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 January, 2010

Fiction Writes Nonfiction

by Bruce L. Cook
Can you include nonfiction in fiction? Consider the theory of fuzzy sets.The classical view of sets, or categories, asserts that each list is exhaustive, and the categories are mutually exclusive .... (continued below...)


Typical Steps in Self Publishing


by Bruce L. Cook


Write the book. Sometimes this takes years of work. Don’t give up!

Edit the book. Send to people who are willing to give feedback. Then revise! Never consider the work as something cast in stone, too good to be revised.

Register Copyright & ISBN (optional). For best legal protection, register with your national copyright office. For marketing and distribution, obtain an isbn number and bar code. (For US, go to loc.gov/copyright and isbn.org)

Write Table of Contents, Prologue, Foreword, Epilogue, etc. Whatever seems appropriate.

Write blurb. An advertising promo for your book. Best if written by an experienced copy writer.

Obtain cover art. Sometimes a hi-res vertical photo with lettering will do, as long as you can overlay the photo with the title and author. Try a template. Perhaps pay for a graphic artist to make a memorable cover.

Promote and distribute e-book version yourself (optional). Check with the recipient. You can send any version – internationally, Microsoft Word is still most universal. However, the traditional e-book format has been pdf, while ePub is the new standard. To publish in ePub for free, obtain the Atlantis Word Processor (basically free). To read ePub files, obtain Adobe Digital Editions (free).  To submit for Kindle, go to… 


Submit to printer. You can do this for free – there’s no reason to pay hundreds of dollars. However, be patient and willing to learn! (Send to cookcom@gte.net for a free PowerPoint on procedures.)

Set prices and arrange for distribution. Avoid printing box loads and fulfilling orders yourself. Print on demand is fine, and has no wasted copies. A true Print on Demand publisher will do this for you, and keep track of sales and profits too.

Send free copies to reviewers in the hope some will write a book review. (This is expensive.)

Arrange for marketing and promotion. Do it yourself is best, especially if you can personally appeal to a large group of people. If you can afford it, appearances on radio and even TV will produce sales, but likely have no profit.




Fiction Writes Nonfiction.... (continued)

At first blush we expect literary categories to be exhaustive and mutually exclusive. When viewing book categories like action stories, adventure, fantasy, romance, science fiction, etc. we expect each subject category to be pure.

However, subject categories are notoriously impure. A fantasy story may contain adventure and science fiction will probably contain action. Thus, we must make subjective determinations. In fact, we’d have it no other way.

Alas, the distinction between fiction and nonfiction does seem absolute. A book is fiction or it is nonfiction, but not both. When confronted with those sections in the local library, we find no shelves labeled fiction/nonfiction. Even historical fiction nestles comfortably with other works of fiction.

In practice, the fiction/nonfiction distinction is questionable for fiction writers. Consider these examples.

  • An author writes a novel about the people at his place of employment. Actual names are changed. The actual location is disguised. Fiction or nonfiction?
  • An author writes a novel with ten characters who represent actual persons, loved or resented. Actual names are changed. Fiction or nonfiction?
  • An author writes a novel that contains events based on personal experience. Fiction or nonfiction?

What are the answers? My assessment … nonfiction, nonfiction, fiction, in that order. It’s not fiction to write about specific people and just change their names. In fact, a writer who does that will run into problems with a recognized publisher, if ever a publisher agrees to publish the work.

Conversely, a fiction writer’s story is informed by personal experience. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was not intended to document World War II, but the author has conceded that events during its writing had an influence on the story.   

Consciously or unconsciously, the fiction writer moves the story ahead with personal experience in mind. When it comes time for a new setting or series of events, the author scans memories of personal experience before writing. Occasionally a setting or conflict may come from actual events or periods in the author’s life. In these cases, character interactions derive from the author past. But not the whole story.

In summary, nonfiction has a place in a fiction story, but it’s best to avoid cloaking the truth by just changing names of locations. In fact,, basing fiction of real experience can enhance the story’s authenticity.

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Publishing New Writers,

January, 2010 (no. 1101)


Bruce L. Cook
6086 Dunes Dr,
Sanford, NC 27332

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