1. The95Writer
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    The95Writer Active Member

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    Do I need to be a 'professional' to finish a non-fiction book?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by The95Writer, Apr 10, 2014.

    I am writing a book about a very controversial topic but I am a self-educator. Everything I have learned from this topic is from my intrigued studying (e.g. I read books on the subject, watch many kinds of videos, do research online etc.).

    I don't know if I am rushing into it to quick to try and write this book.
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I think it depends on the topic and what sources you're using for your research. If you're satisfied that your sources are legitimate, why not go ahead and finish it ? On the other hand, if your sources would be seen by your readers as not legitimate, I wouldn't bother, unless you think you can sell a sufficient number of copies to people who share your sources' point of view (I'm assuming your topic is politically controversial).
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I look at the credentials of the author. I like to know that they have some actual expertise; otherwise they're just looking at what others have done and either regurgitating it or putting their own [biased] spin on it. Jaded I am, yes. I've just seen too many profess to be experts and yet they've done nothing more than I could easily do - read, cite, rephrase, express an opinion.

    So, in essence (and speaking generically): Why should I buy your book if you're just expressing an opinion? What makes your view of this subject worth my time/money?
     
  4. The95Writer
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    The95Writer Active Member

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    Not all but some (not all) of the topics I will be discussing have been mentioned in similar, but I am mostly elaborating on them as well as discussing issues that have not yet been discusses. Plus, I aim for this to target a younger audience; an audience whom are fairly new to the subject that I am writing about. (In case you are wondering why I have not mentioned the subject of it, it is because I don't want to have any personal opinions expressed on that subject).
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want it traditionally published, you'll need to convince an agent (and publisher) that you, in particular, have unique credentials or experience that make you the best person to write a book on that particular topic. If you're self-publishing, you can do whatever you want. But if you're hoping to sell it, you'll have to convince people that it's worth reading. As shadow said, most people are going to look at the author's credentials in deciding whether to read it and how much credence to give it.
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    From a marketing standpoint, it's good to have a degree or some sort of credentials in that particular field. When I look at nonfiction books on science or whatever, I look at the credentials of the person writing the book. Of course, this doesn't guarantee that the book will be completely accurate, but for me this is better than someone without good credentials.

    I should also point out that reading books, doing research, etc. doesn't necessarily make you qualified to write a book on that topic. I'm not trying to discourage you, but it's something worth thinking about.
     
  7. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    It worked for Orwell, and Gore Vidal to not be a professional academic. They both show very well that all you really need is to know what you are talking about. And how to write, of course.
     
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  8. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I agree that you don't have to be a professional in that subject if you make it clear that whatever you are writing is your opinion after x amount of time researching and exploring all avenues.

    Unless, the book is about something like, vehicle maintenance, safety, health or medical practices etc. Obviously with those kinds of books that give advice and instruction, I would think you have some kind of duty of care to the reader to ensure that the information contained is essentially correct and would not lead to accident or injury
     
  9. The95Writer
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    The95Writer Active Member

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    Some mixed responses here.

    I am not going to be writing about something like motoring and such which I understand requires proper overwhelming experience in the world of work. I am writing about something that I think does not require any form of academic education and some of the authors I have researched that write on the topic also do not have any academic education in that area.
     
  10. Mans
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    Mans Contributing Member

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    Yes you have to have enough skill, knowledge and experience to be able to write a good story. But it doesn't mean there is not a shortcut ;)
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You should probably clarify what you're writing about because writing about astrophysics is a lot different than writing about growing vegetables in your backyard.
     
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  12. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I own a raw food book by a person who is not a nutritionist, doesn't have a degree in any field related to human nutrition. She just writes about the benefits of raw food, bashes on people who eat meat, and provides some recipes. It has sold well. I have another book about dieting by some guy who was fat and then lost weight and in the book he details what worked for him and why, referring to some scientific research on the way. It's a hilarious book, so well written that he could be talking out of his ass and people would still buy it.

    I also have a book about back pain by a person who is living with it, and she's not a doctor or a physiatrist. It's not an autobiography either; she writes about how to treat the pain, about the medication she uses and the pros and cons of her choices, etc.

    So no, you don't need to be a professional per se. But like others have pointed out, it depends on the subject.
     
  13. BookLover
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    BookLover Contributing Member

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    Since it's controversial non-fiction, I'm guessing you'll just be talking about your opinion on something? Your slant on some controversial issue? If you throw some personal experience in there, I don't see why you'd need credentials.

    Of course not being an expert on the issue, it'll be pretty obvious right out of the gate that this is just your perspective on things. Some people might not take it too seriously, but that doesn't mean it's unpublishable. People who agree with you, I'm sure, will like it.
     
  14. desert rat
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    desert rat Member

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    One of the difficulties with people with credentials writing non-fiction books is that often they are not great writers (or I should say more properly, they have been schooled in a very rigid and dogmatic style of writing which is not very enjoyable to a popular audience). If you can write well, and knowledgeably, on a subject then go for it. There is no guarantee of being published but it is a heck of a lot greater chance than if you don't write it :) Some of my favorite science writers are writers first and learn the science second. The other great advantage they have is that they can question "facts" in unique ways as they have not been indoctrinated to the same extent as "the experts". I think there is great value to have "lay people" writing on controversial subjects as it introduces new ideas (of course a lot of them are hokum, but there are some real nuggets out there as well). As with any type of writing, it will all depend upon your relationship with the reader. Since you are not an authority, simply don't write authoritatively but use a different approach. I certainly think that, if the project is important to you, then you should not let lack of "official degrees" prevent you from completing it.
     
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  15. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    Are you presenting questions and various perspectives/answers while remaining objective and neutral or writing from your own POV? If the latter, you don't have to be an authority but to have some sort of credibility, you'll need at least a little life/personal experience with whatever it is that you are touting to be able to back up why you hold whatever view you do. I'm not a non-fiction reader who likes pure statistics thrown in my face; I like to see the author relate to his topic and engage me through his experiences - even if it's on something we are on opposite sides of, like politics. If you are writing about it it must hold your interest for a reason and have meaning to you in some way to want to elaborate on it further...I'd include that in your work.
     
  16. ReptilesBlade
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    ReptilesBlade New Member

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    I would think if you could prove you have the credentials or experience and you really do your homework on the subject there is no reason you cannot succeed with such a book. Most of life's lessons are not taught in school and you never know when an experience you have had gives you an answer to a question someone else currently needs.
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think I should clarify that when I say "credentials", I mean some proof that you (generic) actually know what you're talking about - at least to the point where it will be better informed than listening to my neighbor giving his/her views on some random subject s/he may have read some articles on. The fellow with back pain - credentialed because he's living it. The raw food writer - my neighbor status.

    As to Orwell and Vidal - well, they'd established reputations (via their fiction) as being intelligent and controversial individuals, and continued via their essays and other nonfiction works. Agree or disagree with their views, few would say they were stupid. So not exactly first time out of the gate authors ;)

    Basically, what people are talking about is the author "platform" - some sort of verification that you're not some crackpot spouting opinions based on questionable articles by other crackpots or on the misreading/misinterpretation of actual authorities, but someone who actually has something of "value" to bring to the table.
     
  18. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Might be true of Vidal, I honestly don't know, but that's certainly not true of Orwell. Orwell had, admittedly, published Burmese Days before he started writing for the leftest newspapers that eventually made his name, but no one read it. I don't think it had a printing of more than 1,000 copies when he was putting out his early articles on the living conditions of working people, and essays like 'A Hanging' and 'Shooting an Elephant' about his time in the Burmese police force.

    He was far from being controversial either, his early essays carry on the Dickensian tradition of middle class people talking about the work houses. This wasn't a rarity either, it was something of a genre in England at that time. Orwell didn't start causing any real controversy as a journalist until he returned from the Spanish Civil War telling everyone that Stalinist communism was a propaganda Trojan Horse.
     
  19. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I got the impression that Orwell had written several pieces of fiction before the nonfiction and gotten his name known that way. Not to mention that "Wigan" was done after he actually investigated, in person, those things of which he wrote. At any rate, I was only pointing out that their circumstances were different than the OP's.
     
  20. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    'Wigan' cemented his reputation as a journalist with a Socialist bent, but he started making his name earlier. The only reason he was given the 'Wigan' assignment (by Gollancz I think it was) was because of his non-fiction book Down and Out in Paris and London, and that was essentially a conclusion to his earlier, shorter, journalistic pieces. The fiction came pretty much between the journalism, at the time he was more known for his non-fiction anyway - the two books that really made his name as a novelist came at the very end of his career.

    Sorry, I'm a fan. I'll stop myself here. :oops:
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you don't have to be a professional to write it...

    but you do have to be capable of writing at a professional level, for the ms to be acceptable to agents, traditional [= paying] publishers and potential readers/bookbuyers...

    and, to interest agents/publishers/bookbuyers, you do need to have some credentials or verifiable standing in re the subject matter, for your opinions/advice to be taken seriously...
     
  22. aberdeen
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    aberdeen Member

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    If you are willing to research your subject thoroughly and listen and learn from all types of people, you can do a better job than the overly specialized, often rigid professionals. Just go for it!
     
  23. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    John Vaillant is not a terribly good writer but has written two great books. One a best seller. So... [shrug].
     
  24. The95Writer
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    The95Writer Active Member

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    I already have a potential publisher who was interested as soon as I mentioned that I started writing it, so that is sort of sussed.

    But, I am writing and learning as I go along. I throw in my own perspectives but I am not going to be talking smack since I am a rational person who used logic and research. So I won't go into detail, or make assertions if I know nothing about it.

    I thank you all for the great advice, too!
     
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  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    who's the publisher?... have you vetted them carefully, to make sure they're legit?

    and what's the general subject of the book?
     

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