Writing non-fiction can be a really wonderful way to explore all your interests and connect with other people with the same passions. Maybe you have a long running fascination with trains, or perhaps the mating habits of the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker are what rock your metaphorical boat. Either way (and no matter how obscure your tastes are) I can guarantee there will be a readership out there just waiting for your book.
Obscurity and Profit
In fact I would go so far as to say that the more obscure your topic – the more chance you have of selling. This is simply because you have less competition. Take my three books on poultry: Getting Started with Chickens, Quail and Ducks. It terms of poultry popularity – chickens are number one, then ducks, and quail are the least popular. But I sell 6 times more quail books than I do chicken ones, simply because there are fewer quail books available.
And that’s the thing about writing non-fiction for profit; you need to find the slightly more obscure niches, but which are increasing in popularity in order to sell the most books.
Use Non-fiction to keep you writing
Even if writing non-fiction for profit doesn’t appeal to you, you can still use non-fiction as a method to help progress your other works.
There comes a point when you are writing your novel when you start to wonder if your story is any good, or you get ‘writer’s block’, or you just need to take a step back to mull things over. This is a perfectly normal part of writing fiction. It’s your ‘thinking’ time, rather than your ‘doing’ time.
By writing non-fiction at these points you can keep your word count up, and still have something worthwhile at the end of the day. This is especially useful if you can link the two together – for example if you are writing a crime series, and therefore naturally having to research into guns or poisons anyway, then why not write a non-fiction short about these.
This way, you will be learning, researching, and writing all at the same time – it’s a win win win situation.
Not the Easy Route
Fiction is seriously hard work in terms of plot and characterisation. But so is non-fiction, only instead of weaving timelines now you need to complete thorough and detailed research, and then be able to write all your information down in a clear and entertaining way. And that’s an important word here – entertaining. You see all those beautiful old books with their leather bound spines, and titles like ‘Terra Incantia’ written in gold. Don’t they look amazing? Have you ever read one?
No, I didn’t think so.
They are dry to the point of desperate and in the modern age that’s just not good enough. If you want people to read your non-fiction it has to sing as well as have all the facts. You need to work at your writing ability and style just the same as you would for a novel.
Non-fiction is certainly not fiction’s easy older sister. It has all the same pitfalls and difficulties and challenges as fiction, and it’s even less likely to make you a lot of money. But non-fiction is pleasing and useful. It has an air of superiority about it that fiction just can’t quite obtain, and it allows a writer to explore another style of work.
Non-fiction might not have the glamour of a novel, but it does have a place on every writer’s shelf.