Would you be interested in publishing my non-fiction novel about my life as a Mormon in the backwoods of Canada?
No, because there is no such thing as a non-fiction novel.
novel: a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes. (dictionary.com)
non-fiction: the branch of literature comprising works of narrative prose dealing with or offering opinions or conjectures upon facts and reality. (dictionary.com)
Admittedly, there can be some blurring of the line between the two, but for submission purposes and shelf placement in the stores, you have to pick one.
If your book is a how-to book (in your case, how to survive in the backwoods of Canada) but includes personal experiences as examples of the principles and concepts you’re discussing, it’s non-fiction. (Example: He Did Deliver Me from Bondage by Colleen C. Harrison)
If your book is about a personal life experience or event, is in story form and written in first person, and follows what really happened very closely, it’s a memoir (classified as non-fiction). (Example: Running with Angels by Pamela H. Hansen; Room for Two by Abel Keogh)
If it covers your entire life, it’s an autobiography (classified as non-fiction).
If your book is based on a personal experience or event, written in first or third person, some liberty is taken with the facts to make it flow better or to hide the identity of certain participants, it’s a novel based on true experiences (classified as fiction). (Examples: Torn Apart by Diony George)
*Updated 6/10: I moved Room for Two up into the memoir section. I thought I remembered it being advertised as a novel based on a true story. I have been corrected.
And this is why no one should feel bad when I use their mistakes as examples on my blog. Chances are I’ll make a mistake or twenty along the way too.