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Thread: Why so few nonfiction compared to fiction!

  1. #26
    Benefactor Member WeaselFire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrDLN View Post
    I am nonfiction author of self-help and spiritual series. Always wonder why so few nonfiction authors.
    I think you may have a slightly distorted perspective. My non-fiction is primarily tech and there are literally thousands of non-fiction writers in that genre, from all over the world. In the spiritual genre, there are naturally going to be fewer, the tech book market is hundreds of titles a year from each publisher.

    I wrote non-fiction how-to in the dark ages (1980's), what I like to call the "How to build a shelf" book. I almost mirrored Bob Newhart's character except I had no wife, Vermont inn or bumbling handyman (I worked as the bumbling handyman and wrote on the side...). Back then, these types of books could sell. Now days, they're blog posts on a dozen different web sites associated with various TV networks. I that genre, now, you'll also find very few non-fiction authors.

    Jeff

  2. #27
    practical experience, FTW
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    I agree with WeaselFire. I wrote for computer programming magazines (my avitar picture is my first cover) and now magazines like that don’t exist.

    If you count every multi-gold-badge holder on Stack Overflow (et al.) as a “non-fiction author” you will find that there are a great many.

  3. #28
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    In my day job, I write a lot of technical reports and proposals. I guess that's non fiction. That said, my descriptions of our firm's qualifications and expertise have been classified as well-crafted fiction at times.

  4. #29
    practical experience, FTW Al Stevens's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JDlugosz View Post
    I agree with WeaselFire. I wrote for computer programming magazines (my avitar picture is my first cover) and now magazines like that don’t exist.
    Likewise. My column, articles, and books were my living. Along with consulting, which I did to stay abreast of the field, and lecturing, which was mostly promotional. Now, as a self-publisher, the non-fiction works outsell the novels. I don't think it's name recognition. Most of my older books are obsolete and today's generation of programmers don't know my name. Many of them weren't born when I retired. There is always a market for information if it can't be readily found well-presented somewhere on the web.

    Non-fiction is many categories. How-to, memoirs and biographies, history, self-help, tech, philosophy, etc. It's not easy to generalize and arrive at predictions and conclusions about their performance.

  5. #30
    practical experience, FTW Antipode91's Avatar
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    I love some good non-fic books and probably spend about 70/30 between fic and non-fic.

    I mostly buy psychology/sociology non-fic, like Michael Gladwell. I've also bought self-help on parenting when I was in college, because it reflected on teaching (I originally was in college for elementary teacher).

    From what what I know about non-fic writers in real life--which is only a handful--their craft centers around their knowledge, and not so much their writing skills (someone who has a ph.d in psychology most likely can put words together well enough). So they aren't spending their time on a writers forum. Their loss, though. Forum is wonderful for many things!

  6. #31
    Perpetually in transit Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Antipode91 View Post
    I love some good non-fic books and probably spend about 70/30 between fic and non-fic.

    I mostly buy psychology/sociology non-fic, like Michael Gladwell. I've also bought self-help on parenting when I was in college, because it reflected on teaching (I originally was in college for elementary teacher).

    From what what I know about non-fic writers in real life--which is only a handful--their craft centers around their knowledge, and not so much their writing skills (someone who has a ph.d in psychology most likely can put words together well enough). So they aren't spending their time on a writers forum. Their loss, though. Forum is wonderful for many things!
    Plenty of non-fiction writers are skilled both in their area of expertise and in their ability to write about that area in an engaging and informative way. Among them are people with PhDs who can put words together in a better than 'well enough' fashion.


  7. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Stevens View Post
    Likewise.
    I remember you. Didn’t I see you play the drums in a jazz set in Oakland in 1989? Or on Borland’s campus?

  8. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Antipode91 View Post
    From what what I know about non-fic writers in real life--which is only a handful--their craft centers around their knowledge, and not so much their writing skills (someone who has a ph.d in psychology most likely can put words together well enough). So they aren't spending their time on a writers forum. Their loss, though. Forum is wonderful for many things!
    Quote Originally Posted by Helix View Post
    Plenty of non-fiction writers are skilled both in their area of expertise and in their ability to write about that area in an engaging and informative way. Among them are people with PhDs who can put words together in a better than 'well enough' fashion.
    Back in the day, before the Internet went public, I used dial-up to a Compuserve forum filled with writers and editors. Other than peer review, we never really discussed the craft of writing though.

    I think one reason is because we were not working on our own without support. Given non-fiction ideas and expertise and some basic writing ability, there were professional copy editors etc. who would help get the article into shape.

    And things like “show vs tell” simply were not applicable. Does a phrase need to be beautiful and elegant? Not so much — plain is best, giving just the facts in an easy-to-understand way.

    Look at the type of writing skill that we don’t see discussed here: how to write a grammatically correct sentence. How to write a paragraph with topic and supporting sentences and make paragraphs cohesive rather than just arbitrary breaks in a wall of text. Are there any threads about pronouns and clear antecedents? I did see one about being understood by a global audience re non-universal terms and idioms.

    In non-fiction there is no characters to invent, flesh out, and develop over a story arc. There is no dialog. There is no plot like in fiction, but there is an outline regarding presentation order when explaining something. The choices there are pretty objective though, not artistic. The standard forms of various types of essays are taught in school.

    So, almost all the threads I see here are for things that don’t apply to non-fiction.

  9. #34
    Perpetually in transit Helix's Avatar
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    I read a lot of nature writing and popsci, and a fair bit of history. They're almost all written in elegant, evocative prose with clear story arcs. The sort of non-fic you're describing sounds dull as ditchwater.


  10. #35
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I think it depends a lot on the book. A technical manual for distilling whiskey various ways is different from a history of why people made it these different ways.
    Emily Veinglory

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