Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Does Nonfiction Sell Better?

Have you heard that nonfiction sells better than fiction? I have, and at first I thought no way. Wouldn't it depend on the publishing company?

Anyway, it got me thinking about the nonfiction that's made an impression on me, like this Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary. When I was learning to read, I remember pouring over the pages of illustrations in books just like it. It was probably the first and last time I ever saw a tomato frog. Imagine. Seriously though, I don't think I realized how many nonfiction books I've read.

Here's some of the New York Times best seller list of combined hard cover and paperback nonfiction:

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
The Greater Journey by David McCullough
In the Garden of Beasts by Eric Larson
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Bossypants by Tina Fey

What a variety! It makes me want to search my brain for a nonfiction idea as often as I search for a fiction idea.

What do you think? Does nonfiction sell better than fiction? Can you name some of your favorite nonfiction?


Kristine Asselin said...

Not sure about sales, but I've had good luck being published w/ nonfiction. Mine has been work-for-hire, so I'm paid up front. Nonfiction does not equal boring! You're not settling by writing nonfiction--and sometimes it can be a foot in the door. Just my $.02. :) Have a great day!

Miranda Hardy said...

I think it has to do with interest. I'm not a particular nonfiction fan, but I've been buying a lot of them lately. Learning Photoshop or writing related. It makes sense.

Laura Marcella said...

I have no idea! I guess I always thought they sold kind of the same. I read fiction and most of my friends and family do too. But there's a separate NYT Best Sellers list just for nonfic so it must be hugely popular.

Loree Huebner said...

I read a lot of history books, especially Civil War era.

I've read David Cullen's, Columbine, recently.

I think that it does depend on the topic. I also like great rags to riches autobiographies.

Great post!

D. U. Okonkwo said...

Hmm, I'm not really a nf fan. I'd have to have DEEP interest in a particular subject to buy a nf book on it. I'd actually rather buy a novel on the subject and see how an author has put their spin on it.

Crystal Cook said...

I've heard that too, but I have to say that I think I'd die of boredom if I tried to write it. Well. . . unless it was an art instruction book ;)

Al said...

Biography seems to be a massively popular section of non fiction.
My favourite nonfiction is histories. Almost any history.

Liesl said...

I have heard that non-fiction sells better and it's no surprise to me as far as adult books go. I think a lot of adults feel that if they're going to spend time on a book it might as well be factual.

It's also very true in the children's magazine market. Every time I wrote a non-fiction children's article it sold in a flash. Harder to sell fiction in that market.

I like David McCoullough, also OUTLIERS by Malcolm Gladwell, and PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL by Dan Ariely.

Anonymous said...

It might be the escapist in me, but I prefer fiction. Almost my entire collection of non-fiction has been gifted to me.

Interesting blog!!

Lydia K said...

One of my favorite nonfictions was the $64 Tomato.
Funny as heck for those who garden.

Maeve Frazier said...

My favorite nonfiction is "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt. But, my first option is to read fiction.

I have enjoyed reading your blog. You have some really great posts!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I love nonfiction, especially biographies. I read Heaven Is For Real and really liked it--interesting.

Claudia Del Balso said...

WOW! didn't know that, Michelle.
Interesting question. In my book (no pun intended) fiction sells better.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I prefer reading fiction over non fiction. The only non fiction I read right now is for research (for my novels) and how to books on writing. :D

But when I was a kid, I read more non fiction than fiction. Same deal with my kids.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Michelle .. it's an interesting thought - it's where we're comfortable isn't it .. I loved all the fairy stories growing up - Grimm Brothers' etc .. so I my imagination must have been stretched then ..

I love non-fiction because it teaches me something .. but can get lost in fiction, when the time is right ... not often though!

Interesting - a combination of both perhaps .. cheers Hilary

Suze said...

Though I write fiction, I read and purchase a much greater percentage of non-fiction. I don't know if a single, 'real-life' statistic accounts for much, but there you have it. :)