It’s Easier to be a Fiction Author
In real life, there are many true events that authors have spectacularly captured. Their topics span the range from ordinary to extreme. For a basic example from my own life, my mother’s friend wrote an autobiography. She drove a “roach coach” food truck for 30 years and had many fantastic tidbits from her life. My father has written over 20 books on ceramics.
In works of fiction, authors have written the range from an average world with average people to a completely made up world where traditional biology, physics and accepted social norms don’t apply. As an exercise for the reader of this blog, please read Interviewing Immortality for an example of a great work of fiction. Then, tell all of your friends about your excellent experience. Hey, I’ve got to have a plug once in a while.
I have several ideas for nonfiction books. One of the ideas is about a secret organization that I became aware of and if I wrote about this subject it would defiantly be a best seller. I also want to share my ideas about Engineering, society, and stories from my life. However, I never-ever want to write nonfiction. Other than this blog of course.
Why? It’s difficult to write nonfiction. To create a nonfiction work, the writer must do lots of research. This might involve: travel, interviews, extensive library time, purchases, pictures, bribes, danger, waiting, lying, black male and most of all, a lot of effort. Well, what about an autobiography? The only difference is the amount and type of effort necessary. For example, in your life, there were probably mysteries. Why did your grandmother hate you all those years? Well, how do you find out? Interview relatives, interview her, bribe her with cookies or black male her by saying you’re going to make up all kinds of wild lies in your book unless she tells you the truth.
Once a nonfiction author gathers all their information, (if that’s even possible) the information must be properly presented. Readers require an amusing topic along with a pleasant, exciting or educational experience. The writer lacks the freedom to change the story and the facts. For example, readers would be appalled if I wrote a fun-loving nonfiction book where JFK survived the tragic events in Dallas. What about a conspiracy theory? No, those books don’t have a large market unless there’s solid new evidence.
Alright, I’m not into nonfiction, but other authors certainly are. There is obviously a large market for works of this type. Right? When I was first attempting to break into the publishing world, I learned all about publishing houses and “book representatives.” Publishing houses don’t accept “unrepresented manuscripts.” This means that they require somebody external to read your book and talk to publishers about it behind closed doors. Apparently, publishers cannot afford a room full of people to read every trashy book that lands in their lap. Somewhat understandable. Granted, I want to yell at them, “That’s your job, jerks!”
There are hundreds of book representatives that will read your book. Of course, they want $2,000 just to read it and at least 20% of the profit. However, every book representative web page has written in big bold letters, “NO NONFICTION.” Do not pass go. There is no room in a book representative’s life for that material.
If you look really hard you may find a scant few book representatives that will give a nonfiction work a look. If your book description isn’t amazing, then they want nothing to do with you. For example, curing cancer by eating bacon burgers [with multiple independent studies] Jimmy Hoffa is alive [with pictures and DNA proof] or an interview with Bill Clinton where he reveals a big story [with video proof.] That would be enough to get their attention. That book I mentioned earlier about a roach coach was a best seller in the late 80’s. Today, no book representative would dare touch a subject like that. And trust me, books about ceramics have a very limited market.
Next time you go to the bookstore, look around. An isle of fantasy, 2 isles of romance, an isle of mystery, an isle of action, an isle of suspense, and 2 isles of general fiction. For nonfiction, an isle of history [including biographies], an isle of education, a [sometimes 2] isle of religion and 1 isle for everything else. In this everything else isle, there is a how-to, reference, real estate, autobiographies, general nonfiction and the smallest possible section for math/engineering/science/technology. Why? That’s what sells. The point is that there is a lot of competition for this meager shelf space.
Years ago, bookstores were more balanced. Why are readers suddenly avoiding nonfiction? Reality TV shows certainly dominate the airwaves. I have no good answer. If I were to guess, I would say that most nonfiction subjects have been thoroughly covered. Another guess would be that the Internet is taking over this area. Why read a great book like “The Path Between the Seas” about the Panama Canal when you can click on the Panama Canal Wikipedia link? Or go directly to the Panama Canal website and click on the history tab. This method is very fast and more to the point, it’s free.
What I do know for certain is that I find the thought of attempting a nonfiction project unappealing on many levels. I also know that an unknown nonfiction author has an uphill battle. What’s the future of nonfiction? I think it is a sad fact that this market is going to shrink. There will be a few exceptions such as reference books or books by famous people of the day. Well, what about online publishing? I read an article for this blog and it confirmed that the online nonfiction market is shrinking.
If you’re a nonfiction author, should you be discouraged? I think the correct view is to be disappointed at the present state of that market. Personally, I really enjoy nonfiction works and I wish there were more of them. For me, writing nonfiction simply isn’t my path.
You’re the best -Bill
September 19, 2018
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