What's Your Niche?

Niche markets are often overlooked in the grand marketing scheme. These little nuggets may seem to be more trouble than they’re worth. Isn’t it easier to target the big guys, make tons of sales with one swoop? The problem is that new authors are practically banned from the big-box book stores. You may get into your local big-box bookstore and online at others, but getting an in-store presence nationwide is equivalent to finding the Holy Grail.  When I realized this, I turned my attention to smaller independent bookstores, then niche markets.

How do you find your niche?

Well, that may take some thinking out of the box. For me, the niche came naturally since I illustrated my picture book, Rainbow Sheep, with fiber art. Wool and craft shops were a given, but I also targeted toy stores and country gift shops. 
Children’s books seem to fit niche marketing easily, but novels and nonfiction can work this way too.  First, you need to ask, who is your market? And then where would you find these readers?

Is your book about horses? Target trade shows for tack shops. Cozy mystery fiction? What about selling it to bed and breakfasts? Is your book set in a specific locale? Would the tourist bureau for that area be interested in stocking it? Love animals?  Look at the hundreds of zoos and aquariums.
The possibilities are endless if you stop thinking about bookstores and start thinking about who your market really is, and where you might find them.

You found your niche. Now what?  

Maybe your niche is motorcycle enthusiasts. Now you need to reach these readers. Most writers are familiar with services such as Writer’s Market that list magazines. Turn back to these resources and find magazines that focus on your niche. You may ask for a review of your book or offer to write an article about motorcycles. Since you’ve written a book on the subject, you are, after all, an expert. Bloggers come in every flavor too. A quick online search will turn up dozens of motorcycle bloggers. Ask them if they’d like to do a book review or author event.

Next, look into motorcycle groups. Can your book be used as a fundraiser in conjunction with a charity ride? What about insurance companies? Perhaps they need corporate gifts for their customers. And, of course, there are the thousands of specialty shops for parts and service. It never hurts to ask. They can only say no, and most of them will. But a yes or two will make the effort worthwhile.

Start local, then think global

I also bring my books and art to local craft fairs, libraries and schools. I don’t have a budget to travel nationwide, but local contacts are important. One venture will often lead to the next. I meet teachers, librarians, other artists, and business people at the fairs. These contacts have turned into more engagements and given me more ideas. An administrator at a senior’s home loved my picture book, and I suggested having a grandparent/grandchild reading event. Several artists I met pointed me toward the local arts council, which in turn gave me more contacts. Be open to conversations and ideas at these events, bring many business cards, and don’t forget to send your itinerary to the local paper.

As you establish your name locally, you can also advertise globally. Before you attack foreign markets, be sure you understand how your books may be purchased internationally to avoid frustration from the buyer.  You may want to include this information on any advertising you send out.

I made postcards for Rainbow Sheep and sent them to yarn shops and craft stores all over the country. My postcards read “Inspire your next generation of customers.” This shows stores that even if they don’t stock items for kids, they should.

But where to send them? My first idea was to buy a list of craft shops. Many such companies exist to sell these lists. In the end, I didn’t need to. This is where your online connections come in handy. I have always been overwhelmed by the generosity of the online writing community. In what other industry would competitors be on such friendly, helpful terms? I put out the call to my friends around the world to send me addresses of local shops. Not only did I get addresses, I got offers from friends in Australia, England, and across the US to bring brochures about my book into local shops! I will never forget that warm feeling of gratitude to those authors. Don’t underestimate the power of your online connections. Ask for help brainstorming your niche and following through on your marketing schemes.



Kim McDougall is the author of the Hidden Coven series and Revise to Write, Edit Your Novel, Get Published and Become a Better Writer.  She is also a publishing coach and book designer at Castelane, For the Prose. 

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