Lanterne niche, Château de Hautefort, Dordogne, France

Finding a Niche

I wanted to take just a few minutes to build on last week's post about turning tired, worn-out plots and tropes upside down by adding a twist or three.

February marked my two-year anniversary as a published author. In that time, and the year or so I spent studying self-publishing fiction prior to that, I've encountered dozens of authors who are struggling to find their place among what many consider a glut of novels.

Some cope by emulating popular authors. Viola Rivard became a bestselling author by studying the market and carefully choosing popular story elements (including title keywords and character archetypes) prior to writing the first word. Her business model began with writing to the market, a brilliant strategy others have since used to good effect.

It's important to note that when I say emulate, I really mean emulate rather than copy or plagiarize. Viola took those elements and put her own spin on them, but she started with solid market research. Along the way, she's managed to ensnare thousands of readers and has done very well for herself as a writer.

Other writers choose a slightly different path. Instead of choosing elements from one subgenre as Viola did, bestselling author Arial Burnz combined elements from several subgenres to create her own niche. Her Bonded by Blood Vampire Chronicles Series features Scottish vampires in historical settings. 

It's such a delicious idea, I have to repeat it: Historic. Scottish. Vampires. That hits a lot of high points in my book.

Arial is another incredibly savvy marketer, a point I'm going to come back to in a minute. But she started with something fairly unique (some might say too unique; not me, but some) and made it work very well.

Bestselling author Rosalind James chose to write Contemporary Romance, an incredibly crowded field. How did she stand out? She set her books in New Zealand, a location with which she is extremely familiar, and her heroes in her first series were all rugby players. 

Have you seen a rugby player? Hubba, hubba. 

The one-two punch of an exotic locale paired with hot athletes catapulted her into the upper echelons of indie authors. Over the past few years, Rosalind has cultivated a devoted following among Contemporary Romance readers simply by giving them something no one else had before.

Other than being female indie authors, what do these women have in common? They're all bestselling authors and they did it by carving out their own niche. 

There's so much advice out there about what to and not to write. The popular consensus is that one should never mix genres or deviate from the norm; yet, authors who do can reap great rewards simply because they stand out from the crowd

To do this, though, authors have to have a handle on marketing, something Viola, Arial, and Rosalind have all mastered. Creating unique story worlds isn't enough. Readers have to be directed to those story worlds and persuaded to buy into them, a task every author has to perform regardless of whether or not they stick to standardized genre conventions and popular reading trends.

How have you handled the challenge of attracting readers to your stories? Did you write to the market or did you find a market after creating your story world(s)?

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