Many of us want to earn a decent living doing what we love most, which is writing. However, it can be challenging to decide whether to focus on money or to aim for fame and a devoted following. But is fiction as lucrative as nonfiction? 

Nonfiction is more profitable than fiction writing in terms of using book sales to create multiple revenue streams. Fiction writing is more profitable in terms of book sales over time and traditionally published earnings. However, nonfiction dominates the self-publishing niche. 

While best-selling fiction may generate enormous wealth, nonfiction is the more accessible option in terms of marketing and the ability to earn through self-publishing. Stick around to discover why nonfiction may be the better option if you seek to make a profit in writing books

Reasons Why Nonfiction Writers May Earn More

As the global nonfiction market steadily grows, there is potential for you to make money in the genre. 

Experts suggest that the global fiction books market will grow from $10.01 billion in 2021 to $10.46 billion in 2022. The nonfiction book market is set to grow from $13.27 billion in 2021 to $14.02 billion in 2022. 

Thus as a market, nonfiction outperforms fiction, and the trend will continue in the future

The world looks at top-earning authors like JK Rowling, with a net worth of over a billion dollars according to some estimates. With earnings like Rowling’s, it does seem that fiction writing is the real way to riches. However, this is not necessarily true. 

Authors such as Stephen King, Tom Clancy, and John Grisham have had their fiction turned into movies that elevate their earnings considerably. 

Many variables affect the profitability of the fiction and nonfiction genres, but exceptions exist to the rule. However, nonfiction may outnumber their fiction writing counterparts due to the following advantages offered in the nonfiction field. 

It Is Easier To Publish in the Nonfiction Genre

On average more readers consume nonfiction material in their everyday lives, including nonfiction stories, newspapers, and magazines. So getting a nonfiction story into the public domain is far easier than getting short literary fiction published in one of the top literary periodicals. 

In fact, top literary magazines such as the New Yorker have a startling low acceptance rate of 1 in 40,000, according to some sources

Self Published Nonfiction Authors Earn Greater Royalties

A significant percentage of nonfiction writers use the eBook format to sell their books. A self-published author on Amazon not only retains the rights to their books but earns up to 70% royalties. 

They also have the advantage of setting their book prices. 

With traditional publishing offering only 10-15% average royalties, a fiction writer often earns less per book sold than self-published nonfiction writers despite successful sales. But they first have to earn out their advances before seeing a cent of their royalties. 

Many fiction writers never even outearn their advances, a sobering truth. 

Nonfiction Is Less Competitive Than Fiction

Marketing books is never an easy process, especially with the high level of competition all vying for readers’ attention. Nonfiction authors have an easier time finding niche topics to isolate a select readership and engage their attention. 

It’s a lot easier to reach a top-selling tier when your content includes a specific niche, as there is less competition the more specific your nonfiction becomes. Fiction, even genre fiction, is a field in which it is often difficult to stand out from your competitors. 

Many times, fiction books may get lost in the sheer volume of available books. 

Nonfiction Offers Online Discoverability

The nonfiction genre offers excellent potential for topic-related online discoverability, which may gather a sure readership. By harnessing the power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices, these authors can promote a topic or subject more easily than fiction writers. 

By creating an online blog, nonfiction writers can utilize Google and other search engines to index their articles and posts. 

When people search Amazon to find an answer to a question in your nonfiction niche, you have a chance to sell your book to a potential reader. It’s more difficult for fiction writers to market their work using this technique. 

Nonfiction Offers Multiple Revenue Streams

Sadly, few fiction writers actually earn a decent living from their creative efforts. Unlike fiction writers, nonfiction authors are in the undue position to leverage their books to grow their business or personal brand. 

Nonfiction success may lead to multiple revenue streams such as: 

  • Paid podcasts 
  • Online courses 
  • Public speaking events 
  • Attract corporate sponsors 
  • Bulk book sales to businesses 
  • Audiobooks 

Reasons Why Fiction May Earn More Over Time

Your sales will likely dwindle over time or become obsolete unless your nonfiction subject is evergreen. Fiction can gain popularity over time through word of mouth and good reviews and increase sales over time. 

Other reasons why fiction may outlast and outearn nonfiction may include the fact that you have a dedicated following to your series, and it doesn’t have an expiration date. Let’s take a closer look at these reasons. 

Fiction Attracts a Dedicated Following 

While readers buy nonfiction to answer a specific question, fiction readers often develop a personal relationship with an author whose works they enjoy. Unlike self-help books or job industry-related content, a reader will likely read not only other books from their chosen fiction author but even purchase most of their earlier works. 

Readers tend to read nonfiction to satisfy their questions, and they don’t form a particular attachment to a nonfiction author. Fiction fans tend to stay more loyal to their chosen authors and continue to support them over time. 

Fiction Does Not Have an Expiration Date

Nonfiction books that explore specific and current topics tend to only sell well for a month or two, whereas great fiction continues to sell for decades. Fiction doesn’t have to stay current with trends or compete against new emerging topics and technologies. 

Many nonfiction authors choose popular topics to attract more readers as new and popular subjects spark the most interest. 

Although the results are higher sales volumes, the sales typically dwindle over time. They may become obsolete in months, especially in rapidly accelerating fields such as technology and software. 

Closing Notes

Ultimately if making money is your goal, then nonfiction seems the more lucrative choice. Harnessing the power of trending topics to bring yourself and your brand attention is a great way to explore and take advantage of multiple revenue streams. 

However, If creative writing is your passion, you may find yourself fame and fortune if you commit to the process and keep putting your unique vision out into the world. 

Categories: Funding

Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.