How do non-fiction books come about? I am writing this blog for a reason which shall revealed shortly. First, I am going to answer the question in a generic way.
Steps authors take to write a non-fiction book
- They develop an interest in a topic.
- They read several books, and perhaps articles, on the topic. In this day and age, they likely listen to related podcasts and watch a few online videos or DVDs, as well.
- They gain their own experience with the topic.
- They write a book about the topic, mixing what they have learned from other sources with their experiences and opinions.
This is has been an ethical and widely accepted way of writing non-fiction for decades, if not hundreds of years.
High school teachers and college professors accept this form of writing, calling it a “term paper.” Heads of departments at universities reviewing this form of writing call them either “Masters thesis” or “doctoral thesis.”
There is no weight loss book, no cookbook, no fitness book, no home organization book, no philosophy book, no health book, no craft-making book, no travel book, no any kind of non-fiction book (with the possible exception of memoirs) that is completely original. In fact, most non-fiction books on the market today are probably not even half original.
There is nothing new under the sun.
That’s number one. Number two is, concepts cannot be copyrighted.
I have been accused
I was going through the reviews of a few of my Kindle books the other day, and discovered that someone gave me a two-star review for Hatching the Nest Egg. (The first two reviewers gave me five stars.)
That person accused me of “ripping off” Dave Ramsey.
I will freely admit that I first heard about emergency funds and the debt snowball by listening to Ramsey’s radio show. But guess what? I have also heard Dave himself admit that he did not invent the debt snowball (nor the emergency fund, I would guess). He only made it popular.
I also learned about the danger of co-signing on loans from Dave Ramsey, and he was the one who changed my mind about what conventional wisdom says about paying off a mortgage early.
However, I knew about budgeting long before I ever heard of Dave Ramsey. I do not encourage people to invest in mutual funds as Ramsey does. And I do everything in my power to discourage parents from forcing their children to go to college – which Ramsey does not.
I have read close to ten personal finance books, and gleaned important information from each one. Several of them contained similar advice. Others contained differing advice. It was the book Your Money Or Your Life, not Ramsey’s book, that opened my eyes to possibility of what I call “super-early retirement.”
Yes, some of my book reflects what Ramsey teaches because it is good, sound financial advice…but most of it did not originate with him. And the parts that do? I borrowed concepts which Dave borrowed from somewhere else. Concepts cannot be copyrighted.
Moreover, a large part of the information in Hatching the Nest Egg comes from other sources, including my own personal experience (I learned about 403b’s because I used to be a teacher – I never heard Dave talk about those one time).
Finally, Dave Ramsey does not provide a step-by-step method to how to retire by age forty, like I do. His deal is to get people out of debt.
If you refuse to buy this book because I supposedly ripped off from Dave Ramsey, then don’t read any of my non-fiction books (most of which, by the way, have an average of at least four stars from reviewers who have common sense). I didn’t come up with most of the money- or planet-saving techniques in Crazy Simple on my own. I didn’t invent organic or companion or biointensive or raised-bed gardening.
The long and the short of it
All non-fiction books, with the exception of memoirs, written today are compilations of what the authors have learned from other sources, combined with their own experiences and written with their own spin. If that offends you, don’t be hypocrite. Quit reading non-fiction books.