When you’re setting out to launch your book into the world, you will be faced with a lot of competition. There are millions of book titles available today, which means that book categories are jam packed.
At this very moment, here are the total number of titles listed on Amazon for various nonfiction book categories:
- Biography and Memoir: 507k
- Business and Money: 1.8 million
- Computers and Technology: 415k
- Health, Fitness and Dieting: 676k
- Parenting and Relationship: 230k
- Reference: 2.8 million
- Religion and Spirituality: 1.3 million
- Self-Help: 423k
Of course, there are also sub-categories on Amazon, which help ever so slightly. But the competition is still incredibly steep there, too.
Under Biography and Memoir, here are some sub-categories:
- Arts & Literature: 103k
- Historical: 77k
- Leaders and Notable People: 112k
- Memoirs: 133k
- Travelers and Explorers: 32k
- True Crime: 37k
And Amazon even has some sub-sub categories, which are slightly less competitive.
Under Business and Money, here are some sub-sub categories:
- Business and Money > Marketing and Sales > Advertising: 20k
- Business and Money > Marketing and Sales > Biographies: 13k
- Business and Money > Marketing and Sales > Sales and Selling: 16k
- Business and Money > Small Business and Entrepreneurship > Home-Based: 11k
- Business and Money > Small Business and Entrepreneurship > Marketing: 3k
So, as you can see, even the smallest sub-categories carry tremendous competition.
What does this mean for you? It means it is imperative that you find a way to make your book stand out against the rest. And the best way to do that is to choose a niche and get clear about your audience.
Why Niches Rule
Let’s say you’re authoring a memoir. Considering there are 133k memoirs on Amazon right now, there is little chance your title will rise to the top unless you are a celebrity or you have a clear niche focus.
Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior is a memoir of her husband’s affair and the resulting efforts to repair her marriage. Niche focus: Infidelity. According to some astounding statistics, 41% of marriages will experience infidelity. That creates a lot of potential readers and can be attributed to the many reasons why this book became a hot bestseller. Also, note that though the core target may be women impacted by infidelity, it did not prevent other women from reading the book. In fact, the fear of infidelity and its aftermath may have also compelled such a substantial reading audience.
Often times the book title and positioning can capture a niche audience perfectly. Between 2002 and 2007, Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life sold over 30 million copies. Why? Because it appealed to people who wanted some spiritual direction. He could have authored yet another book titled something like Basic Christianity Principles, but he framed his book to identify a specific need he saw in readers.
The Four-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9 to 5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferris is another example of a title that attracted its target audience in droves. The audience? Disgruntled corporate employees. One Gallup survey indicated that as many as 70% of people are disengaged from their jobs. Since its release in 2009, the book has been translated into 35 languages. Apparently, there are countless disgruntled employees around the world.
And an interesting side note about the importance of titles. Ferris reportedly chose several initial book titles and purchased Google ads to test and see which title drove the most traffic. Titles in the running included “Broadband and White Sand” and “Millionaire Chameleon.” While his target audience remained the same, clearly, he chose a much more powerful title. And his title offered some big promises, enticing readers who might have otherwise passed over yet another book on how to start a business.
How to Find Your Niche
By now I hope that you’re starting to see why having a niche is no important. Without one, your book can become just another title in a sea of options.
Let’s say you’re writing a memoir about living with Diabetes. Guess who makes up your target audience? Other people living with Diabetes—which adds up to over 29 million Americans! So, you could move forward and publish yet another memoir, or you could focus your efforts on connecting with the Diabetes community.
The same rules apply for other genres. If you’re writing a self-help guide about how to live a happier life, you definitely need to find a way to stand out. Could your target audience be single moms? (There are more than 9 million single moms in the U.S.!) Could your audience be people who suffer from depression (a whopping 350 million people!)? Or perhaps you could focus on people who work in a specific industry, such as dentists or lawyers?
If you worry that a niche might be too small, let me introduce you to my friend Karl Palachuk. Karl is a consultant to IT consultants—he teaches them how to grow their businesses. His niche is teeny, tiny. But guess what? His business is tremendous because of his niche focus. Karl sells thousands of dollars in books, courses and digital products from his website each month. He has several corporate sponsors and travels all around the world doing work he loves. He’s the envy of many friends in our social circle.
And by the way, when Karl sold his own IT company, he could have decided to go out and become a business consultant to all kinds of businesses—he certainly had enough years of experience to advise just about any small business. But he understood the value of staying in one lane.
Now it’s your turn to choose a niche. And by the way, ideally your niche audience is something you should determine before your book is even written—because then you’ll know exactly who you’re writing it for. Ask yourself some important questions (which also include business considerations since so many nonfiction authors are also entrepreneurs):
- Who can relate to my story/the information I have to share?
- Who else has been through similar experiences?
- How can I help or inspire others?
- Who do I WANT to inspire/help/entertain?
- What audience can I find from my personal background? (Are you ex-military or a kid’s sports coach? Did you work in high tech or health care? Are you a school teacher, dog walker or a federal employee? All of these can be niches all their own.)
- Are there clients I’ve worked with in the past that could form a solid niche?
- Are there people/clients I DON’T want to work with?
- Where do I want my books to be sold? (For example, if you’re aiming at colleges, your audience might be young finance professionals or people starting out in <insert name here> industry.)
Once you have a clearly defined niche, everything you do—from the blog posts you write to the tone of your website, should appeal to your audience.
By the way, I wrote a related book a few years back: Own Your Niche: Hype-Free Internet Marketing Tactics to Establish Authority in Your Field and Promote Your Service-Based Business.
If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Advanced Book Marketing and Launch Strategies Course! Learn more about our courses for authors here.