It seems to me that being able to market your novel these days requires a greater understanding of your work than perhaps it has in the past—or I should say—a different sort of understanding. A writer needs to see his or her writing as a work of art and a commodity, or at least that’s the message I feel I’m hearing again and again. You need to be able to place it, describe its niche, and tell would-be agents and publishers what section it might be shelved under in Barnes and Noble. Part of me feels that there is something dangerous about this. The central question it raises is: can a writer write both for himself and for a large enough audience to support the publishing, distribution, and promotion of his book?
I have to write for myself first otherwise I’m not going to write at all. That I know. The only way I would write purely for other people is if I were being paid to do so. Therefore, the only way I can tackle the question of audience is this: I ask myself what I most admire in another writers’ novels, then I commit myself to creating a similar experience in my own novel, and then I return to the novels that I’ve always admired and think about what niche they fall into. This is an imperfect system, though. My taste is eclectic, a mixture of highbrow (Virginia Woolf) and lowbrow (Agatha Christie). If someone asked me what section my novel would fall under in Barnes and Noble, I would say the Gay WWII Literary Mystery section. Of course, it doesn’t exist. There’s not even a Literary Mystery section. Or a Gay Mystery section. Or a Historical Mystery section.
So, the question remains: do Gay WWII Literary Mysteries have a place at big stores like Barnes and Noble? I’m not sure, but I’m going to find out. We live in a world that is becoming increasing more diverse. It follows then that as a diverse people, we are going to require more diverse categories for our literature. I’m no expert, but major bookstores and publishers may have to rethink their sections and target smaller, more specialized groups of readers. Often those audiences can be the most devoted.
Anyway, I’d love any input about this . . . I’m very much in the process of forming my opinions about it.