Self Publishing Novels vs Nonfiction

When you decide to indie publish, one of the first things you’ll want to focus on is: Novels vs nonfiction. Which you decide to publish depends on several factors.

This site is slanted largely toward self publishing or indie publishing your fiction. The reason for that is because nonfiction self publishing has been heavily trail-blazed already. Bibles for self publishing have been written by folks like Dan Poynter and Marilyn and Tom Ross.

Peter Bowerman is strongly in that camp as well. And while they all passingly mention fiction and that theoretically it could be done (along with some of the more successful examples), it’s largely discouraged.

I used to be in the camp that was against this discouragement, but now I’m less sure about that. On the one hand, I think it’s unfair to discourage someone whose abilities I don’t know. I don’t want to be the person who says: “This is impossible, don’t do it” because I don’t know the capabilities and drive of the person I’m talking to.

Though by the same token, I’m becoming less apt to say: “Yeah, indie publish your novel, whoo hoo woot” unless I know either their goals or their talent and drive, mainly because I don’t want to encourage someone to throw away their money before their work is ready especially if they have unrealistic expectations. Though by the same token, I understand fiction is so subjective that it’s not really my right to tell someone else “not” to self publish their novel.

If someone’s goal is to hobby publish, then I think it’s great for anyone who wants to do it.

Self Publishing Novels vs Nonfiction

There are definitely some strong benefits to writing and self publishing nonfiction, besides how heavily that trail has been blazed.

I’ve always known that not everyone can write fiction, but for a long time it didn’t occur to me that not everyone can write nonfiction either. I know that seems obvious, but some people just really cannot write well in any format.

As one example, my husband showed me the “about us” page for their company’s website. His boss had written the copy for it, and it was some of the most horrific writing I’ve ever seen. Spork your eyeballs out bad.

It wasn’t just that it wasn’t creative (I mean a company “about us” page is rarely verbally artistic), it was that it was completely ineffective writing. It was boring, and told the reader a lot of things that either they don’t care about, or that every person on the planet already knows about. The only group that the page might have been effective for, was space aliens from another planet who would be completely unfamiliar with earthlings and our ways.

I wish I could say I was exaggerating for comedic effect.

I think writing is definitely a specialized skill/talent, but few people recognize it as such. Most people don’t think they can do brain surgery, but almost everyone believes they can write. And a lot of those people are wrong.

So whether you’re planning to indie publish novels or nonfiction, it’s a good bet to find an unbiased source who won’t spare your feelings (possibly more than one) to verify that you’ve got the aptitude to succeed in this business. Nothing is right for everyone, including writing.

Though negative or lukewarm feedback doesn’t necessarily mean you should throw in the towel if it’s what you’re really passionate about. Part of writing is talent, but part of it is skill which can be learned. I’ve seen people with very poor writing work hard at it and become really good. Sometimes it’s not about whether you can write, but whether or not you stopped revising and editing too quickly.

When deciding whether to self publish fiction or nonfiction

the defining factor shouldn’t be what’s “easy to write.” Because really nothing is easy to write well, though information is often easier to sell than entertainment.

For many indie authors, the question isn’t whether they’re going to self publish novels or nonfiction, but which they’re going to self publish first. In that case it all depends on what goals are most important to you starting out.

This site tends to lean toward the fiction camp, mainly because while it’s hard to make good money self publishing fiction, it’s hard to make good money publishing fiction through any means. It’s often more passion than money that pulls this little tugboat, and for many writers it’s a worthy thing to do.

Such writers don’t need to hear all the reasons why it’s a bad idea, they just need to know how to accomplish what it is they want to do.

And I also believe that it’s possible over time to build a strong following publishing novels and to turn a decent profit. But it’s a long haul game which requires many hats and abilities. Good writing (that a large enough group of people feel is good, since good writing is somewhat subjective), Great marketing skills, a tendency toward being strongly self-motivated, and good business skills (which includes the ability to package your work in a way that sells, whether through your own extra talents, or through other vendors.)