Eight Secrets of Creating and Selling Dynamic Non-Fiction Part 1

Eight Secrets

“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”                                                   –E.L. Doctorow 

John Lehman

What are the forces at work below the surface that affect editors and publishers? Discover, for example, how each book or article must offer a tacit promise to an audience and how to shape your work to make it memorable. Use these eight techniques to find the best subjects, develop them most effectively and market the results for quickest success. John Lehman has presented writing seminars in dozens of cities throughout the country. He is a book reviewer for Book Lover Magazine and is a columnist for BusinessFirst. He has had articles in The Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Omni and more than fifty other consumer and trade publications. He is the founder and publisher of Rosebud magazine.

Dynamic Non-Fiction:

1. Offers a tacit Promise

2. Delivers unexpected Drama

3. Revels in Personality

4. Is visually Memorable

5. Gives content Shape

6. Moves with Efficiency   

7. Has a title that’s Tantalizing 8. Can be readily Marketed 

 Dynamic non-fiction offers a tacit Promise.  

The Rats on the Waterfront 

By Joseph Mitchell 

    The biggest rat colonies in the city are found in run-down structures on or near the waterfront, especially in tenements, live-poultry markets, wholesale produce markets, slaughterhouses, warehouses, stables and garages. They also turn up in more surprising places. Department of Health inspectors have found their claw and tail tracks in the basements of some of the best restaurants in the city. A few weeks ago, in the basement and sub-basement of a good old hotel in the East Forties, a crew of exterminators trapped two hundred and thirty-six in three nights. Many live in the subways; in the early-morning hours, during the long lulls between trains, they climb to the platforms and forage among the candy–bar wrappers and peanut hulls. There are great colonies of brown rats in Central Park…

    The rats of New York are quicker-witted than those on farms, and they can out-think any man who has not made a study of their habits. Even so, they spend most of their lives in a state of extreme anxiety, the black rats dreading the brown and both species dreading human beings. Away from their nests, they are usually on the edge of hysteria. They will bite babies (now and then, they bite one to death), and they will bite sleeping adults, but ordinarily they flee from people. If hemmed in, and sometimes if too suddenly come upon, they will attack. They fight savagely and blindly, in the manner of mad dogs; they bare their teeth and leap about every which way, snarling and snapping and clawing the air. A full-grown black rat, when desperate, can jump three feet horizontally and make a vertical leap of two feet two inches, and a brown rat is nearly as spry. They are greatly feared by firemen. One of the hazards of fighting a fire in a junk shop or in an old warehouse is the crazed rats… 


By Tracy Kidder 

    Jim Locke sets gently on the undisturbed earth a mahogany box, opens it, and takes out his transit, which looks like a spyglass. It is a tool for imposing levelness on an irregular world.

    Locke’s transit is made of steel with small brass adjusting wheels and is as old as the century, more than twice as old as Locke, who is thirty-six. He uses it near the beginnings of jobs and first of all for guiding bulldozers. Locke erects the transit on a tripod. He turns the brass wheels until the bubble, encased in glass beneath the eyepiece, floats to the center of its chamber. Then, bending over, putting one eye to the lens of the transit and squinting the other, he transforms his view of this patch of open ground into a narrow, well-lighted tunnel divided by cross hairs. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, in another context. “The art of civilization is the act of drawing lines.” And of course it has also been the act of drawing level ones.

    This piece of ground was once part of a New England hayfield. It lies on the southern outskirts of Amherst, Massachusetts, a college  and university town, the kind of place that has a fine public school system and a foreign policy. The site has been studied all winter…


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