Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
While at the Mount Hermon Writers Conference, I discussed nonfiction with several editors but found little news beyond that publishers aren’t offering contracts on projects that have a limited audience. What I have observed about nonfiction is that it needs to meet needs in ways the Internet can’t.
Which is a very instructive thought for nonfiction writers. Nowadays your nonfiction has to go beyond providing a resource for the person looking for how to deal with a problem; nonfiction often succeeds today because it has a strong story element.
Take, for example, Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory, which became a New York Times best-seller a few years ago. The premise of the book is that a man receives a formal invitation to dine at a restaurant with…Jesus. Taking this as a joke, the protagonist decides to go to the restaurant to find out who’s behind the joke. He’s led to a table where a man claims to be Jesus, albeit he looks like any contemporary man.
Figuring to tease out of the guy who hired him to play the role of Jesus, the protagonist plays along and starts to ask this Jesus all the questions he had always wanted to ask God. He’s put back on his heels as the guy answers in a forthright and enlightening way to each question.
Eventually the protagonist decides this might well be Jesus. What to do now…?
The book is actually an apologetics primer on how to respond to a person who has faith questions, but the genius in the project is that it is all told as a story. The author’s omniscient voice never intrudes on the story.
I’d strongly urge anyone writing nonfiction to examine how strong the story element is in your project. The answer can make the difference between having the manuscript published or not.