To Write Fiction or Non-Fiction - THAT is the Question!

Before we answer the question about whether to write fiction or non-fiction, there is an even more crucial question you should ask yourself.

What is your goal for writing? That is the first question you should consider as you begin your walk on the literary journey.

  • Is it money?
  • Fame?
  • The desire to communicate an urgent message?
  • The ability to move people to action?
  • Or just the pleasure of writing?

My son started college this year. When considering majors and interests, we asked him to consider a vocation that utilized his interests, but also one in which he could make a good living. He really enjoys (and is good at) writing, but a writing major doesn't always equate to the ability to secure a good-paying job after graduation.

(FYI - The college where he is at has a new degree called "Professional Writing" which actually provides a great opportunity to train a writer to make good money in a specific area of technical writing without the need to work up the ladder as a journalist. For those only interested in writing a book, you may snub this option, but note once a paycheck is achieved, THEN you can start to work on your pet projects.)
 
So let me just say if money is your primary goal, you might want to think again. At least don't quit your day job immediately. I represent some really excellent authors who have several books to their credit, and not many are able to solely support themselves on their writing royalties alone.
 
With that said, the next question is whether you plan to write fiction or non-fiction? Or perhaps you're a children's book author? Depending on which day of the week you search the internet, statistics vary on which path is more lucrative and easiest to obtain a publisher. But here are some points to consider:
 
NON-FICTION

  1. Non-fiction is easier to write and usually easier to find a modest audience.
  2. Although easier to write, obtaining a publishing deal as a non-fiction writer is more difficult if you do not already have a strong platform such as a full speaking itinerary, a radio or television program or some type of audience already at your disposal. (Harder but not impossible. Ask me how.)
  3. It is easier to get a short non-fiction article published than a short fiction article primarily because news hungry e-zines are constantly on the hunt for current-event stories.

FICTION

  1. Most publishers do not require a first-time fiction author to have as strong of a platform already established as they do for a non-fiction author. To a greater degree it hinges on the ability to write a good story that keeps the reader engaged and the story line has unique elements. So the writing skill generally has to be higher, but the platform can be smaller.
  2. While it is easier to make money in the realm of non-fiction writing, bestselling fiction usually makes more money than best-selling non-fiction. i.e. The Shack, This Present Darkness, Harry Potter and the Twilight series are some examples.The Shack
  3. In the realm of marketing, it is more difficult to obtain interviews for fiction book authors when it comes to radio or television talk shows. Some authors and publishers have been able to bridge this gap by including discussion questions to relevant subjects in the back of the book, but it's still an uphill climb.

CHILDREN'S BOOKS

  1. In spite of the economy, there will always be a market for children's books. Even when they have "no" money, most parents spend money on their kids.
  2. Although this is changing, for several years many publishers were not even willing to entertain a proposal for a children's book that included full color illustrations due to the price and risk factor of publishing a children's book---especially for a new author. However, in the past 2-3 years this is changing and the pendulum is swinging back the other way.
  3. Publishers used to regularly turn down manuscripts that included artwork with the story (unless the author was also the artist). The mentality was that the publisher would use their in-house artist (less expensive) or a better known "name" recognized artist to help offset a new author. However, this has changed somewhat in recent years as well, especially if the author is willing to foot the bill for the artwork--and it is good.

This is definitely not an exhaustive look at this subject, but it includes some of the most immediate scenarios to consider as you write. Publishers are now tapping into their well-established name-recognized non-fiction authors to become fiction writers, which takes even more of the market share for new writers. Field of Peace (i.e. - Joyce Meyer, John Bevere, Max Lucado).
 
So back to the beginning... What is your goal for writing?  
 
Stay true to yourself and to your call. Grow in your gift, build your platform and go from there.