I started my reading journey at the beginning of 2017, and since then, I think it’s safe to say that I have read a lot of non-fiction business books.
Thankfully, most of them have been awesome and have been well worth the investment of my time and money.
However, there are a few things that I hate to see.
Well, maybe ‘hate’ is too strong of a word – they’re probably better described as ‘pet peeves’ or ‘bugbears’.
Either way, if you are writing (or thinking of writing) a non-fiction book, here are some things that I do not want to see.
1. The author’s biography at the front of the book
I understand why authors put their biography upfront and center whilst listing all their achievements; It helps to demonstrate to the reader that they know their stuff and that they are a credible person worth listening to.
But I didn’t buy the book to find out about the author’s life story (unless, of course, the book is an autobiography). I bought the book to learn something new or to find out more about a certain subject.
If I had my way, all the ‘about the author’ sections would be sent to the back of books where they belong.
Here’s how I see it…
I have already bought your book. I have made an investment, part of which you receive as profit, and therefore the next step in the exchange is that I receive some form of value for my investment.
That value comes in the form of additional knowledge; Learning about something that I wanted to know. So, deliver that value first.
After I have received this value, our exchange is complete. Then, in my opinion, this is the ideal time for you to introduce yourself and provide me with the option to find out more about you as an author, should I choose to do so.
2. Non-actionable content
I have read books that have been thought-provoking, inspiring, and enlightening, but without any actionable content, I feel lost after turning the last page.
Without clear instructions on what to do next or how to put the author’s teachings into practice, I just go back to my day-to-day life and routine.
Books that deliver a clear step-by-step method or that show the reader how to put their principles and concepts into action are much more valuable. They’ve taken away the guesswork and told me, in black and white, exactly what I need to do.
Whilst fiction books are read for entertainment, non-fiction books are mainly read for personal development. We buy non-fiction books and invest the time into reading them because we want to learn something new and to improve.
But knowing is only half of the battle. It’s the doing that is going to make the difference. Therefore, the best books are the ones that teach you what you need to know AND then tell you what you need to do.
3. Regurgitated content
There’s nothing worse than feeling as though you’re reading the same paragraph over and over again but with a few different words.
I understand that, in some instances, regurgitated content can’t be helped and that the concept needs to be repeated in order to help it sink in and connect the dots for the reader.
But I do not like it when I feel as though the author is repeating him/herself just to bump up the word count and the length of the book.
As a reader, I would much rather read a book that is shorter and straight to the point. Do not waste my time with repeated content.
I regularly reward smaller books in my reviews because I enjoy the fact that they require less of a time commitment.
If your book is lengthy, then you need to make sure you have some quality content and the value I get out of it is equal to, or greater, than the time I have just invested into reading it.
4. Dwelling on the same concept for far too long
Reading the same paragraph over and over again with just a few different words is one of the worst feelings.
Dwelling on the same content can help it sink in and connect the dots for the reader, so in some instances, it can’t be helped.
But when I feel as though the author is regurgitating him/herself just to bump up the length of the book and the word count, I really hate it.
(Did you see what I did there?)
5. Telling me what I’m going to learn
This sort of information should be reserved for the cover of the book only. You do not need to tell me what I am going to learn at the beginning of every chapter.
I feel as though I’m reading the same thing twice. First, you tell me what I am going to learn, and then you tell me about it all over again but with a bit of extra information.
Do you know why most people read and prefer fiction books over non-fiction books? Because they don’t know what’s going to happen! As a reader, they get transported off to a different world and taken on a journey. And at no point is the reader told what is going to happen on that journey. The author doesn’t give you a ‘sneak-peak’ at the beginning of every chapter – ‘In this chapter, you will learn how Dave dies and Claudia receives an anonymous letter.’
I know that we are talking about non-fiction business books here, but you can still take me on a journey and allow me to uncover your key concepts one by one.
What do you think?
When I’m reviewing a book I don’t markdown for every point I made on this list. I understand that some of these bugbears are personal to me and they may not bother others – some people may actually prefer them.
I’d love to know what you think. Do you agree or disagree with any of my points above? Or do you have your own list of things that you hate to see/read in non-fiction books?
Let me know in the comments below.