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Thursday 25 Jul 2024

Finding Your Niche
AJ Robinson

Today, the writing market is highly competitive. There was a time, before computers and the internet, when a writer had to deal with paper and a typewriter. That meant there weren’t quite so many writers trying to find agents; even fewer that got through that selection process, had their works even presented to a publisher, let alone got published.

There are so many publishing options.

Yeah, today, between large publishing houses, small ones, independent companies and a host of so-call “blended” forms of publishers, there are a great many books for reading. Oh, that’s not including all the vanity presses; these days these publishers are subsidized. As well, there are those writers that self-publish.

With all those books out there, how do you get yours noticed?

One way, of getting your book noticed, is to appeal to a niche market; that is distinct segment of the book market to target. What that essentially means is you aim your story at a particular audience. If you go on Netflix or Amazon and just skim through some of the genres there, you’ll get an idea of what I am saying.

Science fiction is a niche. You can get a western sci-fi, a steam punk sci-fi, romantic, lesbian and so on. Back in the day, if you wanted a romance story, you’d go get a Harlequin Romance. These were standard stories that followed a tried and true format or template: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl in the end.

Although hardly at the height of literary excellence, Harlequin Romances were decent stories. These books had legions of fans and the authors could earn a fine living. Many mainstream authors would poo-poo the genre, but some wrote such books under pennames.

Niches flourish these days.

These days, as with the other genres, you can find romance novels that run the gamut. There are Young Adult romances, Victorian Era to futuristic, LGBTQI to western and from positively G-rated to hot and steamy erotica. On the erotica end, there are still more subgenres: straight passion, bondage and discipline, S&M, age play, role-play, pet-play and so on!

If you want to go to the other extreme, that’s popular, too. You can do a romance story with a deeply religious message: Christian, Jewish, Mormon and so on. On the subject of religion, you can do all manner of stories that have a religious theme: science fiction, action thriller, spy, crime drama and, of course, terrorist action story; the latter stories tend to revolve around devote Christian warriors thwarting the evil Muslim terrorists.

There are many authors making a fine living tailoring their works to the American Conservative Christians. Kirk Cameron has made his career, as an adult, by making a glut of films aimed squarely at such people; he’s done well. Anne Coulter, known as the “Queen of Mean,” for her public persona and for books she’s written for the Conservative Christian niche. Now, in private, Coulter may well get together with Bill Maher, every Friday, after his show; they may get royally stoned on his marijuana brownies, while watching videos of his old shows. Nonetheless, she does know how to tailor her image to appeal to her target audience.

You can do the same.

So, when sitting down to write a story, silently ask this question: can I aim it at a particular audience with laser-like focus? Now, here’s an important thing to remember: do not do that merely to appeal to that group! No, if the story doesn’t flow naturally, don’t force it.

Trust me; the readers will know the difference. Recently, I was working on a treasure hunt story and I was stuck on one part. I couldn’t find a way to give it a unique and original twist.

Then I saw a movie made by a local independent filmmaker friend, named Chris Williamson. The movie is “Treasure.” Part of the storyline is a young woman dating a man who’s into Geocaching.

I knew little of Geocaching, but I researched it.

I didn’t know much about the Geocaching, but I learned that it’s where people follow a series of clues. Sometimes the clue-set is elaborate. The idea is to find the GPS coordinates that will lead them to a cache. Now, the cache typically isn’t much, usually a few innocuous items and a book for the finders and enter their names.

That was when the wheels turned inside my head and everything clicked together like a bunch of puzzle pieces. I knew how to make my story unique and interesting. I had the outline written the next day!

So yeah, sometimes finding the right niche for your story is the best way to build it into something truly memorable. Try it.


Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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