Author Marketing can be a scary place. Where do you start with all the different marketing ideas out there? Should you be doing Facebook or making YouTubes? Would it pay to set up an Instagram account or should you build up your email list? Start a blog? Do a podcast?…arggg!!!
The funny thing is, none of that matters unless you know where your reader is, what they like and which marketing channels they are paying attention to already! It is much easier to do great marketing if you are not trying to convince your readers to like the platform you are marketing on BEFORE you can even get them to see your message and buy your books!
What Is A Genre?
Genres in book selling are also called niches, categories and about a million other things. What it functionally means is that you have a group of books that have a similar plot, story line, character development or other defining factor that makes them appealing to a certain type of reader, be it fiction or non-fiction.
Most readers are attracted to one genre or another (even if they are not actually aware of this bias). For example I started reading a few “fun” authors years ago who wrapped their mystery stories around catering and book selling. When I went to go find more of these types of writers I was looking in the Mystery category and not finding my sweet little fluffy mystery books UNTIL I found out that they are called Cozy Mysteries! Whoo whoo….now I know I like Cozy Mysteries and writers.
There is a saying that “readers can read faster than we can write” which is so true. If you can tap into a niche or a couple of related niches that people are already reading in, you can make all of your marketing efforts MUCH easier!
Finding Your Genre – Your Book
So how do you find your genre? Let's start with the super easy way, look at your book on Amazon and see what categories they put it in! For this example I am using a title by my pals over at Sterling and Stone, Invasion, which is a super popular seller. This is were it ranks for paperback books sales. So obviously the main niche here is Science Fiction & Fantasy, but it is interesting to see the longer tail niches of Galactic Empire, Military Space Fleet and First Contact. Those are all hyper focused niches that you will want to make a note of for your marketing!
What is REALLY interesting though is to see where they rank for the Kindle book. Dang are these different categories from their paperback book. They are still in science fiction and fantasy but we can add Colonization and Alien Invasion.
Dang, with just these two versions of the same book we got a bunch of different niches to check out! Now this is a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy because you put in the category and keywords on your own books so there was some direction in this by you. That said, Amazon is great at associating books with other like niches so it is fun to see where else they list your books.
Pro Tip: They rank in these categories because of their content and the other books like theirs, but also because they have to be using those kinds of keywords in their listing. If you find great niches that you cannot pick in KDP, then make sure to use those words in your keywords to get listed in those categories!
Finding Genres – Other People's Books
There are some super fun ways to figure out niches using other people's books! First off, take a look at the “popular” authors in your category. I like to read funny supernatural and one of my all time favorite authors is Dean Koontz. His Odd Thomas series is great and he has a huge audience so let's look at his reader base and what they like. For this I did a search on Facebook of “people who like Dean Koontz”.
So my Facebook friend Josh likes Dean Koontz, let's check and see what other kinds of authors he likes!
Just go to their profile, click more and then books…
Oh… I see some familiar faces there, like Stieg Larsson, Jonathan Kellerman and Michael Crichton! So let's take a peek at Stieg Larsson and see what we can find on his author page and with his books!
Here are some other authors that you can check out which are recommended by Amazon and who are like Steig… I know, it can feel like a rabbit hole, but all of these little crumbs can help you to find niches and genres that might match your books.
Okay, now let's take a peek and see where his books are listed niche-wise…
So people who like Dean Koontz might also like Mysteries and Thrillers and Suspense. All of these are related niches that you could research more if they match your book content.
Pro Tip: If you are paying to advertise your book on Facebook you would want to use author pages from similar authors who write in your genre. Unless you are already famous, it would be great to present your book to people who have liked these other noted author pages already.
Finding Genres – Goodreads
Okay, let's just get this out there… the people who use Goodreads are book fanatics! Goodreads is a great place to niche research because the users are rabid about making sure that books are in the right category or genre.
This time we are going to look at one of my favorite authors…Neal Stephenson. He writes weird, futuristic novels with lots of science in them!
So we can see that he listed in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Non Fiction genres. That is weird because I wouldn't think that I would read books like that but I love his work!
Drilling down into one of his books, Snow Crash, we can see that there are a number of other related categories that it is listed in:
Awesome, so how does this help? Well I would pick the Science Fiction Fantasy genre with 299 users and see who they are!
Okay, where else in the world could you find people who like books just like your books? This is a goldmine of data. Check and see what else they like to read, what other genres they read in, etc.
Pro Tip: Start friending these people. Talk to them when you can. Offer to send them free books in exchange for your first child…but seriously, start being human with them and then see if they would like to read or review your book for you!
Additionally two sections jump out at me.. first the “lists” section which has other books that are like that book (use this for ad targeting or research).
And finally the Popular Science Fiction Fantasy Books. This is a super no-brainer list of books that you can use to target potential readers for your books.
Finding Genres – Google
Last but not least, don't overlook Google for book research! I did a search for “who reads techno thrillers” and got a great link for Wikipedia.
Techno-thrillers are a hybrid genre, drawing subject matter generally from spy thrillers, war novels, political narratives, and viral outbreaks, and including a disproportionate amount (relative to other genres) of technical detail on its subject matter; only science fiction tends towards a comparable level of supporting detail on the technical side. The inner workings of technology and the mechanics of various disciplines (espionage, martial arts, politics) are thoroughly explored, and the plot often turns on the particulars of that exploration.
What great information about what the people who read this genre are interested in!
Another thing you will find on Google is people who have done reviews of books on their websites. This review from the site, War On The Rocks, is a great example of the kind of exposure you can get when someone reviews your books.
Pro Tip: Just knowing the genre and then doing a Google search can lead you to people who might be willing to review your book or advertise on their popular website.
Staying True To Your Genre
So there are more popular niches and less popular genres. If you write non-fiction about civil war reenactments, you will probably not have scads of readers to market to, but the ones that you do have will be rabid fans of your genre and hopefully your books!
I have heard some marketing gurus suggest that you should find popular or easy genres to list your books in regardless of whether your book matches that category. This is a super bad idea for many reasons!
First, you will get bad reviews. When you are writing in a niche there are some “rules”. For example, in my cozy mysteries there are never any horrific killings or gory blood scenes. A hard-nosed detective who cusses and swings bloody knives would not appeal to the (mostly) gals who read these kinds of stories. Instead they are looking for some humor, strong character development and a good mystery plot that comes out right in the end. If you did “trick” people from this category into buying your book, upon reading it they would probably leave you bad reviews whether or not you had woven a great tale.
Second, you will not find your dedicated readers there. Say someone does read your book even though it is not in a genre they like and kind of enjoys it. There is little chance that they will share it with their “genre buddies”, knowing that it really doesn't match what they like to read. It is funny, people are seriously social creatures who are looking for approval everywhere and throwing a “weird” book into the mix would probably not be good for their reputation.
Lastly it is a bad practice for you. Instead of spending time trying to fool people, you should be spending your time trying to dominate your real genre and related categories.
This one is for book authors who want to get organized!
My goal is to make your life easier and keep you on track and working effectively. There are many pages in this planner and the intention is not that you will use every one, everyday.
Instead you should find a calendar that you like that lets you work effectively, and then pick and choose the forms that will help you get the job done!