When you set out to write a book, regardless of the genre, you will no doubt strive to create a compelling and credible literary work. If so, you will want to become very familiar with the idea of conducting some research ahead of time.

The time and effort spent doing some research can truly contribute to your book’s success. If you are writing nonfiction, this is a no-brainer. The more you understand your topic, the better you can convey your thesis and persuade the reader. If you are writing a novel, doing some digging regarding the time period, setting, and customs will add layers of authenticity to your story.

For many writers, the very word “research” may send shivers up the spine, as memories of agonizing over college reports, outlines, and footnotes spring to mind. But learning how to research for a book, right from the outset, helps manage any research anxiety you might be experiencing. Worry not, as this guide will help you tackle the research aspects of the writing process with confidence.

The Book Research Process, Simplified

When a writer decides to sit down and write their first novel or self-help book, you may not have given a minute’s thought as to the need to gather factoids ahead of time. This is especially true for fiction writers, who bank on the idea that the story is fabricated anyway. In fact, ignoring the research step, or giving it short shrift, will adversely affect the quality of your book.

Learning how to research for a book is essential if you want the process to go smoothly. Consider these steps:

  1. Start with a plan. Begin the research process with a plan. This helps you to stay focused and avoid wasting valuable time. Describe the purpose of your book or the general storyline, and what types of details and information are needed to fill those out. When considering how to do research for a novel or nonfiction book, it helps to create a list of potential sources for the information or data, such as:
    • Internet search engines
    • Books
    • Podcasts or documentaries
    • Libraries
    • Museums
    • Interviews
  1. Create a system. Knowing how to organize research for the book is key. Every author has their own preferred system for sorting and storing the information they have gathered. Whether you prefer a notebook with sticky notes and colored highlighters or using an app like Scrivener or Evernote, find a system that will keep your data neatly organized and accessible.
  2. Make lists. Within the system you’ve designed, you should plan on keeping handy lists. For example, when fleshing out a time period for a novel, create a section with headers, such as clothing, mannerisms, customs and traditions, speech, foods, and family life. Under each header, list the various facts you have dug up. If you are writing a nonfiction book, your headers will pertain to the topics in the book, with lists of data under each.
  3. Know when to stop. It is easy to get swept up in the fact-finding mission prior to writing a book, so do give yourself a deadline. Too often, authors avoid actually writing their book by continuing on with the research for far too long. Keep in mind that you are not going to use each and every item you find within the manuscript. Remember the main purpose for doing the research, which is to lend your book more credibility while enhancing the reader experience — and that you are not writing an encyclopedia.

3 Book Research Tips to Stay Organized and Productive

It is one thing to know how to research for a book you are working on, and quite another to organize research for a book. One is about gathering and the other is about sorting…and both are critical to a successful and productive research process.

Consider these 3 tips for staying on task:

  1. Recognize when you have gone down a rabbit hole. When one resource leads to another and yet another, you can find yourself so far down a rabbit hole that you lose sight of the objective. Keep tabs on your time and stick to your research plan.
  2. Do your research before writing. While it may be tempting to just plow straight ahead into writing your book, resist this temptation and do your research first. You may need to look up a few things after completing the manuscript, but do the bulk of the research prior to writing.
  3. Keep tabs on your time. Schedule your research time and stick to it. If you need to set an alarm or timer to help keep you on track, do so. Remember, the research step is a prelude to writing your book, not the main event.

Fine-Tune Your Book—Partner with the Pros

Even when you know how to research for a book you are working on, the project can still be an enormous undertaking. Know that there are experts available to assist you with each step of the self-publishing process. Gatekeeper Press provides a slew of editorial and publishing services to help you polish and perfect your book. Reach out today!

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