On Writing: Should We Write Genre Fiction for a Specific Audience Only?

I’ve been participating in a lengthy ongoing discussion about book promotion with several other authors on Goodreads. The discussion is approaching 400 comments with one man dominating the conversation now for the last few weeks. Most of his comments are on point but I’ve had to take issue with him in one area. Now, let me temper my remarks about him by saying that we’re author friends on the site and we email each other privately on occassion. He’s a man well worth knowing. He has a lot of wisdom about publishing and promoting that he willingly shares. He doesn’t know everything though.

Someone brought up one specific large promoter of indie books in the course of the discussion and the comments about that promoter began to fly but they were all from an author’s perspective only. I offered up my two cents about the promoter from a reader’s perspective since I have signed up with the service and I get daily emails from them. I mentioned that I signed up to receive offerings from them in the mystery and in the LGBT categories because those are my primary fiction interests.

I made this statement:

“…I’ve picked up a small handful of free mysteries that sounded great and I’ve been enticed enough to pay for a few. There’s been exactly one LGBT book promoted to me in all of that time. 

Obviously, judging by my own use, _______  is a useful tool for mystery authors. Is it useful though for the LGBT category? The lack of promotions there can be taken two ways:

1. Not effective so no one uses it
2. Little competition so a wide open market

My conundrum? When I do promote my LGBT themed mystery with them, do I promote in the low cost LGBT area and hope for a coup among hungry buyers whose needs aren’t being addressed or do I beg to get in the highly competitive mystery category and pay big bucks for what might be little return given some of the themes in my books?”

I made my case from the point of view of a reader but then, as you can see, I introduced my conflict as an author of genre fiction and I hoped for some input from some other authors of genre fiction (LGBT or otherwise) who’d used that service. It’s a top of the line service that mainstream authors are tripping all over themselves trying to get into. Now my author friend, being Johnny on the spot in the discussion, was the first to respond. He does write some odd ball fiction with limited appeal so I thought he’d have some sage advice for me about using them. Unfortunately, rather than offering up thoughtful advice, he offered this:

“If you promote your book as LGBT, you’re limiting your audience. Your description also makes me believe you’re pushing an agenda, becoming preachy in effect. On the other hand, if you go into any details but don’t advertise that aspect, you’ll get a lot of returns.
You’re no longer writing for a mainstream audience, but for a small sector. Are they really that hungry for a mystery featuring their orientation? I don’t know. Best guess, probably not.

I write books to be read. Pushing an agenda…I definitely wouldn’t invest in a  _______ ad for that!”

As a debut author at the time (my second book, ‘Busy Bees’ was just recently released), I’d already sold several hundred copies of my book, ‘Relic’ a mystery with two lesbian law enforcement officers as the lead protagonists. The book was proving that there are plenty of hungry LGBT and LGBT friendly readers out there that would take a chance on an unknown author to read something in a non-mainstream genre that focused on characters like them. I was wondering, with my post, if the 100,000+ LGBT fiction fans that had signed up for that same service I did and that I was thinking about advertising on might be an even bigger boon for my future book sales.

My author friend came out of left field by saying that my statement (as shown above) was pushing an agenda. I very gently corrected him on that. Sadly, he didn’t seem to know that there was any market at all for any genre that wasn’t completely mainstream -even though he writes some that he tries to pigeonhole into one neat category or another. His only good point was that I was limiting my audience (true) to which my later reply was:

Sometimes the way to sell books is to appeal to a niche market rather than to try to be everything to everyone.”

He had no good response after that and, unfortunately, the chain of discussion turned to something else, leaving my original question unanswered; I already know there’s a market for my books – they’re selling – but how much of a market is it and would using such a service tap more of it?

Yesterday, a question came up in one of my Facebook groups about just exactly what is the size of the market that reads f/f fiction. An author, frustrated that her work wasn’t garnering mainstream sales numbers or even the numbers she hoped she would have given her genre, really wanted to know. Nowhere is this specific portion of the LGBT reader market broken out. The aforementioned promoter, for example, claims to have 126,000 LGBT works interested subscribers. They don’t break those numbers down any further to say how many are male, how many are female, how many are interest in LGBT themed romance only while others are interested in mystery, etc.

We know we’re limiting the pool of potential readers when we write for a specific audience or when we write works that don’t have broad mainstream appeal. Every writer has to decide for him or herself if limiting their market and their potential income to write what they love is okay with them.

I’ve decided that I’m okay with not trying to be the next Janet Evanovich or John Grisham who sell tens of thousands of books as soon as they hit the shelves or airwaves. I’m okay with a few hundred to a few thousand total copies sold over a lifetime. I’ll just write more books.

What say you? Is it worth it to you to write genre fiction with limited audience appeal?

About Anne Hagan

I'm an East Central Ohio based government employee by day and a fiction author by night. I specialize in mystery fiction featuring lesbian sleuths and cozy fiction featuring women sleuths. I also dabble in romance especially romantic lesfic. I live with my wife and our dogs in a tiny town that’s even smaller than the Morelville of my first fiction series and we wouldn't have it any other way. My wife grew up here and she has always called this little village home. Though it’s an ultra-conservative rural community, we're surrounded here by family, longtime friends and many other wonderful people with open hearts and minds. My wife and I are the co-owners of a commercial haunted house: Hagan's House of Horrors. Much as my dream has always been to write fiction, hers has been to create it through the medium of horror. We went full commercial in 2015. Watch us as we grow!
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2 Responses to On Writing: Should We Write Genre Fiction for a Specific Audience Only?

  1. Melissa says:

    Hello, there. I am not an author, but have been an avid reader my entire life. About a year ago, I was introduced to lesfic. Wow. I have been out to the world for almost 20 years and read thousands of books. Frankly, I’m rather ashamed of myself for missing out on so many wonderful stories for so long! Having always enjoyed a good mystery, your first novel was the first LGBT mystery I read and was thrilled to enjoy it so much. After that, I decided to give other categories, such as sci-fi/fantasy, a shot. Being introduced to LGBT literature has left me feeling like a kid in a candy store who has now tried many new flavors and liked them all. So, as a reader, I say, yes, it most certainly is worth it. It is appreciated. While the LGBT audience may be limited, it is only getting bigger. Furthermore, you and every author should write what you want, what is in you. Let it out, create…your readers thank you.



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