Niche Books, How To Sell & Find Niche Books (?) And Correct Genre & Sub-Genre Placement

I am basically regurgitating what I posted today in response to a thread on Kindleboards, but, I wanted to share my thoughts here, as they are very relevant to how I write. So I’ve cleaned it up (typing long passages for forum responses on your iPhone is really difficult, btw,) and away we go....

I do not consider extreme use of a story element niche (more violence, more sex). Nor do I consider specific sub-genres niche. Just because a genre clashes with current popular genre trends, or because it is new, does not make it niche. Peculiar subject matter and prose which uses distinct literary devices, those are books I would consider niche as the average reader would probably not appreciate a narrative voice radically different to what they're comfortable with (or used to). To be crystal clear I don't mean a writer's natural writing style either, though most niche writers do have a distinctive writing style as well.

There are industry norms authors must bow to for the sake of avoiding bad/irrelevant reviews. This I say in the context of 'advice' of how to sell a 'niche' book, and of course, well written and relevant reviews help sell books.

Here is an example: not liking extreme violence or graphic sex is merely taste, not a lack of appreciation for a distinctive literary device. Genres logically group reader plot and story element tastes. Hence why most times if you receive reviews where readers specifically mention things like “this was horror not fantasy,” or “this was not fantasy it was too gory and scary” a person with insight will suggest a genre shift for your book, as readers are expressing dissatisfaction with the levels of your major story elements, suggesting the levels are a closer match to the current (major story element) trends in the Horror genre. Of course they could always be wrong (again, all this is my opinion, it's your book, your party).

Some people are genre purists. No matter how confusing and ridiculous a situation it has become, correct sub-genre placement is needed, but with so many it can be difficult for Indies. We can argue until we’re blue in the face why our book belongs in one genre or the other (I say go with what makes the most sense to you as an author). However, if you consider your book niche, and market it as so, correct genre placement is essential to finding your audience, because they already have enough to deal with (your literary technique).

As a reader, I am not fussy about genre (as long as I am not sold a Horror that was called Fantasy). That is as far down as I delineate. But others have much more specific tastes and actively seek out books to match these tastes. I know people who if they read a Urban Fantasy book when they expected Dark Fantasy would write a scathing review, and feel like they were duped by the author/publisher. The average reader follows the trend in sub-genres, not the sub-genre itself (opposed to the example above). 

To meet the needs of both, my way of doing the 'safest' thing would be to pander to the needs of the most learned. Average readers won't give a damn about the sub-genre as long as it's in the right ball park, has an attractive cover, and a good blurb.

I do consider my books 'niche' and honestly, I have no idea how to find my readers barring a shot gun "freebie" approach, which is a messy can of worms I hope to avoid in future. My series is firmly Young Adult Fantasy. Is it worth stuffing the words 'urban' or 'dark' before the Fantasy? Right now, no. Most who are not my target audience like the story and just describe the narrative voice as "odd" or "weird" or say things like "I don't understand the British writing flair." (whatever that means). For me personally, it's horrible when my books are tagged as "written badly".

Written 'badly' and 'differently' are two different things ;)

Niche book selling is not something many Indies write about, so I'm making educated guesses as I go, and probably getting it wrong, as often as I get it right, but one does what one can.

Again, all the above is how I view things. I'll read anything, but I most enjoy books that are written distinctly with extreme style. To be honest, the way I find these is to look for books with extreme review patterns (lots of one and five stars). This is usually a signal to me the writer has a style that is distinctive, or has done something with the narrative only a certain thinking pattern will understand and appreciate. 

Anyway, anybody else’s thoughts on this topic are of course welcome. And a huge hello to my new blog followers! 


  1. So with you on this one Pene - and if anyone thinks for a minute I'll stop backing down from pointing out to pretentious reviewers that my book ISN'T wrong, it's just different - they're very wrong ;p
    Of which I have a bone to pick with you... just read 3/4 of Lunar Light in my lunch break and now can't focus on my own writing.... FREAKING AWESOME! *ahem* yes I'm thoroughly enjoying it ;p so posted a couple of reviews (and will post to goodreads when I get home). Well done you.

  2. Very well put, MS Fletcher.