Micro-Booms in Niche Genres
The most popular genres might not be the best for you. In addition to factors like overcrowding by other authors and high-ranking competition, the books you want to write (and be known for writing) might not align with the first book genres you think about.
If you have a heart for niche and exploratory genres, you might be in luck. No one knows what the next big thing will be or where it will come from. For example, “alien romance” were two words that no one thought they’d ever see together, but thanks to the massive success of Ruby Dixon’s series, new books about falling in love with aliens in space are highly in demand.
Unfortunately, Ruby Dixon’s success is a rare case, and your cowboys vs. dinosaurs thriller almost definitely won’t even come close by comparison.
What causes a boom?
There are three interconnected ways that an unheard of genre can suddenly find itself in the spotlight. The first of these is if a big-five publishing company publishes and successfully promotes a book that introduces the genre to readers. Often these books will be either written by an author with previous mainstream success or they will target a mainstream genre while only teasing elements of something more niche.
A second way is if a movie or TV show in the genre becomes popular. Since film and literary trends don’t always overlap, it’s possible for one genre to be obsessively famous through one medium while remaining obscure in another (think of superheroes for one example—popular in movies and TV shows but still relatively unheard of in books). A popular film allusion won’t guarantee a boom in a genre, but it has a higher chance than throwing a dart to a list of genres and hoping it sticks.
Last on this list is an element of luck. Sometimes a book (often self-published) will get discovered by an influencer or reviewer with a large reach. If the right audience learns about the book at the right time, the popularity will spread like a virus, and readers will be desperate for books that scratch the same itch.
Taking Advantage of A Boom
There’s a reason I use the word “boom” to describe this. While a boom in a niche genre can spring up overnight, it can also die quickly. That makes niche genres risky to jump into, even if they’re already making headlines.
The good news is that there are ways to work smart about this.
1. Know your genre’s past success. Track the history of your genre over the past few months and years and see if it’s had any booms in the past or is in one now. A genre that has booms regularly (like steampunk) has some stability even if it’s not especially popular. The tools I recommend for this are Alex Newton’s K-Lytics and Publisher Rocket.
2. Don’t lock yourself into a single niche genre. There’s no way to know when the booms are going to happen. If you love writing niche, shop around and check out several related genres. It’s common for full-time authors to have multiple genres as long as there’s some overlap.
3. Be prepared to move around. One of the best things about self-publishing is that you’re not locked into a contract. You can change genres, add or drop genres on a whim without any need to explain yourself or write another five books in a genre you don’t care about. If you start writing in a niche genre and it doesn’t get any action, don’t feel bad about trying something new.
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