Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Non-Fiction World

by Darke Conteur

Most of the posts on this blog deal with genre fiction, but I wanted to take a moment and talk about non-fiction.

Memoirs, self-help, academic, there are so many types of non-fiction; it’s as varied as genre fiction, but unlike genre fiction, the main thing you need to sell your book is a platform. Some kind of credentials that says you know—or are qualified—to write this particular book. This is most evident with self-help or any academic novels. Here are several key things I found very interesting.

Platform is EVERYTHING in non-fiction. That notion was driven home at a recent writing seminar I attended, and the main thing they suggested for new authors to use to build their platform? Self-publishing. According to the speakers, the best way for non-fiction publishers to sign you on is to have a certain number of books already sold. If the number is high, they see it as testament that your book is good, and they are willing to RE-PRINT that book and distribute it to a wider audience. Yeah, floored me too.

Now, memoirs are a different read. While they still follow the same path as self-help and academic, you better have one Hell of a story to tell. Sorry, just surviving a horrible disease doesn’t cut it anymore, but surviving a horrible disease by administrating your own biopsy skills while living on a frozen tundra where the next shipment of supplies aren’t due for another six months, is gold. (HINT: Think researcher in Antarctica).

Children’s books are another big seller, but I was astonished to learn that they suggested you market your story to the PARENTS, and not the child. After all, it’s the parents who are buying and reading the story, not the children.

One thing that genre fiction has over non-fiction is numbers in the digital market. From what I could gather, non-fiction is slower than Big Publishing to delve into eBooks. Perhaps that’s because genre fiction is written by more people, I don’t know, even the speakers couldn’t explain that one, but they are gathering more interest.

With the digital tsunami rolling through the publishing industry it will certainly be interesting to see what the future holds for this branch of the publishing world.


Jean Oram said...

My husband reads a lot of nonfiction (new releases) and loves that most of it is available digitally. And even more so... it is often quite a bit cheaper too. Gotta love that!

I know I'm disappointed now when I want a book RIGHT NOW and it isn't available digitally. :( You get used to that RIGHT NOW aspect. Okay, actually, spoiled might be the right word.

One thing on the 'expert/authority' angle that surprised me was that these days you pretty much need a PhD in the related field to be an authority or expert. Being a librarian, mom, etc., doesn't hack it when you are putting forth a new idea--even if you have research to back you up.

Matt Sinclair said...

Yes, platform is key. Your information on the self-publishing route is interesting -- and a little inspiring, actually, as I think a project I have in mind might be more likely to take off in that manner than through traditional publishers. Thanks, Darke!

Peaches said...

Thanks for the info about nonfiction versus fiction sales and marketing to parents, not the children.

Jemi Fraser said...

The kids in my classroom love nonfiction in all kinds of genres. Makes me want to be an expert in something... :)

Darke Conteur said...

Sorry I've taken so long to reply; my weekend was hectic.

@Jean - I'm surprised there's not more digital books, but like I said, they are coming along, albeit, slowly.

@Matt - It surprised me too, as I always heard how taboo self-publishing is, but their argument made sense.

@Peaches - Your welcome! It does make sense, doesn't it? Especially for very young children. I know when we bought books for our son, Husband and I always picked books that looked interesting.

@Jemi - Lol, good luck!