It’s Easier to Publish Fiction
I have several ideas for nonfiction books, and my best is to research a secret organization called the Five Star Trust. Go ahead, look it up. They are real; a book about them would be a bestseller. I also want to share my ideas about engineering and society. I would enjoy writing about Cheetahs. Well, what is stopping me? Every fiber in my body does not want to write a nonfiction book.
Why? It is hard! To create a nonfiction work, the writer must do lots of research. This effort might involve travel, interviews, extensive library time, purchases, pictures, bribes, danger, waiting, lying, blackmailing, and great effort. And I cannot make up a single fact.
What about an autobiography? It should be easy because we know our own life. That is a different type of research. For example, in your life, there are probably several exciting mysteries. Your grandmother hated you? Why and how would you find out? Interview relatives, interview her, or bribe her with cookies. It sounds like a lot of work with a result that readers would not be interested in.
Once a nonfiction author gathers all their information (if possible), it must be appropriately presented. Readers require an amusing topic and a pleasant, exciting, or satisfying educational experience. The writer lacks the freedom to change the story or facts. For example, readers would get mega-angry if I wrote a fun-loving nonfiction book where JFK went into space. Wow, even reading that sentence makes me cringe.
Alright, I am not into nonfiction, but other authors certainly are. There is a large market for works of this type. Right? When I first attempted to break into publishing, I learned about “book representatives.” Publishers do not accept “unrepresented manuscripts.” This means they require somebody external to read your book and talk to publishers behind closed doors. Publishers cannot afford a room full of people to read every trashy book that lands in their lap. I want to yell, “That’s your job, jerks!”
There are hundreds of book representatives that will read your book. Of course, they want a check for $2,000 just to read it and at 20% of YOUR profit if they accept. However, every book representative web page I encountered had “FICTION ONLY” in big, bold letters.
If you look hard, you may find a book representative that will give a nonfiction work a look. If your topic is not exceptional (Elvis is alive, and here is the undeniable proof), they want nothing to do with you.
Next time you go to the bookstore, look around. There is an aisle of fantasy, two aisles of romance, an aisle of mystery, an aisle of action, an aisle of suspense, and two aisles of general fiction. For nonfiction, there is an aisle for history (including biographies), an aisle for education, a (sometimes two) aisle for religion, and ONE for everything else. This single aisle has a how-to, reference, real estate, autobiographies, legal, general nonfiction, and the smallest possible section for math/engineering/science/technology (now dominated by Dummies/Idiots titles). Why? Bookstores know what sells and what the public wants, so there is competition for nonfiction.
This travesty was not always the case. So, what is going on? Please recall that reality TV shows dominate television. Nonfiction must be popular, right? I have no suitable answer. Perhaps most nonfiction subjects have been addressed. Another guess is that the internet is taking over this area. Why read a brilliant 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. Gaining knowledge over the internet is fast and FREE.
What I know for sure is that nonfiction authors only have an uphill battle. What is the future of nonfiction? This market will shrink with a few exceptions, such as biographies or books by famous people.
If you’re a nonfiction author, should you get discouraged? I think the correct view is to be disappointed in the present market. Nonfiction is my favorite category, and I wish there were more books.

You’re the best -Bill
September 19, 2018 Updated September 03, 2023
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