Niche marketing – part 2…

Following yesterday’s post Niche marketing – the psychology behind success I’ll give you an example from my back catalogue, where I really was writing for a perceived ‘niche market’ as I saw it.

When designing your perfect reader, you have to realise that there is an element of caricature in the concept. Like for romance writers, their perfect reader might be the single city girl commuting, with her dog-eared, much-loved paperback copy of their book (not ebook, so that everyone can see what she’s reading) in permanent residence at the bottom of her Chloé.

Have you noticed that bags and shoes aren’t referred to as bags and shoes in chick lit anymore? It’s all label this and designer that. Shopping-channel porn. Unfortunately, it also tends to date books quickly, due to fashion’s fickle nature – you’ll see what I mean in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho novel, where Patrick launches into a loving and verbose description of the contents of his man-tastic living room.

Christian Bale in American Psycho

As such, lurid technology envy should probably also be avoided, now everyone and their two-year-old owns an iPad. As for cars, they go out of style faster than shoes – quite literally…

Digression alert! What I was saying, is that your planned ‘niche market’ is ‘a character’ as much as the people in your novel are also characters. So for the traditional romance/chick lit author, her ideal reader is the city girl commuting on the train, enjoying her favourite books en route, and usually sneaking them out under the desk and in her lunch hour too. She probably gets wobbly on a gin and tonic, and leaves parties early to curl up in her PJs and watch Bridget Jones for the umpteenth time rather than embarrassing herself instead. She’d never ask a guy out because she’s too shy, but secretly would like to dance on a table just once in her life. Abroad. Where nobody knows who she is.

Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones

That’s a caricature. It’s a perception of a potentially real person or reader, but doesn’t define or specify a completely real person or reader.

The romance author only needs to write their own book with his/her particular reader in mind. She/he doesn’t need to try and target ‘everyone’ and include members of the House of Lords, prisoners on Death Row, Guatemala, Greenpeace activists, people who work on whaling ships, and the creepy guy that never talks but licks the library windows. Even though they can all read as well, most likely. What I’m saying is, don’t announce that your book is for ‘everyone’ – try being specific, and see how your story, its cover, and the way you promote it stands up to your concept of who in the worldwide ‘market’ you are considering would appreciate this sort of book.

Here’s my own example – chick lit/crime, ‘self-help’ fiction, Death & The City:

DATC hd cover

Other editions and covers available – see ‘eBooks’. Also in paperback print and hardcover.

Now I had only one reader in mind at first: Me.

But as I wrote, I realised there was an existing concept of women out there who might also enjoy it.

The ones who hadn’t always managed to pick the right guy – or any guy. The ones who clung to the rails but spent most of the time off them, while they struggled with growing up, daily life, work and peer pressure.

Lindsay Lohan Daily Mail UK September 2013

The ones who saw everyone else’s mistakes, but still couldn’t make their own life work out perfectly…

Angelina - Girl, Interrupted

Somewhere inside them is always a seed of strength, whether it’s that they know better, they know what’s best for them deep down but other people always seem to get it wrong, or that they have already been through the ‘worst case scenarios’ on a number of occasions, and have come out the other side…

Britney at MTV Awards

They’re a bit feisty on the surface, and never seem to take any crap, and are occasionally better survivors single than in a relationship – but that’s only because they’re protecting themselves, their sanity and their children first…

britney-spears

They don’t ‘need a man’ but the right one will find them – eventually.

Katie Price 'Jordan'

And you know that the minute she picks up the ball and runs with it, she’ll kick everyone’s ass…

Angelina Jolie - Lara Croft

…So that’s my caricature of a potential ‘niche market’ audience. It sounds quite specific. But when you read into it, and expand on it, you’ll find that some of the characteristics you’ve given your ‘specific reader’ speak to a much wider audience than you first realised. Lots of people will identify with elements of it.

But you don’t advertise that fact.

You stick to communicating your idea of ‘one perfect reader’ who will get the most from your work, take the best message it contains on board, feel it speaks to the best version of themselves, and leads them to further insights of their own.

Sounds idealistic, doesn’t it? But niche marketing is all about selling idealism, that others will then want to be a part of. How or what you write is up to you, whether your intentions are good and it comes from the heart, or you only want to find the fastest route to making money. Either way, you still then have to promote it, whether it’s to a publisher or directly to the public – and you need to say who you are writing for, not just why.

It’s funny. I’ve never put together an actual pinboard of my ideal reader as above, and here it is. I carried the concept of my ‘reader’ and the various representations of that reader around in my head. But looking at them, and looking at my various covers, I think this is the best one so far:

Death & The City - Heavy Duty Edition hardcover

Cover for the Smashwords/Kobo/Sony/Diesel Ebooks/iTunes Bookstore version and Lulu hardback

The pink is more appropriate – but I still think it’s not quite there yet. I’ll need to make a bigger ‘niche marketing’ pinboard and see where that leads me…

Make your ‘ideal reader pinboard’ – it might surprise you 🙂

L xxx

Genre Jazz – niiiiice…

Fan re-edit of ‘Splash’ trailer in a political thriller stylee – that’s what I’m talking about...

Writing parody mash-up on here made me realise two things: (1) That it’s my strongest point writing-wise so far, and (2) Youtube kicks everyone’s ass! 🙂

Yes, for a bit of sideline gossip, the day after publishing The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum last week, I heard from the top worldwide romance publisher. With suggestions for tweaking my submitted example of work (containing no zombies) and using my ‘accessible’ romance writing style, so that I would suit one or the other of their imprints. On a bit of a high from finishing the 135k-word Sarah Bellum Zombie Adventures epic earlier than expected, I was planning on having a few months’ break from blog chapter postings anyway, so the prospect of re-writing a shorter chick-lit of around 55-65k sounds like a way of passing the time. So I’m looking into it and reading their latest releases.

Trouble is, I keep thinking of new stuff I want to parody 🙂

Something that’s inspired me lately, is the trend on Youtube for re-edits of trailers and movie clips, by fans. My brothers and I used to do our own re-dubbed voice-overs for Star Trek when we were kids, on an ancient VHS with a Play/Rec/Dub setting. Must have been the earliest invented!

I don’t just mean ‘re-edits’ as in, a fan’s favourite bits of the movie. I mean where they’ve changed the implied genre, or storyline, as in the political-thrillerised version of ‘Splash’ above. That’s really creative, and the great thing about Youtube is everyone can share and appreciate a different slant on what Hollywood does.

It has been done in books already – most notably with ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ by P.D. James, and ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Two different interpretations of the same Jane Austen romance. James took the original characters from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ but not the original book or prose, and penned a murder mystery in place of a happy ever after – but her imitation of Austen’s style is spot on, so it is the genre which has changed, but not the voice as such.

Grahame-Smith took the original text – legally, as it is in the ‘public domain’ meaning out of copyright worldwide – copyright expires in most countries at the wonderful-sounding date of ‘death (of the author) + 70 years’ or in a few cases ‘death (author) + 100 years’ – and added butt-kicking martial artist zombie-killer action to it.

If you plan to do similar, as in either of these examples, make sure the original content you are planning on mashing up is in the ‘public domain’ (as defined by the time-spans above). Public domain does NOT mean ‘the characters have been discussed in the Daily Mail’ or that they have fan pages on Facebook, or profiles on Wiki.

Parody as made by National Lampoon, and the Barry Trotter books etc, is a reworking of a genre, or recognisable copyrighted current franchise – but with new characters, which may sound and act similar to the originals, and also importantly, with jokes in. Although ‘parody’ is still not recognised in all countries (some consider it copyright infringement where readily identifiable, and deem them not publishable, as with fan-fiction), many books and films, especially fantasy/humour (including Pratchett’s Discworld series) pay homage to earlier works in ways that the reader or viewer can identify with.

For this to work, the parody element – the tribute, or homage – has to be something that connects broadly with the audience… Hell, I’ve just realised it sounds like I’m on a podium at some really dull masterclass 🙂

That’s the bare bones of it. The part I’m supposed to be discussing today, is the genre twist option. Where, like P.D. James, you take an old tale, and tell it for a different audience. I hear that very kinky things are currently going on in the world of crusty old romances at the minute, never mind murder mysteries and zombies. The difference with kinky stuff, is you knew it was going on anyway – just that the doors were closed on the reader most of the time, and people didn’t floss or shower back then. Mmmm…

Anywho…

Supposing, for example, you took Sherlock Holmes and re-wrote him in the style of Bridget Jones’ Diary? Or Frankenstein in the style of a CSI: Las Vegas police proceedural, analysing all of the body parts going missing? I’d like to see Kathy Reichs do that one… It was done fantastically with Johnny Depp in ‘Sleepy Hollow’ – so it’s not an entirely new concept (just look at the action-style on show in the latest Sherlock-themed TV and movie releases), but potentially a form of almost-unexploited literary mash-up yet to reach the mainstream humour of bookshelves.

However, you’ll have to run to catch up with the kids on Youtube:

Brokeback Titanic re-edit by wingtsun20

🙂