How Publishing Non-Fiction Differs From Publishing Fiction

There is a lot of advice out there regarding getting your fiction published. After all, there are more people who want to write fiction. But publishing non-fiction isn’t the same as publishing fiction. And much of the advice doesn’t apply.

This article will examine some of the ways that publishing non – fiction differs from publishing fiction.

The first and probably most important difference is in the profit pattern between fiction and non-fiction. Fiction books very seldom make money if they are the first book of a new author. Typically it takes several books for a first author to make money. On the other hand each non – fiction book stands alone. Very few authors develop a following for their non – fiction books. Celebrity authors are the exception. Their books typically sell well from the onset of celebrity but only as long as that celebrity continues.

This leads to several different attitudes in publishing fiction vs. publishing non – fiction.

For example, it is unusual for a fiction book author to successfully sell their book before the book is written. Non – fiction is often purchased on spec… that is sold to the publisher as a proposal. Changes may be made to the proposal and the final book is written based on the revisions.

On the other hand, it is common for a fiction publisher to buy a string of books from an author using a right of first refusal. This gives the publisher a chance to recoup their losses on the first book. As an author builds a fan base, the number of sales they make increases while the returns decrease. This means their profit increases as well. Non – fiction books are typically sold one at a time with most writers only producing a single book.

It used to be that fiction books were seldom published by vanity presses. In fact, the term is a reference to the fact that such a book was unlikely to be able to stand on its own. To a large extent this meant that such fiction would not be carried by the big bookstores who are concerned with their ability to return fiction books for credit. Non – fiction, however, is generally sold in small quantities. It is not unusual for a small press or a company to produce books on its own. For these books, the vanity press does not hold as much of a negative connotation.

Fiction publishing and non-fiction publishing operate in two radically different markets. The nature of their market has created many differences for the author and their relationship to the publisher.

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