Today, I’ll mention something that touches both readers and writers. Specifically, a reader’s individual tastes and how it affects all the parts of the industry from writers through retailers to readers – and how each can benefit from it.
Before I get to the specifics, you might wonder: what brought me to these thoughts?
Well, as I was getting ready for the release of my debut, I spend some time researching many aspects of publishing and I’ve given some attention to topics like target audience and metadata, among many.
And one of my resources said that the most voracious readers can have very specific tastes, to the point they read not only in one genre, or in one sub-genre, but just one or two niches in a particular subgenre.
To use an example from fantasy (as a genre closest to me), a reader might be only interested in books with dragons. And the amount of books being published each year allows readers to be this specific unless they’re in a genre that is very small.
These people also tend to be the subscribers to Kindle Unlimited – free borrows support their passion at smaller costs compared to buying all the books.
When I first read the mention of very taste-sepcific readers, it fell quite strange to me. Sure, I may have some preferences, but my reach is relatively wide (within fantasy genre) with some overlap into sci-fi, which would be greater if I knew my actual SF tastes.
And the same source mentioned that writers are likely to have a wider tastes when it comes to reading. One of the reasons would be to learn by example and thus see a wider range of stories. Fellow writers reading this post, please let me know in the comments – how specific are your tastes as a reader?
What sets power-readers out is not only the speed (some at several books a week) but the dedication to one or just a few subgenres. And this specificity can help writers…
Age of algorithm
Whether you love or hate Amazon, one thing few people deny is that its recommendation algorithms can get very good at guessing a reader’s taste, provided it’s not too wide. This can be good and bad for readers and writers alike – more on that soon.
When it comes to Amazon… I was surprised when I saw how friggin’ many sub-sub-categories are there. For example, Fantasy has 20-ish subcategories which you can further refine by creature types and cross-genre elements (see screenshot below).
It’s this level of sorting and filtering that enables people to stick to a very specific niche if they wish so. And if the algorithms see this, they’ll feed them with a lot of books from the same category. Power-readers are, by the fast consumption of books, the people who can find new authors the most (because lot of the well-known stuff is something they’ve read long ago).
If you target your book well, and it finds a bunch of power-readers in your genre, it might be a good help for your start.
If you’re taking the route of self-publishing, this means that spending some time on finding the most-fitting category can help you a lot – but classifying your book incorrectly may hurt you a lot. Because if a bunch of power-readers grab your book with some expectations and get something else than they wanted… you better hope they won’t give you bad reviews for this. It could also cause the algorithms to have a wrong idea what your book is about, thus sending it into a death spiral of being recommended to the wrong people. And just like a plane in such a downward spiral, it’s hard to stop (and recover) such fall.
But if you do it right, and the book gets recommended to the exact target audience that likes it… jackpot! Not a million-dollar one, probably, but it can give you a nudge. A satisfied reader is the one most likely to write a review – and thus help other potential readers give your book a chance.
As hard as it might be, make sure you know which sub-sub-category fits you best. Don’t just aim at the target in general, aim for the bullseye. Because every little helps.
I’ll wrap it up here. Of course, sharing experience always helps, so if you’ve released a book and have some advice or experience to share on this topic, it’ll be welcome.