How Publishing a Nonfiction Book Works

A published book is often seen by writers as the pinnacle of the craft. For many of us, our dream of becoming a writer began with reading good books. Perhaps you’ve imagined your name on a cover or looked for where your book would sit on a library shelf. 

Seasoned editor and publisher Roy M. Carlisle tells hope*writers that publishing a book is the final step in the process of developing and sharing an idea. 

He says, “People think of the book as if it’s the first thing [to be published], and it’s the last thing . . . You must remember that the book is a result of the process.”

What is this process? Roy calls it “the information funnel.”


Where to Begin

Book ideas are rarely fleshed out for the first time in the book itself. Writers begin to ask what resonates with readers and play with ideas in more accessible and immediate areas of publication. These include the internet, radio, TV, and daily newspapers, offering the most important and culturally relevant information to readers.

If you’re interested in writing a nonfiction book, Roy suggests you begin to look at the trends in this area of the information funnel. It will guide you to areas of greater exploration. It may also be the place you choose to begin writing through your own ideas. You can look for the response of readers, and see where you might explore further.


Next Steps

After ideas are generated at the top of the funnel, writers and readers begin to sift through them. Writers narrow their focus to the ideas and topics that resonate most, and then develop these ideas in greater depth by writing lengthier pieces. Here, in the middle of the information funnel, information is sifted, and only the best ideas deserve further exploration.

As information moves through the funnel, some will be discarded, and what’s left may be written about in more depth. This type of writing is found in weekly magazines, monthly magazines, literary magazines, or blog series. 

If you’ve written in multiple publications on the same topic, and you find it continues to resonate with readers, then it’s time to ask yourself if you have more to say on the subject. If the answer is yes, then you have reached the final destination of the funnel: book publishing.


The Final Destination

Writing a book is the final step in the process of developing and sharing an idea, coming only after the idea has been thoroughly explored, filtered through editors and readers in blog posts and smaller publications. If we shortcut the work of sifting our writing through the information funnel, the strength of our ideas hasn’t been tested. 

When we work our way through the process, we are able to investigate more facets of our subject. This also allows us to build an audience as we develop our material. There are no new book ideas, but there are new lenses through which we see ideas. Writing through the funnel helps us bring our unique insight to bear on every aspect of our topic.

The process of working through the publishing funnel is long and arduous, and requires more words than we think we have to give it. But if we hope to write a book, we need to work within the existing system.


While writing is an art, publishing is a business. If we want our words to live in the pages of a book, it’s vital we learn to balance both.

Our interview with Roy reveals even more insider tips about the publishing process. Want to learn more from a professional with 40+ years in the business? Click here for free access to our entire conversation with Roy and take one step toward balancing the art of writing with the business of publishing.


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