Nonfiction authors typically start writing chapter titles that are as vanilla as can be, but ultimately, you want to consider chapter titles that are engaging for the reader. At the same time, you don’t want your chapter titles to be so creative that someone looking at the list of contents (also known as the table of contents or just “Contents”) to have no clue what’s in your book!

Here’s a solution: You can use a clever chapter title followed by a subtitle that explains the concept a little more clearly.

In Cinematherapy, my coauthor Bev West and I had a chapter called: “I Hate My Life and I’m Moving to Bora Bora: Seeking Greener Pastures Movies.” True, you might not know what Seeking Greener Pastures Movies are, but when you look at all the chapter titles, you can see that each is around a particular theme: Mother Issues Movies, Martyr Syndrome Movies, and so on.

You can use the same trick for headers within the book. In Raising a Sensory Smart Child, one of the headers in the chapter on improving speech skills and picky eating reads “You Say Potato and I Say Topahhhhhhuuuduh”: Problems with Motor Planning”

Using an intriguing quotation within a chapter title or a header is a great way to be provocative and intriguing, but don’t sacrifice clarity. 

Writing a memoir? Often, memoir chapters don’t have titles and sections within chapters don’t have headers, but here’s your chance to get creative. You never know what title or header might grab someone’s attention. Think about taking an interesting image from a story you tell, such as “The Purple Rabbit” or “Twelve Pretzels.” Set up a dilemma or intrigue: “The Purple Rabbit’s Whereabouts” or “Twelve Pretzels and a Warning.” 

You might also use a quotation—I always loved the sound of “Bora Bora” and think that was the perfect word to use in our funny quote related to movies about seeking greener pastures and getting away from frustrating situations. Think about things you’ve said or a client has said that sum up a concept in an interesting way. Think of things you typically say to your followers and clients. 

chapter one chapter titles engaging nonfiction headers titles photo typewriter

 

You can also do a spin on a common saying or cliche. How about: “You Got This (Unless You Need to Freak Out First, In Which Case, Read This Chapter NOW)”?

Or, “Plays Shockingly Well with Others: Five Keys to Improve Your Collaboration Skills.” 

Which comes first, the clever section header or the section itself? You decide. But I think you’ll find it’s a good exercise to at least consider jazzing up your chapter and header titles.

Need some help with your book as you write it and set up your plan to get it published? Contact me about my services as a developmental editor, ghostwriter, and book publishing consultant.

 

guide to writing engaging chapter titles header titles

Are you feeling lost as you’re structuring chapters in a how-to or self-help book you’re writing? Did you get lost as one section of chapter one started to grow like creeping Charlie on your lawn, taking over the grass? Do you feel as if you’re repeating yourself over and over again, but you don’t know where to first introduce an idea and how to acknowledge that it’s familiar to the reader when you mention it a second or third time? Developmental editors like me help authors out of the weeds when they have trouble structuring chapters or sections. If you aren’t working with a developmental editor, here are some simple tips for structuring book chapters that might help (and of course, you can check with me to see if I’m available to get you out of the weeds, too):

First, don’t try to cram in too many ideas. Aim for five to eight topics per chapter. That’s true whether you are writing a full-length book or a mini-book. If your book is a “life lessons” book of transformational nonfiction, and the title is something like Fifty Ways to Make Your Fifties Fabulous, one topic per chapter makes sense since you’ll have fifty short chapters. However, if the number of lessons is smaller and you want each lesson to be a chapter, you’ll want subsections in each chapter to break up the text. For example, if you want to write The Six Laws of Marketing to Millennials, you’re probably going to need several sections for each law or chapter.

Second, arrange your ideas in a logical order. You might want to write your ideas on cards or simply type them into a document and move them around to get a feel for what order might work. In a book chapter, consider making an emotional connection or offer them a provocative idea at the beginning. Start with a story or some a startling statistic, statement, or fact. That can lead the reader into your first topic. You want to meet the reader where they are to get them where you want them to go, so make a connection right away.

Third, justify or change your order. Explain to yourself why you want to cover one topic before you cover another. You probably have a good reason and don’t realize it! As you justify to yourself why topic 2 comes before topic 3, you will get a better sense of how to write a transition from that topic to the next when you are writing the actual chapter. If you realize your order doesn’t make sense or doesn’t work quite right, it might be that a topic is a subtopic of one of the others. You can write it up as a subtopic in your outline for the chapter and perhaps give it its own header that is a different size from the headers for your main topic. You might even end up placing some material in a sidebar or boxed text that can be read after a section of text has been read. Sidebars and boxed texts are a convenient workaround when you have material that doesn’t smoothly fit into the main text. You might use a sidebar for text that is focused on resources (how to find a practitioner, nutritional or educational testing that can be done, etc.) or that serves as a warning, practical tip, or fun fact.

developmental editor nonfiction

 

Fourth, keep in mind that your entire book doesn’t have to fit into chapter one. It’s easy to get bogged down as you think about all the things you want to write about in your book. Remember, chapter one’s purpose is to meet the reader where they are and make a connection with them and then offer the main points that will be explored in detail later in the book. Phrases such as, “Later in this book,” and “As you will learn,” can help you cut yourself off before you go into too much detail on a topic that you want to explore at length later on. You don’t want to overdo the references to what’s coming, but you also don’t want to pile everything into chapter one.

Again, if you get completely stuck in your structuring and writing, consider hiring me as a developmental editor. I can pull you out of the weeds and convince you that you truly can conquer the task of writing a how-to or self-help book, business book, parenting book, life lessons book—or even a memoir. You might want to check out my services and testimonials pages to learn more about how I work with clients and what their experiences have been.

I especially love this endorsement from a recent client:

“I am an experienced author who has sold 1.1 million copies worldwide. Nevertheless, I got stuck on book number four and was paralyzed for five years. In one conversation, Nancy gave me a piece of advice that simplified a complex problem and actually got me excited about the book once again. Thank you, Nancy!”—Randi Kreger, Author of Stop Walking on Eggshells

Need help structuring your transformative nonfiction book? Contact me.

Facebook has millions of followers, but as you’ve probably noticed, it’s hard to get engagement on an author’s Facebook page. In fact, in the last 18 months, engagement with Facebook posts are down 18 percent. What’s an author to do?

I have some answers for you.

I wrote an ebook on 25 Powerful Ways to Get Engagement on Facebook, and the techniques continue to work, but they will work even better if you have a private Facebook group that you monitor rather than a page. Increasingly, people want more privacy on social media and to feel they are a part of a group that won’t veer off into incivility. A group can be public, secret, or closed. Closed groups will be discoverable on Facebook but people can’t join without the moderator’s permission.

 

25 Powerful Ways to Get Engagement on Facebook

Buy the 25 Powerful Ways to Get Engagement on Facebook ebook today and build your author platform, brand, and following.

As a result of this change, while I will continue to host my Facebook page for aspiring authors, called Nancy Peske Literary Editor, I am also announcing a new private Facebook group for Nonfiction Authors that you might wish to join. I’ll make short posts there and alert you to any articles, blog posts, or special offers you might be interested in. I’ll continue to use my newsletter (sign up through the pop up on this blog) as a tool for outreach, too. Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I’m so busy working with my clients and doing professional development that I’m not going to be posting five times a day or sending you a newsletter every week, and that I’m always happy to answer a quick query from an aspiring author. I hope you’ll find my Facebook closed group a great way to keep in touch with me and pick up some tips on all aspects of getting your transformational nonfiction book written and published.

As an author, you might have heard that using video on your Facebook page is going to get you more engagement than using an image and a link or post. That turns out not to be true anymore, so feel free to use an image that shows automatically when you post a link or use a stock photo from a free photo site such as Pixabay.com to illustrate your post and grab people’s attention visually. Use your own photos, too.

Keep in mind, too, that people want to engage in a conversation with you and your other followers. Post often and ask questions. Offer free advice and help to followers who post on your Facebook page. Run specials on your books or your services, share news your followers might be interested in (for example, I like to share info on writing, publishing, and marketing nonfiction books).

Even so, authors, do try to be on top of responding to people who interact with you on other social media accounts as well. Consider, too, having discussion forums on your page and a contact form or at least a contact page. Invite people to follow you on your active social media accounts, including your Facebook group dedicated to your work, your brand, and your message.

Social media is constantly changing, so don’t forget to always keep an email subscriber list to be sure you are able to stay in contact with the people who have expressed interest in you!

 

build author platform facebook image

Buy the ebook 25 Powerful Ways to Get Engagement on Facebook and build your author platform, making it easier for you to sell books when you’re ready to do so.

 

 

Many authors want to use their book to launch a career as a speaker but have only done a few presentations. How do you get more speaking engagements? By showing off why you would be an engaging, informative speaker. Have a section on your website that sells you as a speaker. Add a demonstration video that shows that really, no kidding, you are great in front of an audience. However, even if you haven’t put together a demonstration video quite yet, you’ll benefit from these six secrets to getting speaking engagements using your website page.

 

Grab their attention in seconds. Is there an emotionally engaging image or statement that will have people’s attention in seconds? What’s the killer story or set of startling statistics that will grab them instantly? What headline will wow them? Do you have an incredible book title that can be used for the name of a speech or workshop you can give? You only have a few seconds to connect with someone before they leave your website or stop watching your speaker demonstration video, so make that intro amazing. When you create a demonstration video for yourself as a speaker, you’ll want to use a highly engaging opening, too.

 

Use strong visual images. Your website or video for selling yourself as a speaker should include images of you speaking. You’ll want to get good lighting in the room if possible. If you end up doing a posed shot with good lighting before the audience shows up, that can work, too. If you don’t have great video of yourself speaking, you can always create a video combining still photographs, video of yourself and a narrative voice-over. Maybe you’ll add maybe some footage of yourself speaking directly to the camera. Try to get photographs of yourself speaking at more than one venue. If you can, get a still photo or video of your audience laughing or looking engaged. The point is not just to show how authoritative you look standing up there but how audiences relate to you. Again, if you haven’t created a demonstration video yet, at least start with a strong visual image of yourself speaking and add it to a website page about yourself as a speaker.

 

Be energetic. If you’re naturally introverted and low-key, turn up the volume on your energy when you’re speaking and being videotaped or when you’re recording an audio of your voice. You don’t have to speak a mile a minute as if you’re about to say, “But wait! There’s more! For just $9.99, you can also get—” If you’re reassuring, warm, and gentle, speaking like a soft-spoken, then that’s the authentic you and you should be authentic. Just question whether you don’t need to step up your energy a bit for a live audience to be engaged by you. Let your enthusiasm for your topic show. Let people feel how passionate you are about helping them. That enthusiasm and passion should come through in your website copy, too. Use strong verbs to make emotionally engaging statements. (I wrote about strong verbs in a previous blog piece.)

 

Demonstrate your expertise. Show what an expert you are. Mention your book and be sure to show the jacket. If you haven’t published your book yet, get a jacket made anyway—a mock-up that can be changed down the road. Offer written testimonials or video testimonials from clients who rave about your work, whether it’s how engaging you are as a speaker, how working with you one-on-one benefitted them, or how your ideas solved a problem they had struggled with for a long time. Ask people if you can use an image of their face or their company logo in conjunction with their words of praise. If they’re not sure what to say, ask them to pick their favorite thing about your presentation and share that. Be sure to list any organizations or groups you’ve spoken to in the past.

 

Offer more than one potential lecture or workshop topic. Suggest to potential clients for your speaking services a few topics on which you can speak. Try to come up with snappy titles for your potential speeches. A short description of the topic can help, too.

 

 Give them a call to action: Book me now! At the end of any presentation, you’ll want a call to action. At the end of your video, give information about how someone can contact you to book you as a speaker. At the bottom of your website page that offers your services as a speaker, be sure you have your contact information or a link to your contact form—and you might want to provide a phone number, too.

 

speaking engagements author platform

Build your author platform with speaking engagements.

 

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We all have a book inside us. We may even have several! If you want to write a book based on your life, are you clear on the type of book you would like to write? I have seven options for you—six nonfiction and one fiction—that might fit well with your plan to write a book.

I like to say a book is a credibility card that solidifies your brand and message. Should you write a memoir, focusing on your personal story?  Would it make more sense to write a book about what you have learned, one that features pieces of your story and a short summary of it at the beginning of the book?

Many of my clients have struggled with the question of what type of book to write to most effectively communicate their ideas and establish their brand and get their message out there. Some of my clients have pivoted with their brand, and a book has been instrumental in helping them do that. For example, one wanted to move from a more straightforward health brand to one that was more lifestyle oriented.

Other clients of mine have wanted to write their story as a book so they can inspire others but soon came to see that a memoir needs to be about a specific theme in their life that ties into their central message.

My video, How to Write a Book Based on Your Life, goes into some detail about the seven different types of books you might write. They are:

An autobiography or personal history. This type of personal project lets you tell your story to future generations. How I wish that my great-grandmother had written such a book so I could know more about how she went from having just a six-grade education to running a family business! Your great-grandchildren would surely appreciate a professionally written book telling your life story.

A memoir. Memoirs are thematic and often focus on just one aspect of a person’s life. Some authors write more than one memoir. Common themes including coming of age and the hero’s journey. Memoirs have a wider audience than an autobiography or personal history.

A life lessons book. Like a memoir, a life lessons book is thematic, but the themes are summed up with compelling statements. I love the title of the book by Starbucks founder Howard Behar, written with Janet Goldstein: It’s Not About the CoffeeWhat a great title that summarizes the book’s central message! All of his chapter titles are statements and lessons that we can learn from.

A business book. A business book can be part memoir, part life-lessons book. The key is to know your best stories and match them up with key ideas you want to put across (for example, that the Starbucks brand is NOT about the coffee!)

A self-help book. I specialize in helping people write this type of book. You may have seen my video on how to structure a self-help book. In it, I offer a structure that I have seen work time and time again. The book should take readers on a journey from here to there so that by the end of the book, they feel their life has changed and they know how to apply your ideas to their own life to make it better. There are two key elements in self-help books: the takeaway and the action plan. (You do not necessarily need an action plan, but you definitely need takeaway, as I explain in my video on How to Write a Book Based on Your Life.)

A parenting book. I cowrote an evergreen parenting book that continues to sell year after year (hence “evergreen”). In fact, it has sold over 130,000 copies. Now, I am not the expert of all time on parenting (my son would agree with me on that!). However, I did interviews and research, synthesized ideas, drew on my own experiences as a child and as a parent, and put it all together with the help of my coauthor, my son’s occupational therapist who treated him. We came up with a parenting book filled with tips and strategies I knew parents needed. I turned myself into an expert in the process. (Two book award committees and dozens of reviewers and endorsers apparently agree, because Raising a Sensory Smart Child has gotten a phenomenal response from those folks.) My coauthor, Lindsey Biel, OTR/L, provided the therapist’s perspective, which broadened the appeal of the book. You might want to consider a coauthor or at least a foreword from someone who has professional credentials who can vouch for the credibility of your parenting advice.

A novel. You can “fictionalize” your life and start writing a novel. Know whether you are going to make it a mystery, a romance, commercial women’s fiction (such as a novel about a mother and daughter who experience conflict they have to resolve), or a work of literary fiction. Know the conventions of these types of books so that you are clear on what you are writing. If you are going to write commercial women’s fiction, read some novels in that category. There’s an old saying: To be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. Did you know that bestselling novelist Jeffrey Archer said he read 100 novels before starting his own? That might have been more than he needed to read, but it goes to show you really do have to familiarize yourself with the type of book you want to write.

I also talk in my video How to Write a Book Based on Your Life about using sensory detail and storytelling so that you “show, don’t tell”—another old saying in the book biz. When you write, put us in the middle of the action and the moment of the scene, even if you are just writing an anecdote in a business book so you emotionally engage us. You don’t have to go on for pages giving us exhaustive detail about a client you worked with, but give us a sense of what it was like to be in the situation that went from uncomfortable to a sense of possibility for change. Show us how you overcame your bad habit of saying “yes, of course” and instead saying, “I’ll need to get more details before I commit to doing that.” Even a nonfiction book has a narrative arc. Perhaps you will show us how you went from hating your body to feeling grateful for the healthy body you inhabit, from weighing yourself obsessively to telling your scale, “Kiss my butt, buddy,” and weighing yourself once a year, not obsessing about the number. You started at a low place and achieved success in some area of your life. People want to see how you did that, and your book can do the job of conveying your story.

Need help conceptualizing your book? Stuck on the title and overarching theme? Not sure if you should go with life lessons around your parenting successes or with a funny memoir? I can help. Give me some details about where you are in your process. Think about where you see yourself going with this book (doing podcasts and public speaking? being on local TV and radio talk shows? having a blog and newsletter along with a popular Instagram account?). And let me know if you’re ready for a one-hour consultation call and perhaps some coaching as you start your writing process. Contact me and let’s get you firmly on the road to writing and publishing your book.

 

how to write a book 7 ways

How to write a book based on your story or work: I can help you figure out what type of book you want to write.

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