Genre Success: Marketing Niche Books
A couple of years ago, I decided to query one of my books to a series of agents. Like most of my books, this one was an offbeat tale that didn't fit into any typical genre or literary conventions that I was aware of. I had styled it while writing it, without much regard to the audience or to my readership. Of course, my poor novel got rejected by every single agent who read it (about a dozen times, give or take). I wasn't surprised at the outcome. This book in particular I had planned (and still plan) to self publish. All the same, I was curious about what they would have to say and what constructive feedback I might receive in my experiment. And hey, a publishing deal with a major company wouldn’t be so bad on top of things.
One agent in particular did take an interest in it. He said it was well done, well written, and an interesting story. The only reason he could not accept it was because it didn't resemble any other book out there. The comparison titles that I had included were only vague correlations to my own story, but he still couldn't think of anything closer. Simply put, he had no idea how to market it or to which publisher.
This raises the question that I have also encountered with many other writers: how can you sell a book if it really is unique?
1. Determine if your book is actually unique.
You might have heard someone say before that there are no unique ideas out there, and to an extent that's true. Your book might not be exactly like any other book out there, But that doesn't mean that you've created a bona fide literary Island. Your ideas, tone, characters, and atmosphere all contribute to your storytelling. Even if your niche and style don’t fit into any clear stereotypes, your penchant for dark humor or the moment-to-moment thrills of your crime-solving heroine might resonate with readers of other genres.
Similarly, it might be that you need to familiarize yourself more with the genres that are already out there. In my case, it wasn't until I had read through a long list of the genres available online that I found books that were much closer to my own than I had earlier communicated. I needed to learn how to present my book in a more precise light so that readers would have a better grasp of it right off the bat.
2. Identify what your readers crave.
There's something you love about your book. Something that is drawn you to it day after day, months on end. if you pitch it well, this is what the readers will want too, and you'll be perfectly poised to give it to them when they buy your book.
But how do you know what it is? It's easy to get caught up in the hype of a character, theme, or unique plot but you could spend all day describing. Unfortunately, you don't have all day to talk to readers. when writing book descriptions or agent queries, you only have a couple hundred words to communicate what makes your story so important and why others would like it. Don't waste time here. Cut to the heart of your story, the scene, the essence, the hint of glitter the drives you back again and again. Even if your book is in a rare genre, readers will catch your enthusiasm and want to jump on board.
3. Brand yourself.
You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes your book special, but what about you? Branding yourself as an author is a great way to get some recognition and develop some authority in the genre you write in. Look up blogs that deal in your Niche and offered to write guest posts for them. Revamp your author site, if you have one. Refresh your social media and check your author bio to make sure that it reflects what you write.
When people see that you have an established voice in your genre, they'll be much more interested in what you have to write. Meanwhile, you'll have a good experience growing your following by interacting with people who like similar things.
4. Go more mainstream.
Maybe it's time to go more mainstream. Don't cringe yet; your voice is and will always be unique, and you can have full say in how mainstream you want to go. If you're offering something weird and different, and no one seems interested, maybe you need to take the time to see what other people do like. Read that sappy romance, thumb through a popular thriller. Learn what it is that excites the everyday reader and what tricks you can pull into your own writing.
This isn’t to say you should abandon your ideas and settle for something more common, but if you invest in learning more about the publishing world--adopting case studies and trying your hand at a form of writing where you have limited experience--you might learn some valuable ways to attract more readers to your work.
5. Define your mission.
You might not know it, but you do have a mission as the writer. Maybe you're right to satisfy an internal itch that won't be silenced otherwise. Maybe right so that you can attract people who like the same things you do, and you can share your work with them. Maybe you're trying to earn some fast cash. Whatever the case, make sure you understand what it is that you want when you list your book for sale. When you know what you want, you can make better decisions about how you want to get there and what you’re willing to do. After all, there’s no point in making your experimental slipstream story a common science fiction thriller when your entire goal was simply to write experimental slipstream!
How do you pitch readers? Do you believe a book can truly be unique--or mainstream, for that matter? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and I look forward to the discussion.