Most authors, at least when writing their first book, write what they’re passionate about. They don’t think much about the genre, category, topic or anything else. They also don’t think much about how important choosing a category can be. In fact, even most experienced writers just create books in their own little topic that takes here and there from other genres and categories. While this is fine and many people can become successful doing that, most full-time writers find it better to strategically find and pick the right category.
Is Category Important?
Category might be one of the most important decisions of your writing career. It will obviously change how you write your book and what the book is about, but we won’t discuss that in this post. This will only be about the selling aspect.
Imagine trying to sell a book, but only being able to use vague language. You can’t really tell people what it’s about, and you can’t really be noticed because you aren’t saying anything of substance. That’s what it’s like to sell in a broad and vague category like “literary” or “documentary.”
While many of the world’s best books are called literary by their own merits, the truth is that the majority of classics fall into a specific genre. For example, most people call “1984″ a literary masterpiece, but it’s really a science-fiction book by all accounts and standards. The same goes for “Brave New World” and “Farenheit 451.” We might call them literary now, but they were all in a specific genre when they were first sold.
Genre is important because it tells people exactly what to expect. Most readers have defined tastes about what they do and don’t like. That doesn’t mean that they want to see the same thing over and over, but they want a book that will satisfy their needs and expectations. Documentaries are too vague, but 1980s rock documentaries are very specific and to the point. The same goes for fiction. Instead of writing a literary book, write a humorous European anthology, or a dieselpunk epistolary.
Another reason to prioritize your category is because that’s how people browse for books. A lot of people buy books by looking at the most popular selections, but they will also look for books in their favorite category. Not only should you write for a very specific audience, but you should also ensure that your book is listed as specifically as possible. Go as deeply as possible when listing your book. Don’t settle on “Literary and Fiction.” Go into the deepest sub-category that you can until you find something that perfectly describes your book.
You have to list your books so that the common browser can find them. If you don’t, then you’ll missing out on a lot of money.
Satisfy the Market
Being an author is like running a business. Every business is made to satisfy the market. Some businesses are common, like grocery stores and office supply stores. They sell common products, but they satisfy the local market. Other businesses make products that fill specific needs. Regardless of how products are made, every business is made to satisfy some area of the market.
If you want to make money as a full-time writer, then you have to do the same thing. Look at the various types of categories and find one that has a lot of demand, but not a lot of content. For example, historical fiction is very big right now (especially areas like westerns and Egyptian fiction). These categories are sparse in content, but big on demand.
Once you find that category, make a book to fill it. Instead of letting your imagination or research go wild, put some boundaries around it so that you can create an appropriate book. Having a hard time finding good markets? Searching forums full of readers is a good place to start. You’ll typically find threads with people who are looking for certain books, but they can’t find anything in the right category. If you do your research, then you should be able to find some compatible categories.
While there’s nothing wrong with writing what you’re passionate about, you have to remember that you’re writing for money. One of the best ways to do that is to pick a good category that has only a few books, but a big demand. If you do that, then you’ll become the de facto writer in that area, which will translate to a big paycheck from Amazon.