Aug 04 2008

The Future of Political Nonfiction

City Journal wrote a well-researched article on the future of conservative nonfiction, but I’d like to make a larger point about political nonfiction. “Since the new conservative imprints have far less latitude than traditional nonfiction imprints to fail, they tend to rely heavily on, and largely be defined by, a handful of proven iconic authors.” It’s probably true that smaller publishers have to be wary about rolling the dice with noncelebrities. But, because of blogging, I think that it’s tremendously difficult for a non-celebrity of any political persuasion to publish political nonfiction. Readers can find blogs that offer any style of political thought for free. Some blogs are exceedingly well-written and intelligent. So why would anyone want to pay for your opinion? Because you’re someone who has an invaluable perspective because you used to be a President, a secretary of state, or are a hugely popular talk-radio host, etc…*


Alternately, you may be so intelligent and articulate and research-savvy that your book will be of scholarly interest, regardless of your background. I recommend staying away from political fiction unless you are that brilliant (and/or a celebrity). If you think you may be brilliant enough, ask yourself whether you could get tens of thousands of people to read your blog. If they won’t read for free, they almost certainly won’t pay money for your work.

*Cadet Davis has suggested a revision here… “I think that you’re probably right about the author’s background being particularly important in political nonfiction, but I don’t think you have to hold a high rank to have an interesting perspective.  I imagine that a young soldier could easily sell an account of what he saw and learned during his tour in Iraq.  Whether he wrote it as a coming-of-age memoir or a more conventional polemic, he could plausibly clear his advance.”

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