Happy Friday, WG2E-Land!
Talk about one fantabulous treat to take us “dancing” right into our weekend…today, we’re welcoming to The WG2E Debut Indie Epub Author Amanda Brice, author of
Codename: Dancer (A Dani Spevak Mystery)
I brought Amanda to The WG2E because (1) I happen to really like her and her writing and (2) she has the most amazing and intriguing Indie Epub “Writers Making Choices” Journey.
You see…Amanda was an RWA Golden Heart Finalist. My DH and I sat just a few rows behind her the night she was up for the prestigious award, and I also got to know Amanda a bit in the various RWA Chapters we’re in.
But…despite her making it to the tops of the pack from which many traditionally pubbed authors are chosen, Amanda decided to go the Indie Epub Route…and here’s her incredible story as to “why”…
I’m here today to talk about “niche” publishing. Bob Mayer touched on this concept nicely a couple of weeks ago (http://thewritersguidetoepublishing.com/welcome-to-the-wg2e-bob-mayer) with his guest post about his new Civil War book.
Ever since I decided to jump into the indie waters, I’ve been told that the book cover for my debut teen mystery novel fit right in perfectly with the traditionally published Young Adult books out there. But long before I got to this point, NY didn’t think the book would ever fit in.
My former agent shopped Codename: Dancer widely. The book was named a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart® Awards, and it had gotten a lot of attention. Editors at several Big Six houses raved about the premise, the writing, the voice, the characters…and even though the manuscript made it to several final acquisitions meetings, ultimately they all passed. Despite editors who loved it, marketing didn’t know where to place it.
The kiss of death.
The YA imprints called it Middle Grade. The Middle Grade imprints called it YA. I’ll let you in on my dirty little secret…they’re both right. It wasn’t that I didn’t know my audience. I just had a different audience in mind.
For years I’ve lamented the fact that there isn’t a category between Middle Grade and Young Adult, despite a large segment of readers who could benefit from one. There’s a real market void. The Middle Grade books are too babyish for this group, yet many YA books are too mature (for lack of a better term). My middle-school-aged niece is a prime example. She’s a voracious reader, and is ready for something meatier than what’s offered for her age group. But my sister-in-law doesn’t want her reading Twilight (and Twilight is actually on the tame scale compared to some YA books out there) yet, and frankly I don’t blame her. Intellectually, she’s ready for it. Emotionally? Not so much.
So with this age group in mind, I sat down and wrote Codename. But because NY didn’t know where to shelve it (is it a “children’s book” or would it go in the “teen section?”), it never sold. Apparently main characters can only be 12-or-under or 16-or-older. Fourteen-year-old high school freshmen need not apply.
Some might consider my book to be “tween” but even that seems a bit limiting, because I know several teenagers who have read it and loved it. And what 13-, 14-, or 15-year-old wants to be lumped in with the 10-to-12-year-olds? Uh-uh. No way. So I’d call it a “Younger YA,” but that’s not an accepted trad-pub term. Where do you shelve it?
That’s the beauty of indie-publishing. With a virtual bookstore, we’re not confined to the categories already in existence. We don’t have to choose whether to shelve something in Mystery or Romance (case in point: Gemma Halliday, ) and can instead cross-list it so we hit all the correct categories…and readers!
Then there was the whole dance element. Take a look at the Amazon Top 100 for Dance books (http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/2896/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_b_1_5_last). (Really, go look…I’ll wait. You might need to scroll a little bit, because I’m writing this ahead of time and don’t know exactly which page it will be on.) No, I didn’t send you over there to admire my cover, although you have to admit that’s a pretty cool ranking for a book that just launched a week ago from a complete newbie unknown.
Poke around and look at the books all around it. An entire sea of children’s board books and picture books. Very, very few YAs (if any).
Apparently dance books aimed at teens don’t sell well. But that could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. New York doesn’t publish YA novels focusing on dance, because supposedly only little girls want to read about dance. And because they don’t publish them, they don’t sell. Circular logic.
The few YA novels on the dance bestseller list tend to be indie books, and I don’t think that’s just a coincidence.
When I first started researching the indie scene, I came across the fabulous YA novel, Girl in Motion, by Miriam Wenger-Landis. I absolutely loved it. When I discovered that she had self-published, I knew I had to chat with her. I learned that she was a former professional ballerina, who (upon retiring from her dance career at the ripe old age of 22) later worked as an assistant editor at a Big Six publishing house while writing a novel based on her experiences in a ballet boarding school. She told me that she wrote Girl in Motion because it was the type of book she would have wanted to read as a teen.
Same here. That’s why I wrote Codename. I, too, was a dancer in my teens (although not as serious in my training as Miriam). We’d both read the Satin Slippers series as preteens, but that was it. That was in the 80s. And the market hasn’t really changed since then. Very few novels for teenage girls who love to dance. We saw an opportunity, but New York didn’t see it that way. Despite agents who believed in us and strong writing that NY editors loved, both books were deemed “too niche.”
But that’s the beauty of indie publishing. As Bob Mayer said two weeks ago, “The Internet has made things more specialized rather than broader.” By targeting a good portion of our promotional efforts towards the various dance media, we can find a respectable readership. Maybe not a readership that would have a NY publisher jumping for joy, but we don’t have to sell hundreds of thousands. By using freelancers and pricing accordingly, we can be profitable with many less units sold than in traditional publishing.
So the moral of the story is that if you have a “niche book,” don’t be discouraged. It might be perfect for indie publishing. And I bet you’ll have a blast!
 Gemma’s books are “mystery romances” or “romantic mysteries.” Before she was released from her Dorchester contract, her books were shelved in Romance, but I’m sure she lost a lot of mystery readers who never found them that way, yet who would have loved them! Now that she can cross-list them in both places on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, she’s finding a whole new readership…and doing VERY well.
Talk about “dancing to your own beat”…right, WG2E-Land?!
Maybe Amanda and I should write an Indie Epub novel together with a Bootscootin’ Ballerina as the heroine…LOL! Now that would be quite a unique niche.
Cheers to you, Amanda! And I can’t wait to read CODENAME: DANCER. It’s on my Kindle and beckoning me to begin.
It’s Your Turn, WG2E-Land: Amanda has graciously agreed to entertain our comments and questions all day long…so chime on in…
The Best of The WG2E Wishes — D. D. Scott
P.S. Amanda will also be back with us in May when she puts on her Intellectual Property Attorney hat and gives us the scoop on all-things-Intellectual Property Rights we need to know as Indie Epub Authors.