeted subject, whet you appetite to learn more about it, and move on.
Other shorties are nothing but fluff.
It’s hard to tell the fluff from the real stuff until you get the book in your hand.
However, this new quick read phenomenon creates an interesting opportunity for writers. As a change of pace, for instance, a fiction author may want to give some thought to creating a few shorties. If she sets her word count goal at 15,000 words, she can turn out a nonfiction book in a couple of weeks or less. The process is a nice break from the mammoth task of writing a 60,000-75,000 word novel.
And she might even sell some of them.
The common wisdom now is that any writer who hopes to build his brand must release new books several times a year, maybe quarterly. The short nonfiction book allows an author to keep stoking the fire, adding to his personal catalog of books.
And he can write these books on the side while he works on his next novel.
That is, of course, if he knows enough about something to write thirty pages on it.