Sunday, May 20, 2007

wanted: nonfiction

I've had two requests for tips on nonfiction writing.

As a writer, nonfiction publishing is a valuable scheme because publications always need nonfiction. Always, always. Nonfiction is a great way to pad your platform, since it's one of the only outlets into a lot of national syndications that will make you a legitimate "writer." Also, it's good for small, manageable assignments and petty cash.

Writers who dream of being published novelists are often wont to overlook this because in terms of artistic development nonfiction might seem like a waste of time and/or resources. This doesn't necessarily have to be true, since quality of writing is becoming more and more important in a lot of venues (as more and more good writers become available). Also, the unfortunate fact is that publishing is a decreasingly leisure industry--reading and writing is no longer just for rich indulgents, and as a result it's becoming much more of a business. Hence, talent alone isn't enough--you have to have visibility, marketability, saleability, etc.

As an editor, I'm always looking for smart, narrative nonfiction. Usually, this means you have to be an expert in your field. If you're a professional cheesecake chef, try starting off by submitting a cheesecake column to a bunch of magazines. Even if you're just a cheesecake enthusiast, if you have an interesting take on the subject (the social history of cheesecake, for example, with lots of unusual anecdotes and scandalous historical personalities coloring your story) I might be able to sell your book. Without the expertise or previous publishing record, I probably won't be able to offer you a very big advance, but that initial publication will be the making of your writing career--the gateway to your first published novel. Also, you'll get much better royalties for the nonfiction. Promise.

Histories of interesting things are the best angle for me right now. For example, I'm editing a book on the history of sunflowers. An unusual topic, with an unusual approach--although the author is a journalist and freelance writer who's worked on topics that don't relate to flowers at all, he's come up with something unusual and done a lot of great and entertaining research.

So, anyone--a narrative history of cheesecake? Please, do hit me up with your ideas. And do try to get published in various magazines or newspapers--it doesn't matter how mercenary it seems. I need to see that you've been published in order to sell you as an author to Barnes & Noble so they'll choose to stock your book on their shelves. Trying to publish even dumb things in dumb venues is such a valuable help to you AND to me.

5 comments:

angelle said...

thanks for this... i think about writing retard non fiction all the time, just to see my name in print. alas... i know nothing about cheesecake.

moonrat said...

Actually, it appears that there isn't a social history of cheesecake. Hmmmmm...

angelle said...

cupcakes then? what about cupcakes? i *might* be able to write a social commentary on cupcakes.

and btw, ryc, i loved memoirs of a geisha. i'm confused though - did you think arthur golden was a geisha in his youth? tee hee...

moonrat said...

i honestly thought that he was transcribing someone else's memoir!! what about that fake translater's note at the beginning?! cruel and unusual!!!!

Bluenana said...

Excuse me? Now you have an interest in cheesecakes again? Let's not revisit that topic.