4 Genres of Nonfiction

4 Genres of Nonfiction

Genre: Tells readers what to expect

Like fiction, nonfiction can be broken down into genres. These genres tell readers what type of book they are about to read. For instance, one nonfiction genre is “how-to.” When you pick up a “how-to” book, you know you are going to be getting step-by-step instructions on how to do something.

Nonfiction can be broken down into four genres/categories:

  • Academic
  • How-To
  • Narrative Nonfiction
  • The Big Idea

In the following sections, I’ll be breaking down the components of each genre.

1 | Academic

Academic books are written for an audience who is dedicated to a specific profession or passion. These readers will most likely have a preliminary understanding of the subject matter at hand. The academic genre is not about entertaining, but more about presenting information, facts, and data. Academic books are usually written for a much smaller, targeted audience and, thus, the price point for such books is usually much higher.

2 | How-To

How-to books are your trade books. They are written for the audience who wants to learn to do something, whether it be the best way to build a table or even write a book. How-to books teach your everyday reader how to do something specific without the need for taking a lengthy course. However, many how-to books nowadays are also being turned into online courses for those that want a more in-depth process.

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3 | Narrative Nonfiction

Narrative nonfiction is story based. That means it uses the narrative techniques of fiction to deliver a work of nonfiction. The writer is able to convey a theme or idea using truthful details in story form. Storytelling engages people, which is why this genre has been so successful in recent years.

4 | The Big Idea

The big idea book draws on the above three genres and has the ability to appeal to all types of readers. The big idea book is academic in that it presents information in much the same way a writer of academic nonfiction would, including applicable data and conclusions. The writer applies real-world application in much the same way the how-to writer will, leaving the reader with the tools necessary to apply the knowledge given. It also uses storytelling techniques to engage the reader and to impart a deeper theme/controlling idea.

It’s important to identify your genre, even when writing nonfiction, to properly structure your manuscript and to identify your audience and the main objective of your work.

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