Perhaps you would like to write a non-fiction book? You are in plentiful company. Each year nearly 300,000 books are published in the US. About four out of five are non-fiction!
While there are lots of non-fiction books out there to keep yours company, there are some potential pitfalls associated with the genre. Let’s discuss that.
We all know non-fiction is just that—something that must be truthful, not concocted from our imaginations as with fiction. Not only, however, does it have to be the truth, we as authors have to do due diligence to make it that way. Simply put, we must hold ourselves to the highest standard to ensure the content of our work is true and accurate to the best of our ability. Yes, it’s exactly what lawyers are expected to do, and is, in fact, a legal term.
So how do we achieve this high-minded standard and not get sued for all our efforts, which is the end game of this post. Here are a few guideposts:
1. If you’re not sure of your source/s be sure to investigate their credentials, making certain they are qualified and are who they say they are.
2. Obtain confirmation from unrelated sources to support what your primary sources provided. (More research on your part but necessary and well worth the effort.)
3. Whenever possible, try to get confirmation from secondary sources what you learned from your primary sources.
4. When depending on your memory or personal experiences, secure independent corroboration. *Crucial in narrative non-fiction.
5. If something does not seem correct, even though the source is trustworthy, satisfy whatever doubts you have about the veracity of the material. Trust your instincts.
6. Try to avoid relying upon only one eyewitness account or what only one person remembers. Two or more can make all the difference!
Let me end by saying I usually don’t give lists of how to do things. These six tips, though, can save a non-fiction writer many headaches with a lawsuit on the side! Again, I cannot stress enough the due diligence factor in tackling non-fiction, particularly with topics as medicine, history or biography. Due diligence is first among equals for a strong, successful and well-executed work of non-fiction!