Writing to Market: How to Choose the Best Genre
Writing to market is a controversial idea. No one wants to sell out as a writer. Chances are, if you write fiction, you got into it because you love it—because your writing called to you, not the other way around. There’s nothing wrong with having a muse, either. If you’re content to write one or two great books, to slip spare moments into your schedule where you can be alone with your passion projects, go for it!
But what if you want to write full-time?
Writing full-time means that you need to treat it like a full-time job. You need to be committed, consistent, and willing to put in the work every day. Can you commit to writing a book a year? Good. How about six? How about ten?
Many five- and six-figure authors commit to writing about a book a month if they can (though the good news is that you can get similar results over enough time simply by publishing two or three books per year).
If that thought worries you because your fantasy epic will take far more than one year to write per book, then don’t treat it as a full-time job. Trust me. If you love it, you’ll find the time to work on it in between the hours of your day. If that’s you, and if you still really want to make a living off of writing, choose a more casual form of fantasy to spit out and treat it like a writing exercise.
In addition to writing a lot of books, writing to market involves writing in the right genre. Note: this does not mean the most popular genre you can think of. Popular genres can get over-saturated, and your book won’t be noticed in the crowd. But super-niche genres might not give you the visibility you need to draw a crowd. You want a genre that’s popular… but has room for more.
These days, finding a genre is relatively easy. Popular tools like Publisher Rocket and KDSpy take a lot of the guesswork out of finding ideal genres to target; but if you’re starting out, all you need to do is some basic note-taking.
Get out some paper and your lucky pencil, pull up an Amazon tab (even if you want to publish wide), and let’s get started.
1. Choose Your Genres.
This might come off as a backward first step, but you can avoid the selling-your-soul feeling if you start with genres that you actively care about. If you’re not sure off the top of your head, look through the genre lists on the Kindle store until you find two or three things that look interesting. Narrow your search to sub-genres, and find another two or three.
For my example, I’ll pick two sub-genres that apply to my current WIP: “romance fantasy” and “Arthurian fantasy.” You don’t need to write romance if you don’t want to—that’s part of the fun of this system.
Tip: resist the urge to stick to super-popular genres. If you’re not naturally bent to paranormal romance, don’t waste your time sifting through it—it’s heavily saturated enough as is!
2. Find The Best-sellers.
These next steps you’ll need to repeat for every sub-genre you’re looking at.
Click on your chosen sub-genre and find the bestselling titles. You can skip over anything that looks like it was professionally published. We want indie titles here, books that were written and created in the way you hope to imitate. Click on the top one you see and scroll down to the bestseller rank.
What we want here are low numbers—especially low numbers in the overall store. That means that this genre is currently exceedingly popular and heavily in demand.
Write down the information you find and track it across your different genres.
For romance fantasy, I landed on a new release by Raven Kennedy, Gild. As you can see below, Gild is wildly popular, in the top hundred books in the Kindle store and #1 in multiple sub-genres.
That’s encouraging, but it could also be a sign that romance fantasy is over-saturated and that I should look for something more niche. We’ll find out later.
Arthurian fantasy gave me different results, and I found myself looking up Academic Magic by D. B. King. This title is steady at the #769 spot on the Kindle store, still high but not unattainable.
3. Search The Crowd
Now we’ve found the top sellers in your chosen genres, and hopefully at least one of your choices was a high ranker. Now we’re going to scroll down to the middle of the crowd for a look at the competition.
Again, we’re going to do this again with each of your sub-genres, so keep your pencil handy.
Go to the bottom of the first page and open the last listed book in your genre. Again, we’re looking for single books (not box sets) and self-published books.
For romance fantasy, I ended up with the shifter romance Her Dragon Rider by Roxy Ray. As seen below, Her Dragon Rider is currently at #733 in the total store, substantially lower but still in the top thousand.
Arthurian fantasy saw a drastic drop, with David Estes’ years-old title Soulmarked (seen below) coming in at almost #20,000. Huge numbers like this means that there’s plenty of room for competition and for new authors to jump in.
4. Draw Your Conclusions!
What stood out to you about your numbers?
The genres with the biggest gap between high and low are the ones you can thrive in. Lower numbers mean greater popularity, and higher numbers mean there’s more space for competition.
As for my study, I got overall much better results from my niche choice, Arthurian fantasy, because there aren’t many titles competing for that genre to begin with.
The sub-genres where you see the greatest difference are the ones to aim for. These sub-genres are hugely popular with readers but have extra space for more books, meaning that you can go further if you choose to pursue them.
Please share what you discovered in the comments section below, or join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers for more discussion.