The word ‘niche’ refers to an area of specialised interest and can be understood in contrast to areas of broad and general interest. In this article, I will discuss some of the ways in which one can come to choose their niche as an author, how one can find like-minded people in that niche, and how this process can benefit our lives and our aspiration to be full-time authors.
Using the Internet to Find Your Audience
Niche marketing feels like a very 21st century phenomenon. I think it’s because the Internet has enabled people to find others with shared interests in a way that wasn’t previously possible. The joy of being able to participate in a community with people who are like-minded and share our interests is one of the things that makes modern technology so amazing.
In terms of the self-publishing author, the Internet gives us the opportunity to find just the right people to appreciate (and potentially, buy) our work, but it’s important to approach this in the right way, and to have the right intentions, and that is what I’ll be discussing in the remainder of this article.
A simple Google search can be a good starting point for trying to find like-minded people. I’m a philosopher with a particular interest in theology, and the words ‘philosophy’ and ‘theology’ are keywords that when entered into the Google search bar can bring up some very helpful search results, especially if I couple them with words like ‘community’, ‘blog’, or ‘forum’, for instance. There may already be communities that exist in your niche, and these might be a fantastic basis for networking and building your author platform.
My Experience with Blogging
Back in 2012, I had just become a born-again Christian and was looking for like-minded people to chat with about faith and theology. Starting a Christian blog seemed like a great way to achieve this. What I quickly learned, however, is that while the blogosphere is absolutely saturated with writers, it’s less easy to find people who are willing to positively engage with the work of others. My own research has shown that around 90% of bloggers post between 1 and 5 articles, and then get so disheartened that no one is reading what they have to say that they give up and abandon their blog.
The lesson to be learned from this is that the Internet doesn’t work by just writing an article, releasing it into the void, and hoping like-minded people will flock to your work. On the contrary, finding your tribe can be very hard work. My blog currently has a following of around 7000 subscribers, but I have worked very hard to engage with the WordPress blogging community over a period of many years, and there are very few people who were my blogging peers back in 2012 who have stuck at it and managed to gain a similar number of subscribers.
It’s very important to note, however, that the numbers game shouldn’t be taken very seriously at all. The focus of my life’s work is philosophy and theology, and there are relatively few people interested in these areas when compared to, say, fitness or cookery, which both have an absolutely huge number of people interested in them. To have an audience of 7000 people who are interested in philosophy and theology probably represents the majority of active thinkers in my niche, so I don’t feel much of a compulsion to vastly expand my audience.
The Middle Way
There are pros and cons to having a huge potential audience. While on the plus side there are countless people you can potentially reach, the competition for attention is also much greater than with a more specialist interest like philosophy or theology.
Experience has taught me that there is a happy medium in-between the extremes of having a potential audience of billions for, say, a fitness YouTube channel, and an audience of a few hundred people for, say, a metal detecting community (I love the comedy series Detectorists which is why that example came to mind!). If you can reach a community of a few thousand people who are passionate about the same things as you then this is an ideal audience to be able to forge personal relationships and also appear attractive to brands and partners who may be seeking influencers to promote their products or services (and therefore might wish to pay you to connect with your audience in a particular way, providing you with a valuable income stream).
I cannot over-emphasise the importance of seeing people in a particular community as human beings rather than simply numbers. No one wants to be treated like a number, and we all want to be valued and cherished. For someone like me who is not interested in making a lot of money (more about that on the Author Finances page), relationships are the most important thing. It could happen that following a great theological conversation with someone who follows my blog, they may well decide to purchase a copy of one of my books. But that is just a natural result of our discussion and of the person wanting to understand my ideas more clearly and in more depth, rather than the result of a product being marketed to them. It was really my passion for philosophy that sold the book, rather than any particular marketing strategy, and this is why my number one tip for authors is to write about what excites them. You need to be excited yourself in order to excite others into being interested in your work.
Even within a broad category like ‘fitness’ there are many niche areas of interest. For example, a person with an interest in fitness might be passionate about how they can improve their posture, and by chatting with members of a fitness community they may become aware of a book which has been released about how to attain great posture. It is the conversation – the ‘engagement’, if you like – that led to the book sale, and as I have already indicated, I believe meaningful conversations around topics of shared interest are really the very best form of advertising.
In summary, then, it can be very beneficial to seek out a niche for your particular area of passion or expertise, and then work on building solid relationships in that niche in a loving way that is mutually beneficial. This can lead to more people becoming interested in your work and buying your books. Of course, if you’re interested purely in accruing large sums of money, you may feel drawn to more crass methods of promotion and marketing, and these do have an important role in certain circumstances. But my advice is to ‘niche-down’, find people who get excited about the same things as you, and stay connected with them (via a blog, a mailing list, a forum, meet-ups, or whatever else). This will enhance your quality of life greatly as well as potentially leading to book sales and other forms of author income such as sponsorships and partnerships.
Got your niche nailed? Let’s take a look at different approaches to writing a book!