Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Behind the Books: Is It Fiction or Nonfiction?

During a recent workshop, a teacher noted, that in recent years, some titles seem to blend elements of fiction and nonfiction. As a result, it may not be clear how to classify it. Is there an easy way to tell the difference?

Yes, there is.

In the United States, the decision lies with the Library of Congress. Prior to publication, publishers send each of their books to the Library of Congress. After a LOC employee reads a title, he/she assigns it a call number (that librarians will eventually use to shelve it), writes a brief summary of the book, and classifies it as either “juvenile fiction” or “juvenile literature.” Juvenile literature includes nonfiction and usually (but not always) poetry.

So when in doubt, look at a book’s copyright page for this information.

BUT also keep in mind that every librarian is the queen/king of her/his own collection. Individual librarians can override the LOC designation and shelve the book where they think it's audience is most likely to find it.


  1. Melissa
    Thanks much for your article, as I'm working on a story with a fictional family, but real astronomy. I'm undecided about using three anthropomorphized stars having personalities.

  2. That definitely sounds like fiction to me, Spence. So hopefully, your story has a strong conflict that challenges the main character and that he/she resolves by the end.

  3. Thanks for your reply, Melissa. I've written an expository stargazing ms for older teens, which also has my personal perspectives. It's my first project, and I'm now hoping to snag an agent for it. Yes, I know that's very tough to do.

    The format of the current ms, for younger readers, is new to me, so I really appreciate your advice.

    Happy TG Day,