Fiction vs. Nonfiction - Essential Information
Posted On: 2014-10-15
by: Mercedes Tabano

15th, 2014
When an emerging author decides he wants to be an author, the big question is ‘should I write fiction or nonfiction’. It’s a difficult decision to make.

After all, both have devoted followings, both have niche markets and both have the potential to make you a lot of money. So which one is right for you?

The answer to this question relies in how the author feels about fiction vs. nonfiction but also in the businesses nuances in each. This article will show you a few of those nuances so you can make an informed decision.

For the purposes of this article, when the word ‘nonfiction’ is used, it really means a ‘how-to’ book. While it’s true that there are other non-fiction genres, most indie authors are encouraged to start with how-to books.


There is a certain amount of research involved with any book. In both fiction and nonfiction research needs to be factored in, time wise, and it takes as long as it takes.


It is understood that nonfiction books require more research. Facts have to be timely, relevant, and fresh to keep a reader’s attention. Naturally, nonfiction books require more research than fiction. However, unlike fiction the research ends once all the questions posed in the book have been answered.


Unless you’re writing parody, where research doesn’t matter, then all fiction books should be well researched. Readers hate anachronisms. Putting a wax candle in roman times can jolt the reader right out of your world and into reality. Once he’s left your book, he can’t go back in. Unlike nonfiction, which has a definite end point for research, a fiction writer could research over thousands of facts that will never make it into the book.


Another thing to consider is your style of writing. In the writing world, this is called a ‘voice’ and it can make or break or book.


We all know what a passive sentence sounds like ‘it was decided by the group’ instead of ‘the group decided’. However, these sentences still sneak their way into the work of even the most professional writer. Though not encouraged, you can get away with passive sentences in most nonfiction books. Additionally, you only have to explain how-to do something, not how it feels to do it. This style of writing is easier for many beginning writers.


There’s a lot more to writing fiction than just writing in the active tense. You also need to know how to plot a story, how to write page-turning sentences, how to develop characters, and how to engage all five senses in your writing. The structure and style of a fiction book is much harder than that of a nonfiction book. But those who write fiction wouldn’t have it any other way.

Changing Times

The world around is always changing, however, all books are anchored to their place in time. This is true of both fiction and nonfiction books. The difference of course is most fiction books are able to hold to this time period and still sell well. Unfortunately, this is not true of most nonfiction books.


As technology and rules change, nonfiction books will continually have to be rewritten in order to still be relevant. This is particular true of technology books. No one wants to read today on how to use a DOS system. In some cases, this might mean adding a few tweaks to an existing book. In other cases, it might mean retiring a title when the technology is no longer relevant.


In contrast, fiction writers just have to make sure to anchor their book in this time in history. This is best done through the use of well-placed descriptions. Though the Bronte sisters are widely known for their historical fiction novels, these books were not historical fiction when they were written, they were contemporized. However, because the Bronte sisters did such a good job anchoring us in their world, we are still able to enjoy these books today. Once a fiction book is written, the only updating it needs is a new cover every few years.

So, the question is what kind of author do you want to be; fiction or nonfiction? This is something only you can answer. Of course, if one doesn’t feel right, you could always switch genres. And many authors do make a living writing both how-to books and fiction book. There is no right answer to this question, but now that you know the facts, you can decide what kind of author you want to be.

Until Next Time,
Mercedes Tabano