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Know the other books in your niche (and some cats)

Write your book

What we’ve covered so far

Over the last couple of posts I’ve been trying to find an answer to the question ‘who would read my writing anyway?’ which I suspect is a form of procrastination. I’m suggesting that if we take this question seriously and come up with a considered answer, we may well overcome the procrastination itself.

In the first post in this series I talked about whether you need to get to know your ideal reader before you write your book, and in the second, I talked about the importance of literary citizenship and gave you some practical suggestions for finding your ideal readers via literary citizenship, both on and off line. In this post I discuss another way in which you can discover your ideal reader: by getting to know other books in your niche.

Know your niche

Once you know what sort of thing you want to write, niching works like this. A niche is sort of like a category or a sub-genre. Say you ran a sweet shop (a candy store to my North American cousins) what kind of sweet shop is it? Do you do high end and beautifully ornate gifts for special occasions? Or do you run a pick n mix where kids can come in and spend their pocket money? Is it an olde worlde shop full of old fashioned sweetie jars and scales, reminiscent of the 1950s? Or do you stock all the latest innovations in sugar-craft and run an online ordering service? Do you see how all of these are sweet shops, but they’re all different?

Yes these sweet shops could perform more than one of these functions and that’s a crucial point. For the purposes of finding your niche, it doesn’t matter that categories can overlap. Find the niche that most suits your work, and do it for just one of your current projects. The fact that you write romance but also want to write sci fi or used to write horror doesn’t matter right now.

Want to discover your niche?

Want to discover your niche? Here’s how to find out:

  1. Broadly speaking, what do you write? (poetry, plays, stories, novels, poems, nonfiction, memoir)
  2. What kind?
  3. Is there a sub-genre?
  4. Could you get even more specific?

For instance, I recently found out (because a student was writing one) that there is a sub-genre of the cosy murder mystery featuring cat detectives. If the writer of a cat detective novel answered the above questions, she would put 1) novels 2) crime 3) cosy mystery 4) cat detectives. That’s her niche.

By the way, your niche may not be that specific, and niches are sometimes about how the work is communicated to the reader / audience (think spoken word poetry, for instance) and occasionally about a specific community (think writing aimed at the LGBTQ+ community, for instance) or about you as a writer (writing by disabled people, for instance).

The fifth question

There’s a fifth question that is also relevant – even if you’re nowhere near ready to submit your work – and that’s (drum roll):

5. And who publishes work in your niche? There will most likely be more than one answer here. Big clue: look at what you already love to read. Let’s face it, our cat cosy mystery writer probably knew this sub-genre existed and liked reading it before trying to write one. Next, ask for recommendations amongst your reading friends (remember you’re a literary citizen now) to discover similar titles. Then look at who publishes these books. You’ll find the publisher if you scroll down on a book’s Amazon page, or look inside the front cover.

Want to know who publishes cosy cat murder mysteries? Then go here and follow the links.

Know the other books in your niche

Of course it’s possible to sit down to write and have no idea what that material will eventually turn into. I had exactly that experience when I first started writing. But once you do know what you’re aiming for, in terms of the shape of the project, get to know the other books in your niche. Here’s how to do that:

  • Go to the bookshop or library and hunt for similar books. They may be on one shelf or in one section, depending on the genre.
  • Look online (and ask people) for reading recommendations.
  • Go to literary events and listen to people talking about books.
  • Hear others reading their work. Listen to the kinds of questions asked by readers in the audience.
  • Get to know other people who write about your topic or in your sub-genre.

If you’re writing spoken word poetry, or plays for the stage or screen, you can adapt this approach and instead of looking for books, look for outlets for similar work to yours.

Now you know that: your readers are likely to read these other books that already exist in your niche. They’re likely to attend events with the writers who are already established in this niche and to be published by the publishers you’ve researched. Let me know what you think of niches in the comments. In the next post, I’ll be looking at the possibility that you already know who your readers are.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Louise xx

P.S. View the next post in this series here.


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