Hello and welcome to my blog today!
It gives me great pleasure to welcome author Janelle Jalbert as part of her Spotlight blog tour with Rave Reviews Book Club!
Janelle’s blog topic today is on Writing Topic of Choice
To Niche or Not to Niche
In business, owners are encouraged to pick a niche to focus on in order to make a name, build a brand, and develop a client base. As indie authors we too are in business. The difference with publishing and writing is that the niche is otherwise referred to as genre. Authors get asked it is they write, and the answer sought and given is typically a genre. It’s a quick and easy way to convey the nature of a writer’s work. But, what happens when the Muse has you crossing genres for the sake of a story?
That is a question that I have grappled with throughout my writing career. I have diverse interests which results in visits from the writing Muse that leave me with book ideas that are equally varied. They are truly miracles, and it’s never smart to pass on a fortuitous opportunity. What to do?
A Writer Simply Wants to Write
My writing history includes academic, business, reporting, copywriting, ghostwriting and publishing under my own name. It was both out of passion and necessity. My business writing has covered everything from the motivational to the technical to public relations. Reporting started in education and shifted to motorsports. Copywriting, well that was even more across the board. Ghostwriting led to anonymous bestseller status in areas such as wellness, productivity, money management, biographies, and even sex advice. It brought in money to pay the bills but did little for my own fan base.
And then there were my own books. My first book was about wine thanks to being a wine enthusiast and a successful pitch to a small publisher. At the same time, I got the opportunity to be a regular contributor for a fiction magazine, which became the driver for FLASH 40: LIFE’S MOMENTS, a collection of flash fiction that went on to win the silver medal for anthologies in the 2015 Readers Favorite Book Awards.
Even while all that was going on, I was endlessly revising, polishing and pitching my debut novel, TRIANGULATING BLISS. Here’s the thing…it too didn’t neatly fit into a given genre. Agents and publishers repeatedly told me that the story was compelling, but the fact the novel was a mash-up of genres (mystery, romance, paranormal/supernatural, visionary, with elements of Magical Realism) meant it wasn’t marketable. “Cross-genre books just don’t work.” I was told repeatedly. Still, I believed in my Bliss Baby and pushed out on my own. The novel that was deemed ‘unmarketable’ was recently announced as the medalist for of all things Cross-Genre Fiction in the 2015 New Apple Book Awards.
To make things more convoluted, my writing therapy – in the form of vignettes about my time in North Carolina – screamed to be born as my latest book baby. Now, it’s off to the memoir world with WINGDOG: Soul Pup. I couldn’t say no to a book I believe in simply because it was a different genre, but it does leave me with a conundrum when it comes to building a fan base.
What’s the non-conformist to do?
First of all, I’m not implying that everyone who finds a happy place in a given genre is literally or metaphorically selling their writer soul for the sake of sales. It has been proven to be easier for an author to make a name by niching into a genre. Still, many authors face the desire to branch out. Does that mean they are doomed to obscurity? Is there anything the non-conforming author can do?
Here are a few thoughts and hard won personal insights:
- Adjust your goals and expectations accordingly and be willing to celebrate the smaller victories along the way to keep your confidence high.
- Developing an author platform becomes more convoluted when crossing genres. My advice, get comfortable building multiple platforms. Personally, I have an author site that is a clearinghouse for all information about my writing. It is a bit more static in nature. Then I have a series of websites that are thematic, in addition to specific book sites. In some cases the book site (domain name) is nested under a more established site if the works are complimentary.
- List building is even more challenging with readers who have differing tastes and interests. Segment your lists based on the books/series that you produce. This allows you to do targeted marketing as well as help lead the unsuspecting to try new things. Instead of a single newsletter blast, you’ll likely find greater success with several mini-campaigns and a quarterly “bring them all together” blast. You’ll retain subscribers better if you provide content that touches existing interests, so a one-size-fits-all approach to newsletters doesn’t work best for diverse fan bases. It sounds like a lot more work, I know, but keep the mini campaigns short and sweet (and on subject topic) and leave the “big” send to the quarterly blast. Otherwise, forcing readers to review material that they don’t care about will likely make them hit the unsubscribe button.
- If you can, find a way to unify your books. Have fun and think out of the box to find ways to cross promote. One way is to identify a common theme or mission and incorporate it into all or as many of your books as possible. For me, it is ‘a celebration of everyday magic’ and all the forms that can take. Also, if you can work in elements (even briefly) from your other genres it can help you promote multiple works. For example, my information book WINE FOR BEGINNERS is not likely to pull the same crowd as my novel TRIANGULATING BLISS. However, Bliss has a bar setting and there is talk of food and wine between the characters. So, I developed cross promotions to touch both fan bases. For example, a wine tasting where readers get the chance to sample food and wine similar to what is in the novel. They were also presented to with challenge of creating the best pairing. During the event both books are offered for sale. A similar book launch party is in the works for WINGDOG: Soul Pup by combining a fundraiser for animal rescues, with a wine event held at the place that inspired Bliss.
- While we’re on the subject of cross promotion, be sure that you promote your books as equally as possible. Like human children, book babies don’t do well when favoritism is shown. Uneven promotion undermines the perceived quality and credibility of any specific book. If you don’t care about a book, readers don’t see a reason to invest time and money in your efforts either.
- The current trend is to create a series to help build a following/sales funnel for your work. Under NO circumstances, begin a series if you are not going to follow through. It’s true for any author (genre-specific or otherwise), but it is imperative for the cross-genre author. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Angry readers will not only tank a given book but also they can make it nearly impossible to return to the genre again.
We cross-genre indies need to stick together. Tell me what you think. Are any of these pointers helpful? Do you have some tips, tricks and insights to add to the mix? I look forward to hearing from others who are also braving the less travel traveled road. Carry on and good luck to us all!
Janelle Jalbert discovered her passions at the age of 10. One was teaching, as she taught stuffed animals daily lessons. The other was writing, thanks to her love of reading. After reading about an aspiring writer in her favorite book series, the light bulb clicked on, and Jalbert said “I want to do that!” Thus, her writing career began with serialized stories for her friends.
Then, the cries to pursue a “stable” career won out over her dreams of writing.
After college, Jalbert taught language arts and writing at all levels. While deciding on a topic for her master’s thesis, Jalbert stumbled into the world of Magical Realism and was hooked, though at first it was limited to academic interest. Jalbert wrote while teaching including an educational book, contributing to a business book, blogging and reporting on education. Once Jalbert transitioned to online teaching, she simultaneously taught and served as a motorsports reporter and photographer while traveling the country for racing events.
It was during this time of pursuing education and a passion for motorsports that Jalbert took a leap of faith and relocated from Southern California to North Carolina. The move proved to be challenging in its own right. In trying to establish a new normal, Jalbert learned of a pup that had been rescued on the side of the highway after being dumped. Meeting Goose was a life changing experience for human and canine alike. It is that bond that is the focus of Jalbert’s latest release WINGDOG: Soul Pup, A Magical Mutt Memoir.
It took nearly five years for the ‘dog tale’ to see the light of day. In that time, Jalbert had an epiphany and realized that her love of writing was where her true passion lies. In the process of rededicating herself to the craft, Jalbert was faced with numerous heart-breaking challenges that tested her tenacity, yet her writing remained her lighthouse during dark times.
Jalbert seized any writing opportunity that presented itself, from copywriting to ghostwriting non-fiction books. The momentum and focus Jalbert maintained amid personal turmoil lead to her first book contract for a wine-themed book. While drafting WINE FOR BEGINNERS, she took the plunge and came out of the shadows with her fiction writing. Initially, Jalbert dabbled with a contributor role for an online flash fiction magazine. The work with the magazine gave her confidence to publish her first fiction title, FLASH 40: Life’s Moments, which went on to win the Silver Medal for Anthologies in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards.
In 2015, following the release of both a fiction and a non-fiction title, Jalbert’s new debut novel, TRIANGULATING BLISS, medalist for cross-genre fiction in the 2015 New Apple Book Awards. The first book in THE MYSTIQUE OF LIVING SERIES was released after two years of drafting, editing and planning during the most challenging years Jalbert had ever faced. The tale of living life to the fullest provided a touchstone for Jalbert, as she worked to reorganize her life once more, and illustrated the common theme in her literary projects: a celebration of the magic in everyday life.
Now, more than five years after the events that inspired WINGDOG: Soul Pup, Jalbert shares how the special bond between human and animal can be a case of unending love and loyalty that can overcome even the greatest of obstacles. It’s true, a dog may be a man’s best friend, but a wingdog is truly a woman’s gift.
In addition to her teaching and writing background, Jalbert loves to explore the world. Jalbert has traveled throughout Japan, Australia, Europe, the United States and other destinations. Her travels are often solo ventures with as little as a wallet, backpack and passport. Her interests include auto racing, the guilty pleasure of a story with a happily-ever-after, a glass or two of good wine, and some cooking therapy. Jalbert currently lives in Southern California with her rescue pups and regularly returns to her second home in North Carolina. To learn more about Janelle Jalbert and her current/upcoming releases and promotions visit www.triangulatingbliss.com or www.janellejalbert.com.
Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/JanelleJalbertRRBC
Twitter handle: @JustJJWriting
WINGDOG: Soul Pup will be released on Amazon, March 7, with full release across most major retailers in June 2016