To Fic or Non-Fic

Well, it’s all the rage.  Writers putting it out there.  Airing their dirty laundry and horrid numbers.

John Scalzi wrote about how much he makes today.

Mr. Scalzi didn’t actually put hard numbers out there the way Tobais Buckell did here on the 1st of April (hey, was that a joke?).  But I think what he did show illuminates another aspect of writing that I hadn’t considered before reading his post.

Non-fiction writing.

He divides his writing income for 2010 into 7 categories: Books, Film Options (one can only hope), TV Consulting (non-fiction, sort of), Film Column (non-fiction), Corporate Consulting (non-fiction), Miscellaneous, and Short Stories (note that his pie shows short stories making the least for him).

Anyway, if you add up the non-fiction sources of writing, you see that this stream of income makes up about 12% of earnings.  Interesting.

Most of his post details his projections for each stream of income for 2011, and he repeatedly notes that any of ’em could change.  At the end of his post he advises all writers to diversify, as you never know when one source of income will come to a halt.

I hadn’t thought of that.  And I definitely hadn’t thought of writing non-fiction.

I read a lot of non-fiction.  Hell, I even read here and there that non-fiction books are far more popular than fiction.  Maybe I should try my hand at non-fiction?  Am I wasting my time with fiction?

Some of you may ask what my recent fascination with money is all about.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m getting tired of my current job and thinking of making a go of it as a writer.

Ha!  No.  I know there’s no chance of me making it as a professional writer.  All my writing efforts are born from the desire to express myself.  But now that I have finished my novel, there is the pressing question of whether I will get it published or not.  Do I go the traditional route or self-publish?

Really, the only reason to go the traditional route is to get paid at least something for your efforts and to be recognized by the industry as someone “serious” about their writing.

But this is a hobby, right?  So why would I even try that?  Shouldn’t I just self-publish?

No, they all say, I am doing myself a dis-service if I don’t at least try to publish either through an agent or through a reputable publisher.

But why?  I’m not serious.  If I do get serious, then I start thinking of this as a side job that might grow into something bigger.  In that case, I should take the advice of professional writers like Mr. Scalzi and diversify.  Which means I should consider writing non-fiction.

Well, I can’ say whether I’m serious or not about writing, but I hope you can.  Take Mr. Scalzi’s advice and considering writing non-fiction.  If you do, let me know how it goes.


6 thoughts on “To Fic or Non-Fic

  1. Why not think about money, Nila? While you’re creating, it’s art. But as soon as it’s finished and in a tangible form, it’s a commodity. Commodities have value.

    You also ping on the same wavering I’m going through. Publish traditional or self-publish? The whole industry is shifting so fast, nothing makes sense anymore. Every time I turn around, stuff has changed. The hardest part for me (and I suspect many others trying to puzzle this out) is getting out of the “either/or” mindset.

    EITHER you publish traditionally OR you’re not a serious writer. On the flip side, EITHER you take control of your destiny OR you’re a sell-out to the man. Those attitudes are self-limiting.

    The truth is, it’s all about choices and trying to pick the best one for any particular project. Mr. Scalzi nails it by claiming writers should diversify. With so many options available–daunting as that may be–at least we’re in a time when we do have options. We just have to be brave enough to pick one and go for it.

    Good post.

    1. Thank you. Good comment and you’re right. No reason for any of those decisions to be mutually exclusive.

      No reason not to make money from a hobby and Tobias earlier post recommended that authors try both print and e-publishing.

      Just so hard for us newbies to know what to do. Well, I got my query letter for my novel up on Critters. Should get some crits back by the end of the month. We’ll see how it goes from there.

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  2. Excellent post. I’m in the editing process for one finished book and the writing process for a 2nd, and the questions about self-pub or pub-house is one I don’t want to consider yet. I do see strengths in both ways, but after pushing for my website’s traffic for a long while, I’m thinking self-pub would be challenging in areas that I’m seriously lacking. Not that I can’t learn, but what a curve it would be!

    1. Yeah, the marketing thing is huge. If it’s something that you are not comfortable with, then, yeah, it’ll be hard, and it’s hard to beat the pros at their game.

      That, along with finding the right publisher and/or audience is something that the traditional route is geared towards accomplishing, and doing it well. Those facts were driven home after reading this post from the editor of Angry Robots, Lee Harris.

      (He’s a really nice guy, by the way. Answered my question over on the SFFWorld forum!! 🙂 )

  3. I’m actually taking a creative nonfiction course. It’s interesting to me to see how creativity and nonfiction don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We mostly work on memoir and essay forms, and I enjoy writing with an “I” in it. But, it’s interesting to think of nonfiction being more lucrative than fiction. I’m not really enjoying my course too much, but I might have to reconsider writing it off as something I’d never do. I would like to make decent money writing one day…

    1. Hey Cassy, thanks for stopping by. If writing is your chosen profession and you are just starting out, by all means, do not limit your possibilities. That’s coming from a 40+ year old.

      I read lots of very good non-fiction: Born to Run by Christopher McDougal, Blink and Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, Boik and Stiff by Mary Roach, The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester. I could go on and on.

      It’s definitely something to keep in mind. Good luck with the class!

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