Do You Write the Right Stuff?

by Bob McElwain

If you are still writing fiction, you may be trying to ride a dead horse. While book sales have been dropping since the 70s, the drop in fiction sales has been far more dramatic. And these trends seem locked in place.

Visit a major book store. Count the number of fiction titles available. Compare this to the total number of books in the store. Now consider the number of authors who insist upon writing fiction. With a moments thought, it will become clear that non-fiction authors face significantly less competition. You might find this role both fulfilling and profitable.

The night Martha Stewart was released from jail, media coverage was awesome, and many included lots of related material. Now suppose that at that time, you had a book out entitled, Martha Stewart: The Inside Story. How well do you think this would have sold, compared to any novel you could have written?

Writers Like The Idea Of Fiction

It's likely most who turn to writing first consider fiction. While realizing they're not likely to make anybody's bestseller list, they hope to produce credible work that at some point earns enough bucks to allow them to write full time.

Unfortunately this path is more likely to lead to oblivion than to success. Not only do sales continue to decline as mentioned, but competition with other serious authors for the few slots available is increasingly intense. Your chances of success in selling fiction are slim to none.

Still, one can reasonably take the position that they will write fiction, or nothing at all. What matters is that the reality of the challenge be completely understood.

Alternatives To Fiction Abound

But if you are willing to consider alternatives, do so. All the skills you have for writing fiction transfer nicely. And whatever kind of work you decide to do, there is little to be learned in addition to the basic writing skills you already have in hand.

The only real difference is that your work must be guided by information gathered from other sources such as interviews, research, and so forth. The material still needs to be put together in a reasonable yet creative manner, just as is true of a novel.

Content Ideas

Biographies, particularly those of popular contemporary figures, continue to sell well. And it's the name of the person you are writing about that brings sales originally. With even a modest reputation, you'll find people will begin to seek you out and pay good fees for a biography of themselves.

True life stories are popular and will remain so into the future, as in the hypothetical example of Martha Stewart mentioned above. And a good presentation of a controversial topic works well. For example, what are the real problems with Social Security? Or are there any? Is all the talk just some wild political game?

Any topic that has widespread appeal works. Illegal immigration - This has enormous impact on the whole of the U.S., not just on border states. The Growing Bureaucracy in Washington - The EPA can destroy your plans with a ruling that was never authorized by the legislative body. Increasing Taxes with Decreased Representation - When your friendly Uncle spends a billion, he picks your pocket for four bucks, twenty if you have a family of four. There is certainly no shortage of topics of this kind. And when you can show the harsh impact on ordinary people, many will buy your book to learn all about it.

It's best to avoid local issues, as you cut down on the potential audience. For example, "water rights" is a major concern in California, but only to those people in the state directly impacted by this issue. So stick to the high profile topics of national interest.

How-to books have always been good sellers and this will remain true. However, if you plan to do a series, you'll need to think in terms of broader areas such as gardening, rather than growing roses. The latter would be only one title in the series. Again, though, the list of possibilities is endless. And many topics can be expected to sell indefinitely into the future. "Feed Your Family Great Fresh Vegetables For Only Ten Cents a Day." "The Easy Way To Improve Your Golf Swing/Putting/etc."

Check It Out!

As suggested, don't take my word for anything suggested here. Visit a large book store and see for yourself. You can get an excellent feel for what is selling best by noting how much shelf space is devoted to the kind of book you are thinking about writing.

But go further. Chat up a clerk. Better yet, the owner. (If nobody will talk with you in this store, find another!) Ask what they feel is the strongest market, and what its future will be.

One More Time

If you want to write fiction, do so. But be aware that becoming successful is unlikely. To succeed as a writer, your best bet is to focus on a non-fiction field. As possible, select an area of greatest interest to readers.

A Note From Mary: At Foremost Press, we welcome quality manuscripts of any kind. Certainly any book such as suggested above will seriously grab our attention.

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