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SPQ 078: Fiction vs. Nonfiction: Which Should I Pick?

Written by Steve Scott on May 4, 2015. Listen to SPQ: iTunes | Stitcher | RSS Feed
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The Question

Kamal asks via email: I am a budding author and already a blogger. I am stuck on whether I should write fiction or nonfiction.

Biggest Takeaway

Steve’s Answer

A lot of authors struggle with the issue of whether they should write fiction or nonfiction books. This is a hard decision to make because it can have a long-term impact on your business.

Steve recommends weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each tactic.

There are four advantages of nonfiction:

  1. It’s easy to identify what you want to talk about. Steve’s nonfiction brand is built around identifying problems, figuring out what people struggle with on a daily basis, and offering solutions.

A disadvantage of writing fiction is that the idea for the book itself isn’t always apparent. You might have an outline of what the story will be about, but you might not have a firm grasp on the characters, setting, and plot. You don’t have to worry about this with nonfiction.

  1. Nonfiction does better in the short term. If you have one or two nonfiction books, you’ll probably make more sales right away than you would with fiction.

With fiction, you tend to have to build a series and have several books under your belt.

  1. You can use nonfiction to pre-sell other services. If you have a short Kindle book, you can pre-sell the idea of your coaching or consulting services.
  1. You can repurpose the content into other products. If you have a quality book, you can take some of the content, put it in bullet points, and use it to create an information product.

There are also four advantages to writing fiction books.

  1. The market is much larger than you would find with nonfiction. The books that sell really well on Amazon and other platforms are romance, erotica, and thrillers. A lot of these authors make serious bank.
  1. You can create series and encourage readers to buy more than one book. Fiction authors tend to have a lot of repeat buyers.
  1. The content is more evergreen. This means the story tends to have a longer shelf life. Some nonfiction material becomes outdated very quickly, especially books on topics such as Internet marketing and technology.

With fiction books, you don’t have to worry so much about the story being outdated. Stephen King wrote many of his books more than a decade ago, and people are still reading them.

  1. It’s easier to target some audiences. If you tend to write fast-paced thrillers in historical settings, you can target readers who like that sort of book.

Steve is finding it difficult to pay for advertising to people who are interested in habit development. It’s a broad topic, so it’s hard to find people who are interested in that topic.

There is another option: do both. Steve Windsor is a great example of someone who does both fiction and nonfiction. His nonfiction books include “9 Days Outlining,” “9 Days Writing,” and “9 Days Self-Editing.” He also has a dark fantasy series, “The Fallen.”

Steve Windsor says his nonfiction books are currently outselling his fiction books. He also said he really enjoys publishing stories his fans love, even though he is not commercially successful with his fiction.

Steve Windsor also loves writing books aimed at newbie fiction authors to help them get something on paper and get their books out there.

Passion is important when choosing a genre or niche. A lot of products promise instant Kindle riches, but self-publishing is not easy. Although there advantages to fiction and nonfiction, what gets you through the rough patches is writing about stuff that excites you.

If you really like the idea of setting a scene and telling an awesome story, go with fiction. If you prefer to write simple how-to books, then nonfiction might be right for you. Don’t discount your desire to write about a particular topic.

Join the SPQ Facebook group to learn more about building a successful book-based business.

Resources and Links

Steve Windsor: Steve Windsor writes fiction books and nonfiction titles aimed at new authors

SPQ on Facebook: Join the SPQ Facebook group to access exclusive content from Steve Scott

  • Passion really makes the eBook thing go Steve. I write non-fiction only because I love my life, and I have so many intriguing blogging and travel experiences to call upon, on the road, that it seems to vibe strongly with my audience. Passion shines through in what I do and it’s because I write what I love to write about. I also can’t lie; it does not suck, pop-wise, to write about being attacked by Nepali wild men in Kathmandu, or to write about fighting off spitting cobras in Bali, or to pen some chapters about my near death experience in India, where I lost 20 pounds in about 10 days.

    Yeah, I got me some good material no doubt, but I love writing about these stories and I love linking them into blogging. Whatever you choice, make sure it sings to you. DO NOT chase dollars; you’ll flop, because chasing outcomes kills your creativity and creates a boring, lame book, fiction or non-fiction. Just do what you love and things will take a successful turn for you. Thanks Steve!

    Ryan

    • Wow, dude…. it sounds like you’ve had some dodgy things happen to you. Ahhh, the traveling lifestyle. But I’m sure all of these experiences make for a good story.

  • I love your pointing out that we can do both fiction and non-fiction. I think that is something that has changed over the years. When I was little, my mom would tell me that I really needed to just pick one topic and not do different things… and I couldn’t. I think it was just starting to change then and might still not be recognized by old-school people who still think we need to pick just one genre and never sway.

  • sara campagna

    I am planning a book that is based off of real life events, but I want to sell it as fiction, is that smart and/or doable?

  • Ray Johnson

    Hi Steve,

    With fiction, how do I target the people who read the kinds of books I write?For instance let’s say I write Legal Thrillers. How do I target those type of John Grisham readers and market to them online? Thanks for this post.

    Ray