I originally posted the response below on The Kill Zone blog on an article by James Scott Bell about discoverability in an age of disappearing book stores.


 Maybe a question to ask ourselves before "how do we get discovered?" is "who do we want to discover us?"

The likelihood of being the next superstar author is rather slim and less a matter of good craft than capturing a social wave like pet rocks or hula hoops. Sometimes it doesn't even take good craft (or editing!) if my daughter's books are representative of the YA market.

I know very little about Amish fiction but I can take a guess that it is a closely defined romance niche in which writers are careful to maintain a certain level of decorum. I can also guess that the niche that reads these books are looking for a slower paced escape. The writers cater to this and some enjoy quite a bit of success.

The advice to write a great story, then do it again is great. So is the suggestion to have at least some public exposure. But to cut through the noise of the marketplace, we need to define who it is that we want to read our books. And it isn't everybody.

(Well, I'd be okay if everybody read my book when I am done with it but I hit lottery when I got married and had kids - expecting another lottery win isn't rational.)

My first book is aimed at 13-24 year old females that are runners. That's a niche. JK Rowling has nothing to fear because I could saturate that market and still not hit a tenth of her numbers. I can turn a very nice profit though and I have room to grow from there.

So the question becomes, what is your niche? Thriller? What kind of thriller? Who is the target audience? Why are they your target audience? Sci-fi? Hard science? or Fantasy? Human-good or human-bad? Each has its readers

Once you know who they are, opportunities present themselves on how to market your book. Since you are addressing a niche that already exists prior to your arrival, you can use the connections that are already built between the members. That's word of mouth.

I know that marketing is frowned upon by the better writers who feel that they are creating art but I have no delusions. The act of writing a book and placing for sale is an act of commerce. Marketing is simply a tool that allows the seller to inform the buyer of the product to be sold – in this case, my novel. I don’t want to sell them a lemon. I need to sell a good story that will exceed their expectations.

The art is in the craft and creation of the story. The sale is in the means and methods of the marketing. Targeted marketing is often much more effective than a scattershot approach.

How did I define my niche for the novel I just completed? I didn’t intend to write a novel of 13-24 year old females. I started writing the story that grabbed me and, after I got going, discovered who would enjoy that same story. I suppose you can identify the niche first and then write to it – many successful writers have done exactly that. Either way, now that I know the niche, I know how to market the book.

One cautionary note about niches, though - abuse that niche, monetize it without paying respect to the people in that niche and the word of mouth will go the other way. In other words, if you write just for the money, you’re likely doomed.

For all the business side of writing books, you still have to tell a good yarn or the reader won’t come back for more.