More On Non-fiction Versus Fiction

Last week I had my friend Julie Sondra Decker here to talk about non-fiction versus fiction, in regards to writing/publishing. She has knowledge of both worlds because she just published her first non-fiction book, but she also is writing fiction. Today is part two, because she had a ton of great information. Go here to see part one.

So my big question was, what is the difference between nf and fiction when it comes to querying and publishing?

Querying Agents:

Nonfiction: The book is pitched to agents based on a proposal, not a manuscript. Proposals are extensive documents that include the following, at minimum: a pitch statement; an overview; an outline of the intended audience, demand for the book, and competition; marketing and promotion information; an author profile; a proposed table of contents and brief synopsis of the main point of each section; and sample chapters. A query letter is still necessary at the agent stage, but you need to have a proposal ready.

Fiction: The book is pitched to agents based on a query letter and sometimes sample chapters and/or synopsis. The agent doesn’t offer until they have read the actual book.
Selling to Publishers:

Nonfiction: Yes, it’s true; the book sells without being read by the acquiring editor, though they also generally want sample chapters to make sure you can write. I got a publishing contract and got paid a partial advance for my book before anyone read it (even my agent); they took it on the strength of the proposal and the sample chapters. (However, my book’s first draft was done before I queried agents; I felt I needed to be done before I could outline its contents effectively. The book had progressed in drafts by the time it sold, but I was still editing it up until the deadline for turning it in to the publisher!) Publishers sometimes offer to pay half the advance on acceptance and the other half the advance upon turning in the manuscript. That’s what I did.

Fiction: Not only has the accepting editor read the book, but several other readers generally have too (especially if it’s a larger company). Fiction publishers sometimes offer contracts on books they haven’t read, but they’re generally offered with caveats; they will offer a multiple-book deal based on the strength of a completed first manuscript, or for the additional books in a series, or with the understanding that they can turn down your next book and make you write something else to satisfy the contract.

It’s a world of difference between these two!

No kidding. 🙂 Which agent did you get first: non-fiction or novel? Was querying of one more stressful than the other?

I was signed for fiction first. When my novel went on submission to publishers, I needed a distraction, so I wrote the nonfiction book. It got signed to an agent and sold to a publisher while I was waiting. Querying for fiction was much more stressful than querying for nonfiction, for two reasons:

1. I feel fiction is more personal and more creative, so rejections cut deeper. Rejections of the nonfiction felt more like they just weren’t interested in the subject or thought my platform wasn’t developed enough.

2. I knew the nonfiction would sell. It sounds a bit arrogant, I think, but I knew it was a book that needed to exist and that I was the right person to write it, and I had lots of other content on the subject that had already been well received. I thought it wouldn’t be long before an agent and then a publisher would see eye to eye with me and it would move. I was right. I wasn’t querying very long before I signed with Andrea, and I got three offers from publishers when it went on submission. I still wrestle with self-doubt on whether I’m good enough in fiction, so everything about it is more stressful.

I read one of your novels. You’re definitely good enough. 🙂 But I get what you mean about fiction being more personal than non-fiction.

Does publishing a nonfiction book go faster than fiction? Or does it still take that year to year and a half like it seems it takes novels?


It really does depend on your publisher. Smaller publishers can often get things out faster if they have the means, while larger publishers tend to plan several seasons in advance. My nonfiction publisher is a decent sized small independent. I signed the contract on November 20, 2013, and the book was scheduled for publication on September 2, 2014. I think that’s pretty typical for my size publisher. I don’t know that they would go any faster or slower for fiction; the biggest variable seems to be size of the company, not type of book. (Though obviously if an author gets an offer for a book they have not completed and then they don’t meet their deadline to turn in the actual written manuscript, delays could interfere.)

I suppose it did help that you were all ready to go. I’d be curious to see stats on nf. If most people are like you, and have everything written, or if most go into with with only those sample pages.

Thanks so much, Julie for all the information. Like I’d said before, I don’t really know any others who do non-fiction, so it was interesting to hear how the process go.
And for those who haven’t seen it yet, here is more about her new book.

What if you weren’t sexually attracted to anyone?

A growing number of people are identifying as asexual. They aren’t sexually attracted to anyone, and they consider it a sexual orientation—like gay, straight, or bisexual.

Asexuality is the invisible orientation. Most people believe that “everyone” wants sex, that “everyone” understands what it means to be attracted to other people, and that “everyone” wants to date and mate. But that’s where asexual people are left out—they don’t find other people sexually attractive, and if and when they say so, they are very rarely treated as though that’s okay.

When an asexual person comes out, alarming reactions regularly follow; loved ones fear that an asexual person is sick, or psychologically warped, or suffering from abuse. Critics confront asexual people with accusations of following a fad, hiding homosexuality, or making excuses for romantic failures. And all of this contributes to a discouraging master narrative: there is no such thing as “asexual.” Being an asexual person is a lie or an illness, and it needs to be fixed.

In The Invisible Orientation, Julie Sondra Decker outlines what asexuality is, counters misconceptions, provides resources, and puts asexual people’s experiences in context as they move through a very sexualized world. It includes information for asexual people to help understand their orientation and what it means for their relationships, as well as tips and facts for those who want to understand their asexual friends and loved ones.

Author bio:

Julie Sondra Decker is an author from Tampa, Florida. She writes fantasy and science fiction for adults and children, and is known as a prominent voice for the asexual community. Her nonfiction title The Invisible Orientation (Skyhorse/Carrel) releases September 2, 2014.

Purchase Here | Read Reviews Here | Goodreads | Website | Blog | YouTube | Twitter

4 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing. Meeting someone with personal experience really helps clear details up that can be confusing between the two. I always felt nf is facts and fiction is well… me exposed. So I get what you’re saying.

  2. WOW! Not only did I learn the differences between querying nf and fiction but I also learned about asexuality. I really have never heard about it or even considered it. Thanks for bringing so much info to the forefront.

    And I hope you son has fun watching Maze Runner!! I want to see how different it is from the book.

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