Please welcome independent author Kat Heckenbach as she stops by the blog today to talk about that hurdle that all authors must face at some point: marketing.
Indie authors aren’t quite what they used to be. Self-publishing at one time meant shouldering huge printing expenses because we didn’t have the print-on-demand technology we have today. Now, it’s easier than ever to self-publish, and small presses abound. Many traditionally published authors are going indie, making for a lot of hybrids (authors both self- and trad-pubbed). The neat little dividing boxes that once kept us very separated from one another are crumbling.
This also means there is more writing out there that doesn’t fit into the neat little dividing boxes of genre because writers have the freedom to publish outside publisher-constricted definitions. We now have oodles of subgenres. Romance has everything from Regency to paranormal, and mysteries overlap almost every genre imaginable. The most fun, in my opinion, though, are the speculative subgenres—a place where you can find cyberpunk military vampires in Medieval Scotland. (And now, thanks to authors like those you’ll find at Realm Makers Writers Conference, we can have Christian cyberpunk vampires in Medieval Scotland.)
So much freedom! So many choices!
But…where do I fit?
With so many options, we indies often find ourselves struggling with categorizing our work. Where do we place our books on those virtual shelves? How do we market and find our audience when our book falls somewhere in-between? Do we focus on the cyberpunk and seek out sci-fi fans? Or search out those paranormal/horror fans who want vampires? Or do we aim for the cloak-wearing, sword-wielding fantasy geeks obsessed with Medieval worlds?
My latest novel is one I’ve been describing as “a theologically murky, dark inspirational paranormal romance.” Relent has a female half-angel, Simone, who most paranormal romance fans would pair with the musclebound, tattooed, longhaired demon Wraith. But I’ll tell you now, that’s not where the story goes. It’s really about a Simone struggling with the desire to be with the child she had with a human man after she forces them away. It’s the story of a woman dealing with her inner emotional demons—and her inner literal demon as the angel half in her begins to fall. The story is the closest I’ve ever come to writing overtly Christian, yet the aforementioned murky theology, language, and violence would have many Christians tossing it in the trash. It’s labelled a romance, putting it on Amazon pages with shirtless hunks, but nothing more than kisses happen on-screen, and Simone’s driving force is the love of a mother for a child rather than of a woman for a man.
In other words, Relent doesn’t fit. It’s neither truly secular nor truly Christian. It’s a paranormal romance with lots of fire, but not as much “heat.” It’s a story about love, but it’s not a love story. When it comes to categories, Relent is in-between.
I know there are other authors in the same boat. I see them post online and hear them speak in person about not knowing where to categorize their novels. Not knowing how to market their sci-fi superhero detective novel that feels like an urban fantasy. Or dealing with a genre that is so specific the readers are avid but few.
I wish I had an easy answer to give you for those struggles. But the truth is, I think the answer is different for different authors and situations, and I’m still working on figuring out my own solution.
The one thing in common among all the solutions, though, is persistence.
Continue trying new ways of reaching readers. Be creative with your keywords. And be confident when you describe your novel to a potential reader—you never know who is searching the in-between for a Steampunk pirate story set on Mars.
Kat Heckenbach spent her childhood with pencil and sketchbook in hand, knowing she wanted to be an artist when she grew up—so naturally she graduated from college with a degree in biology, went on to teach math, and now homeschools her two children while writing. She is the author of YA fantasy series Toch Island Chronicles and paranormal romance Relent, as well as dozens of fantasy, science fiction, and horror short stories in magazines and anthologies. Enter her world at www.katheckenbach.com. Get your copy of RELENT for Kindle (also available in print at this link).
(If you’re an Apple person or so rebellious you use a platform not listed above, you’re obviously fiercely independent and will just search my name and the title on your preferred site/app.)