How to structure a non-fiction book?

Welcome to this guide dedicated to non-fiction writers. Whether you are an academic or a narrative non-fiction writer, this guide is here to help you structure your book in the best way possible. As we celebrate Non-fiction November, a yearly initiative that encourages book lovers to read more non-fiction, and Academic Writing Month, this guide will be a valuable tool for anyone looking to organise their thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely.

This post will take you through structuring a non-fiction book, starting with the working outline of the content, followed by the introduction, conclusion and all the chapters in between. Creating a high-level map of your book’s chapters, including their titles, summaries, and outlines, is an excellent place to start.

Next, a well-constructed introduction will capture your reader’s attention and leave them eager to read more. Additionally, this post will discuss crafting the structure of your book’s chapters and creating a seamless segue from one chapter to the next. Finally, it will explore at the essential elements of a strong conclusion that reinforces your message and leaves readers with a lasting impression. This guide will provide you with the tools and knowledge necessary to structure your non-fiction book successfully.

Book outline

Start structuring your non-fiction book by creating a high-level map of the chapters, including their titles, summaries and outlines. It is likely they will change, but it is a good start. At least, at this stage, it will function as a compass, a beacon anchoring the writing process. If you have previously written a book proposal, you could use the book overview enclosed there. If not, recreate the following steps for every chapter:

  • create a title
  • write a one-sentence summary
  • list all subheadings and subsections to be included in the chapter


A well-written introduction is like the first date — it is often enough to determine if the two parties (in this case, a reader and a book) are a match. I always read introductions. When I look for materials relevant to specific themes, topics or questions, sometimes it may even be the only part of the book that I read. That is to say, I judge a book based on its introduction. And although I find them endlessly captivating, introductions follow a simple recipe. By the rule of thumb, they will include the following:

  • book hook
  • main thesis and its significance
  • background
  • methods and methodology
  • chapters outline

Book hook

A book hook is a statement or question designed to generate immediate curiosity and captivate the reader’s attention enough for them to want to know more immediately. Here are some ideas on how to write an attention-grabbing non-fiction hook:

  • Use language accessible to a wide audience.
  • Showcase your unique voice, language and style.
  • Introduce the most compelling piece of your argument or thesis.
  • Make the reader feel as if you are addressing them directly and individually, for instance, by sharing a relatable anecdote.
  • Offer a promise of more interesting insight available to the audience if they continue reading.

Main thesis and significance

This part is the great reveal — it gives away the fundamental idea behind your book and lays out why it matters. In addition, it should posit how the book fits within the existing research landscape and, more importantly, what new knowledge or methods it contributes to the topic.

Methods and methodology

You have told your reader the ‘what,’ now, it is time to detail the ‘how.’ Here, try to answer such questions:

  • How did you arrive at your findings?
  • How (using what methods) did you construct your argument?

Chapters outline

The chapter outline should read like a short story, explaining how the consecutive chapters relate and build on each other or push back and offer an alternative. In essence, to be successful, this section must summarise the individual puzzle pieces and how they fit together.


A chapter structure of a monograph or any non-fiction book includes a chapter hook, main body, summary and a smooth segue to the next chapter. Furthermore, building a chapter hook is not much different from a book hook, as described above, so let us start with the informative paragraphs of the main body.

Main body

This section should offer well-structured, solid research that does not read like an encyclopaedic entry. Instead, you want to structure your thesis as if telling a story, leaving the reader with answers to the following questions:

  • Why did they choose to read your book?
  • What do they need to know?
  • Did the contents of the chapter address their questions and doubts?


The chapter summary should comprise the key takeaways that constitute the crux of your argument.


The transition to the following chapter offers room to connect the chapter to the next and answer the ‘So what?’ question. This is the moment to briefly contextualise the significance of the findings of this chapter within the sequence of the chapters and the entity of the book.


Conclusion — the final element of your non-fiction book structure — offers no new material and reuses what you have already presented to the reader, including hook, thesis, chapters summary, implications and recommendations.

Still, this is your chance to reinforce the reader’s impression of your work, emphasise the connections running through the chapters and restate the core message. It should end with the research implications, or in other words, a conclusion inferred from your findings. Research implications contextualise the importance of your findings within the practice, theory or policy. Additionally, you can also provide research recommendations pointing to further studies in other disciplines or outside the specs of your research but still building on your findings. Such recommendations may increase the relevance of your book in the scientific arena.

Enhancing your non-fiction book structure

In the process of structuring a non-fiction book, the significance of a well-crafted outline and coherent narrative cannot be overstated. Professional developmental editing may serve as a guiding force, offering invaluable insights to authors navigating the complexities of book architecture.
Developmental editing helps shape the overarching structure. For instance, it ensures that each chapter seamlessly connects, builds upon the last and contributes meaningfully to the entire narrative. Moreover, it provides a critical examination of the book’s conceptual framework, helping authors refine their thesis, argumentation, and storytelling techniques.
By leveraging developmental editing, authors receive targeted feedback on the clarity and flow of their ideas, addressing any potential gaps or redundancies in the narrative.
As you embark on the journey of structuring your non-fiction masterpiece, consider the transformative influence of professional developmental editing. It ensures the coherence and captivation of your book and elevates its structure to seamlessly support the impactful content within.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, structuring a non-fiction book can be a daunting task. With a little bit of planning and a clear understanding of the key elements, you can create an informative and engaging book. Remember to start with a high-level map of your chapters, create an attention-grabbing introduction and craft well-structured and informative chapters. A strong conclusion that reinforces your message and leaves readers with a lasting impression is also crucial. 

Furthermore, investing in professional developmental editing proves instrumental in elevating your non-fiction book’s structure, offering invaluable insights that transcend language refinement. In addition, this service ensures a cohesive narrative that captivates readers and enhances the overall impact of your manuscript.

In sum, there is nothing else left to do but start writing the structure of the non-fiction book. Of course, it is not as easy as it sounds. If you would like a second pair of eyes to review your book proposal or manuscript, contact me for a free sample edit (and remember to use my early bird discount). For more writing and editing tips, follow me on MastodonTwitterFacebook and LinkedIn or sign up for my newsletter. Happy writing!

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I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors.