Non-fiction?

(37 Posts)
Acinonyx Fri 06-Dec-13 09:13:56

I wondered if anyone out there is also writing a non-fiction book. Alas there is no home for me so I have crept in here.

BitScary Tue 10-Dec-13 17:07:30

Yep, I was told the same Toomuchtea. It's a funny old situation.

Tunip, your 'childlike enthusiasm' description wrt Twitter is so spot on grin. I found myself doing it too when I was briefly using Twitter.

InMySpareTime - that's really interesting what you say about your popular posts. Frustrating for you. I've heard from someone in the publishing industry that lots of Facebook likes do not necessarily translate into sales.

Jonathan Franzen and Zadie Smith on the subject.

But Franzen and Smith are well-established, of course...!

I know FB likes bear little correlation with sales, but likes and shares increase the visibility of posts. If I only post high quality material, within about a week few people even get my posts in their newsfeed. A crappy post once a week is enough to ensure people still see the rest.
Oddly, I've had the best conversion rate from a free ad I put on another chat site Netmums (shhh).

Acinonyx Thu 12-Dec-13 10:14:57

Blogging has been an education in posts that work or don't. It certainly doesn't necessarily equate with time spent writing. I'm not very speedy blogging and don't post as often as I should. The blog is tied to a subject specialist host and I'd quite like my own place - but I can't see me doing 2 blogs when I struggle to maintain one.

Toomuchtea (surely an oxymoron?) - impressed you get something up on FB daily!

Bitscary - there is definitely the potential for me to get too sucked into FB if I did actually get properly into it. IT's bad enough having MN....

OK. Today is a writing day. I should get off MN and get to it....

Acinonyx Thu 12-Dec-13 10:15:26

PS Great Franzen article!

Carsonorbates Fri 13-Dec-13 00:53:43

Forgive the ignorance, but is it possible to make a living just writing nf books? How rare is a bestseller compared to fiction?

absoluteidiot Fri 13-Dec-13 01:12:43

I write for magazines - mainly about crafts and history - and have a book coming out very soon and another book I have been involved in, which is a re-issue of a classic book, very well known in its field, also due out very soon. I didn't have to pitch the book or ask to get involved in the new edition of the other book - the editor of a magazine I used to write for, set up her own indie publishing company, (successful) and approached me with a book deal.

FB I keep for my friends and family and real life people. Twitter is my work name.

I write articles all the time, and usually for the same magazines - a small but growing number. Most of the mags I write for are American. Just happened that way. They are a bigger market - and I used to live in the States so can write in a way they like, maybe. I don't formally pitch any more, but will ask editors I already have worked for, if they want so and so, and they will say yes or no. Or no, not that but we need something on.... whatever. Also, after a while you get included in the little private circular emails/mood boards that go out to writers they know and trust - so say Fall, 2013 we are doing a themed issue on x theme... submit your ideas. So you get on an inside track and have that advantage of them telling you what they want. It is harder for newer writers as they have to break into that inner sanctum kinda thing - and also when pitching they won't know what an editor is looking for (more and more of the mags I write for have themed issues). I can write a very informal suggestion, barely a pitch at all, and hit send and have an email back in ten minutes commissioning.

I wrote for little or no money for a long time, and I originally worked with a (brilliant) illustrator - so if they wanted her images they had to take my text.

But my publisher spotted me posting on a forum, believe it or not. To do with one of my areas of expertise.

I travel round to research. This costs me money. But I can turn 4 hours in an archive (sometimes less) into one or two articles. My work is research heavy. And I tend to try to publish stuff no-one else has done before, so corner a fairly quirky market.

absoluteidiot Fri 13-Dec-13 01:16:23

Should add - a blog is invaluable. You can build a following there, use up the oddments of research you can't shoehorn into articles or that aren't book material but are still cool... and remind people in the long wait for a book to come out, that you're still alive!

I reply to comments on the blog, and see that as my major way to reach and build a readership.

TunipTheUnconquerable Fri 13-Dec-13 09:14:47

That's very interesting, AbsoluteIdiot.

I don't do non-fiction but I do historical fiction (just got agent for first book, she's sent book out on submission and I'm waiting with my fingers crossed) and it seems to me that blogging could be really handy to use in quite a similar way to you. My assumption is that people who read histfic are interested in history and it seems like a blog could be a good way to use research that doesn't make it directly into the book but is there in my mental background, to discuss things where the historical facts are uncertain and I've had to choose to jump one way or the other, and to whet people's appetites by talking about work in progress.

Mostly fiction writers aren't expected to have a platform the way non-fiction writers are, but a lot of histfic writers actually seem to.

IME Twitter can play a big role in publicising blogs, to the extent that it seems crazy not to tweet a bit if you blog.

I don't think Facebook works so well for public/professional pages - I follow the 'Twitter for work/meeting new people'/'Facebook for social life/people you already know' divide.

Acinonyx Fri 13-Dec-13 09:45:28

Carsonorbates - it is possible, but varies at lot, just like fiction. Some people do very well indeed and others do OK. You do get really big sellers that sell like bestselling fiction - Malcolm Gladwell, Matt Ridley, Steven Levitt are really big sellers for example. Actually some textbook writers make a lot of money if it's a textbook a lot of people use. It depends how wide your audience is - either they need the book for something or they want it - it's for the popular nf crowd. Some niche markets are big sellers for some people - cookery, gardening and DIY for example. But those are also very crowded markets so it can be tough to break in and do well if you have no platform.

Realistically, I'm hoping to make a decent PT salary level living. If I were quicker (if I basically worked harder: wrote more and read less fhmm) I could publish more, faster, and that would help. I do hope to speed up - a book/2 years in my area is the standard.

absoluteidiot - I thought about doing articles (through previous work I am quite familiar with the process which helps) but at the moment I feel my time and energy is not sufficient to do that and the book at the same time (I'm going to struggle with the book schedule TBH - suspect you write a lot faster and more efficiently than I do!). My area is very research intensive and I do get rather sucked into that (it's in science). It's a very fast moving field and I really need to get on with it <<pokes and prods self>>

I really need to step up the blog too. That can be a NY resolution! I've had some nice requests from blog posts - occasional talks/radio - but those were mainly following a post that wasn't really in my area at all. I work at home all the time (all my research is done though my institutional online library access) apart from a little teaching so media requests get me very excited! I wouldn't mind doing more of that TYVM. I'm a small potato so they don't pay me much but it's fun.

Acinonyx Fri 13-Dec-13 09:49:18

Best of luck with the submission Turnip - very exciting! Let us know. I can imagine getting really distracted with historical research.

absoluteidiot Fri 13-Dec-13 10:38:28

You go for it. I think my blog is the best thing I have done to keep my profile high whilst working on the books as although I am pretty widely published I feel I am still establishing my 'name'. Blog if a two-way communication and it takes time to build (mine is in its 3rd or 4th year). But the useful thing about it is, you can use your blog stats to see which are your most popular posts. This gives a clue as to which areas of your work might attract the most readers. I use this now to actively inform where I will research next.

I never have a photo or by-line, decided early on to keep my anonymity so no pics and a fake name. And I always keep my home life and real self 100% out of my work. But recently, broke with tradition and wrote a pure opinion piece (usually my work is research-based and factual). This has been one of my most popular posts yet and on Twitter, the links to it got my biggest yet no' of Re-Tweets. So you can use social media and the tools on the dashboard of your blog, as a barometer to measure precisely what your readers like - then give them more.

Other thing I like about a blog is the comments - it becomes a dialogue or a conversation between several people, and again, this alerts you to what interests people. When the books are out, I can make more money teaching and doing workshops than I can make realistically from the books, so it will be a shop window for that, too.

Writing and researching articles is time consuming - but I have done it consciously, to build up a following of hopefully loyal readers, so that when the books come out I have a baseline of people who will buy them. Also, you can use it to get experience working with editors, and learn from others how to make your words work. Also writing can be lonely but I find the emails and banter back and forth with editors, sub-editors, tech editors and everyone I have worked with, gives me some kind of community and helps with that loneliness, which is at the heart of what we do.

Acinonyx Fri 13-Dec-13 11:03:08

You sound very organised! I really don't like having to use my real name but I have to with the host that I blog for and I will have to with the book too as my professional background is my platform, so to speak (a small wobbly platform but I need it nonetheless). I do find that inhibiting and I need to shake that off. My host suggested I tweet blog posts - but you can't have that be the only thing you ever tweet which is why I haven't really got far down that road.

I just know I'm going to regret asking this - but how often do you blog?

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