Friday, February 13, 2009

Nonfiction Still Sells in a Recession

Whenever I give a talk about writing and publishing (as I did recently in Blairstown, NJ, and will do again soon in Nazareth, PA--see "Engagements" in the right-hand column), I like to quote Marc McCutcheon's book Damn! Why Didn't I Write That? because he offers interesting statistics that usually aren't well known to my audiences. His book offers a lot of encouragement to nonfiction writers, though I'm not sure how many "ordinary people" have made $100,000 or more writing nonfiction as his subtitle promises.

The main point worth mentioning is that the vast majority of book buyers--70 to 85 percent--are women, even when the book is intended for a man. Therefore, it would stand to reason, that perennial subjects appealing to women would be easier to market to publishers. As an aside, I believe that most households in America are run by women--the bills get paid by women, checks are written by women, and book-buying money is allotted by women.

And, as I've found out from my friends at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA, nonfiction books often do well during a recession because they are usually information-based, how-to, or service-oriented. Reading is a relatively inexpensive hobby, and when cash is tight (or when we're scared that cash will soon be tight), women tend to seek out books that will help them be more self-sufficient and save money.

Here, then, are the top 10 nonfiction topics that McCutcheon cites in his book. Keep in mind that I'm working from the original 2001 book, so the list may have changed a bit for his update in 2006 (see the image above for the 2006 cover).

  1. Diet/weight loss
  2. Relationships

  3. Parenting

  4. Health

  5. Low-fat cooking

  6. Sex

  7. Spirituality

  8. Money/finances

  9. Cats

  10. Career and leadership

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Melanie,

I can attest that those statistics are correct in my house. If I face something out of my experience, the first thing I do is hunt down a book on the subject. It empowers me when I am feeling weak. A book also feeds me information at my pace. It doesn't judge me for not knowing the facts or for getting in situation in the first place.
I'm surprised a household maintenance book isn't included. The first thing three of my friends did when they got divorced was buy repair manuals for the car,household appliances, and landscape. AND of course they bought lots of fiction for those nights when they felt lonely and needed a distraction.