Like the makers of movies, authors play to an audience. Our action is on a page, not a screen, but it boils down to the same thing – audience appeal. As authors, we are only successful if our work appeals to a wide range of readers. Unfortunately, our business suffers from the pigeonhole effect.
The pigeonhole effect is the tendency to park a book in a category and leave it there. If that category has a wide range of appeal, the book does well. If not, it sits there gathering dust until it’s pulled from the shelf, or the end of time (whichever comes first). The pigeonhole effect is necessary for the purpose of marketing (at least that’s what I’m told). I’m more of a mind that it’s for the purpose of setting up a bookstore into nice, neat, orderly sections.
All that aside, we’re still stuck with the problem and have to find ways around it. My suggestion is cross-marketing. Like cross-training in sports, in cross-marketing the book is presented on a variety of levels, in different categories, seeing which audience it appeals to most and go from there.
For example, my book, “Indian Summer”. It is pigeonholed into the category of historical romance. I get a wide variety of reactions to that label – most of them negative. However, if I say it’s an historical adventure, more people perk up. Historical novel gets a better reaction too. It seems that if you tack “romance” on the end, you get a lot of negativism. People who don’t read romance novels have their own idea about what they are. Grant you, some authors fall into the typical romance category, but not all of us do. I get angry now if someone makes a salacious comment about romance novel or the authors of them.
There is much more adventure in my novel than there is romance. It’s a story of spies, intrigue, love and war. Given the nature of the story, it is fit for young adult (14+) and adult readers – both male and female. The heroine, Gabriella, is nobody’s fool. She is 15, embroiled in a situation she cannot control, but rises to the occasion, outsmarting the bad guy more than once. With her help, the spy is caught and brought to justice. Not sounding quite as much like a smarmy romance novel now, is it?
Authors aren’t always given an option of how the book is marketed, but if you are, choose a variety of labels to give your work wider appeal. I write a smattering of different sub-genres. By far my favorite is romantic suspense, blending my two favorite genres – romance and mystery. Some blended categories go too far, like urban paranormal romantic suspense. I hardly know what I’m going to read. Maybe a tad less specific would work better?
What every author needs to make themselves successful is knowledge of what our fans want. How do you search for a book in a store? What appeals to you? What kinds of books do you want to see more of? What do you wish to see less of? Are there too many of one “type” of book on the market? Has it been saturated with sub-genres you don’t like or can’t understand? If you walk into your favorite bookstore, which section to you automatically head for? Why? Are there sections you avoid? If so, why? I would appreciate your feedback to my questions, or pose those of your own. Everyone has an opinion, let’s discuss them.
Dellani Oakes is an author with Second Wind Publishing and Tirgearr Publishing. Her historical novel, “Indian Summer”, is available at http://www.secondwindpublishing.com or at Amazon.com. She also has two sci-fi (futuristic romance) novels Lone Wolf and Shakazhan, as well as two romantic suspense novels from Tirgearr – The Ninja Tattoo and Under the Western Sky.