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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a paranormal romance author but I'm finding out that I'm pissing off more than a few romance readers with my ultra dark books. I've had a few friends describe my books as erotica horror since I mix and mingle romance and steamy love scenes with darker elements like war, violence, the animal world. Many readers were horrified by the drug use in my last release and wrote mixed reviews raving on my writing but warning of drug use (marijuana and valium to calm a woman down) and violence.

It seems readers either love or hate this particular book which I'm learning is a good thing because it means I'm finding my niche audience. Now if I can find out how to target this audience. I've began following readers of other authors who I feel write a similar genre. Any other ideas? Has anyone else experienced this?

My previous books were not so dark but as my writing developed, I've found a unique type of book I enjoy writing, partly due to the books I've read and enjoyed so much. And I have to say that this is a surprise to me as well. I never saw myself writing horror but when a reviewer (who thought she was blasting me, giving me a bad review) warned readers and said she had to set the book aside several times because it was just "too tense" for her, a giant smile spread across my face. She had no problems with my writing and though she gave me a 2 star review, her review sounded glowing to me. In fact, it was one of those reviews you read that leave you with this idea: Don't read this. Too full of sex and drugs and way too scary. Go get a fluffly romance because this is the book your momma warned you about!


So, who else is trying to find their Niche Audience and how are you going about doing it? Any advice?
 
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Alisha said:
It seems readers either love or hate this particular book which I'm learning is a good thing because it means I'm finding my niche audience. Now if I can find out how to target this audience. I've began following readers of other authors who I feel write a similar genre. Any other ideas? Has anyone else experienced this?
For starters, STOP calling your book a paranormal romance and START calling it erotic horror.

This is the thing, If I order a chocolate ice cream cone, and I end up with peanut butter ice cream, if I also like peanut butter ice cream depending on my mood I may just go with the flow. But if I am allergic to peanuts, or hate peanuts, and you give me peanut butter ice cream, I am going to pitch a royal fit.

What you are seeing is that you are marketing the book as a paranormal romance. Those readers who also like erotic horror may not hold it against you because, hey, not exactly what they wanted but OK it was tasty anyway. But the paranormal romance readers expecting a real romance are now furious because they think they were lied to.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I don't label it as erotica horror. As I said, a few authors have suggested that label from some reviews they've read but have not read the book themselves. I think to label it horror would be a total MISLABEL. What I truly think it is: Dark Paranormal Romance. There is a definite romance throughout the book. There is one war scene and one torture scene but the person isn't even killed. I don't even think this book qualifies as truly erotic since there are only five love scenes and the book is 106,000 words. My book is about as scary as JR Wards BDB books with more romance. Does she label her books as horror? I think I'd receive A FAR BIGGER LASHING from HORROR readers upset at all the romance. They'd be griping about the lack of horror scenes. That's why I'm discussing true niche writing here. This isn't horror, it isn't erotica. It is ultra dark paranormal romance and I've found some readers who enjoy their paranormals darker. I'm wondering if others have catered to a more specific genre and how they handled it. BTW, not one reader has told me this book was mislabeled except for one who said there wasn't enough erotica. Most readers tell me it was darker than expected and an interesting new twist. I'm looking for my niche audience but I know for sure my books are more romantic then horror. Thank you for your comments.
 

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If you find an answer to this question I'd love to hear it! I'm in a similar situation with my WIP. I have even fewer love scenes, only one actually on screen, so it's definitely not erotica. There is a very strong romance subplot that goes throughout the book, but I definitely wouldn't market it as a romance although the romance angle is important to the story. There are very dark themes. No war, but there is one torture scene and in general not too much nice going on.

Like you my writing tends to be a little darker because that's what I enjoy. I would say my books are less romance than Ward, and definitely less sex, but probably the same action level. My thought right now is that I'll go with Urban Fantasy for mine. (Or possibly Dark Urban Fantasy, is that even a thing?) Would that work for yours? I guess you might have a little too much romance to go that angle.

I'm interested to hear what others think about this.
 
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OK, let's back up for a second and get clarification:

In your first post you said "I've had a few friends describe my books as erotica horror since I mix and mingle romance and steamy love scenes with darker elements like war, violence, the animal world. Many readers were horrified by the drug use in my last release and wrote mixed reviews raving on my writing but warning of drug use (marijuana and valium to calm a woman down) and violence. "

in your second post you said "As I said, a few authors have suggested that label from some reviews they've read but have not read the book themselves."

So which one is it? Is it
A. My friends who read the book think it is closer to erotic horror or
B. People who have not read the book are making USELESS SUGGESTIONS based on reviews and not reading the book itself

My suggestions was based on the assumption that the people telling you this had actually read the book, because that is what you said.

It would probably help if you actually referenced which book you were talking about.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
@Coral....Urban Fantasy wouldn't really fit since my book is definitely paranormal but I do think there is Dark Urban Fantasy Niche so your books might fit there nicely.

I'm very interested in what others would say too.

@Julie..sorry I wasn't clear enough in my first post. But yes, author friends who have read some reviews have suggested that it might fit in erotic horror from reading some reviews. I don't think their comments are useless suggestions though. They actually forced me to think more about genre bending and finding my true niche audience. I truly believe that if you don't have a niche audience, you aren't writing to the best of your ability. Though my book is DEFINITELY NOT HORROR EROTICA because as I said, it would especially irritate horror readers because my book is just not that dang scary. No where near the level of terror that makes a horror novel a horror novel, but much scarier than what say the average romance reader who reads about a sexy vampire or werewolf. Charlaine Harris's books are scary too. JR Ward's are also. So are Sherrilyn Kenyon's books but they are not horror.


This isn't my first rodeo. This is my sixth published novel and all my previous books were published at small presses who knew enough about marketing and genres to know where to classify my books. In other words, I'm not so dense as to mislabel my book just to piss off my readers. Your first post kinda made me feel like that was what you were implying. Your second post made me feel again like you have to number things in order for me to understand.


I really  wanted to start a conversation about finding your niche audience and writing for your niche audience and to hear others' experiences on the matter. Again, thank you for your comments. BTW, I didn't mention the name of the book because I'm not interested in  anyone reading it to let me know what genre it is. I know what genre it is though some readers may not realize that dark paranormal romance is part of paranormal romance. I'm happy to know I've shocked a few readers. Some love it, some hate it but I didn't mislabel my book.  That was never my question here.
 

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I've had a similar experience. I actually began not really knowing what my target audience really was. So, I marketed them as zombie horror books. I've come to find that some people became confused and said it seems to be a young adult novel about the zombie apocalypse. Yes, zombie horror fits, but it's more YA zombie apocalypse. I think YA zombie apocalypse fits better.

I still don't necessarily market only to children, but when I market it as a YA adult novel, the adults who do buy it have a better idea of understanding whether or not they'll enjoy it. I wrote the series clean (little profanity and without too much gore and excessively-described violence). Plenty of adults enjoy that sort of thing, but putting it up more as a YA series helps filter out those who want that hardcore zombie experience.

The Harry Potter series comes to mind. I like Harry Potter, and I'm 28 years old. It's marketed as a YA book for a YA audience (teens and pre-teens), but, as we've found, it's become a phenomenon where the whole family has been found to enjoy it.

Such are the growing pains through which we go, I'm afraid. If marketing was easy, we'd all be millionaires.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Perfect example, Brian. Thanks for posting. I can see why your books should be marketed as YA and will still appeal to some adults without disappointing them.

You are so right. Growing pains indeed.  :)

However, I'm hearing that this is a good thing. Discovering your niche audience by upsetting or disappointing your readers means we are creating strong emotions and carving out our own style..while at the same time..readers are discovering new authors.
 

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I'm not sure how to make my response sound positive and upbeat, because looking over what I wrote below, it is reading to me like criticism when it's definitely not. So just pretend you can see my friendly, helpful smile while I'm writing this... :) :) :)

Alisha, it definitely isn't a romance. Having a relationship developing in a storyline doesn't make it romance. I know there are lots of writers out there who have developing relationships in their books, but they aren't romances. They are thrillers with romantic elements, urban fantasy with romantic elements, etc. With a romance, the focus is on the relationship. People who read romances, in general, are looking for something happy.It sounds like you have a lot of other, heavy stuff going on. If people have to keep putting your book down repeatedly because it's too intense, it's not a romance.

But horror doesn't sound right either, based on what you're describing. Maybe Dark Erotica? Or Dark Paranormal Erotica? (Assuming it really is erotica--I just posted about erotic romance vs. erotica, I'll link below if you're interested.) You've got a niche audience out there somewhere, you just need to find out how to market it right, or you won't reach them. And if you keep calling your book a romance, the bad reviews will drag you down so much that you'll miss out on a lot of readers--the right readers--who would have bought your book if it weren't for the poor rating.

Good luck! :) It sounds like you'll have a great niche to write for.

http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,75553.msg1208400.html#msg1208400
 

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Hmm. Okay, in an attempt to add context to my comments, I don't consider extreme use of a story element 'niche' (more violence, more sex). Nor do I consider specific sub-genres niche (just because a genre clashes with current popular genre trends, or because it is new, does not make it 'niche'). Peculiar subject mater and prose which uses distinct literary devices, those are books I would consider 'niche' as the average reader would probably not appreciate a narrative voice radically different to what they're comfortable with (or used to). To be crystal clear I don't mean a writer's natural writing style either, though most niche writers do have a distinctive writing style as well.

Not that you asked, but my thoughts on the example of your book that you offered Alisha (and to some of the comments I've read), I do understand where you're coming from. From my perspective, there are industry norms Authors must bow to for the sake of avoiding bad/irrelevant reviews. This I say in the context of 'advice' of how to sell a 'niche' book, and of course, well written and relevant reviews help sell books.

Not liking violence or graphic sex is merely taste, not a lack of appreciation for a distinctive literary device. Genres logically group reader plot and story element tastes (IMHO). Hence why (I think) Julie was suggesting a genre shift for your book, as some readers have expressed dissatisfaction with the levels of your major story elements, suggesting those levels are a closer match to the current (major story element) trends in Horror/Erotica genres. Of course they could always be wrong (again, all this is my opinion, it's your book, your party).

Some people are genre purists. No matter how confusing and ridiculous a situation it has become, correct sub-genre placement is needed, but with so many it can be difficult. We can argue till were blue in the face why our book belongs in one genre or the other (I say go with what makes the most sense to you as an Author). However, if you consider your book 'niche', and market it as so, correct genre placement is essential to finding your audience, because they already have enough to deal with (your literary technique).

As a reader, I am not fussy about genre (as long as I am not sold a Horror that was called Fantasy). That is as far down as I delineate. But others have much more specific tastes and actively seek out books to match these tastes. I know people who if they read a Urban Fantasy book when they expected Dark Fantasy would write a scathing review, and feel like they were duped by the Author/Publisher. The average reader follows the trend in sub-genres, not the sub-genre itself (opposed to the example above).

To meet the needs of both, my way of doing the 'safest' thing, would be to pander to the needs of the most learned. Average readers won't give a D about the sub-genre as long as it's in the right ball park, and has an attractive cover, and good blurb.

I do consider my book 'niche' and honestly, I have no idea how to find my readers barring a shot gun "freebie" approach, which is a messy can of worms I hope to avoid in future. My series is firmly Young Adult Fantasy. Is it worth stuffing the words 'urban' or 'dark' before the Fantasy? Right now, no. Most who are not my target audience like the story and just describe the narrative voice as "odd" or "weird" or say things like "I don't understand the British writing flair." (whatever that means). For me personally, it's horrible when it's tagged as "written badly". Written 'badly' and 'differently' are two different things. ;D

Niche book selling is not something many Indies write about, so I'm making educated guesses as I go (probably getting it wrong, as often as I get it right, but one does what one can). I'd be interested in advice from others too!

So my 'advice' is undecided at best.

And look how pedantic I was about the definition of a 'niche' book! Lol.
 
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If you are offended by my post, it is because you are chosing to be offended. Your initial post was written to imply a call for advice. i.e. I'm getting negative feedback and not sure if I am reaching my right market. I offered an answer based on the way you worded the query. You then made a second statement that effectively contradicted the first. Because there was obviously a communication breakdown, I followed up with a request for clarification. If the use of bullet points offends you, I can't help you. Bullet points are a longstanding communication tool designed to provide clarity during complex discussions.

The key to finding a market is to first make sure you know what you are selling. I honestly don't believe you do. As *****tte already pointed out, having a romance or relationship develop in a story does not make it a romance. A romance is classified as a story in which the focus of the book is on the relationship itself, moving to a conclusion that offers an emotionally satisfying ending for the reader (usually a HEA). In A Game of Blood, there is some romance and sex, but the romance is not the central part of the story and romance readers would NOT be emotionally satisfied with the ending. In The Doom Guardian, there is a rather intense romantic relationship, but again, the relationship is not the focus of the book nor does the book move toward an emotionally satisfying ending for a romance reader.

The the first question is, is the book even properly defined as a romance, or is it something else with romantic elements? From everything you have said, my best assumption would be the book is a dark urban fantasy, not a romance at all. Sex and romance are common elements in urban fantasies, and slapping the dark descriptor in the front clarifies what the reader can expect.

But you cannot find your market until you know who you are looking for. Which means you need to know what you are selling.

Being published previously does not make you a great marketer. It no doubt indicates you are a great writer with a sellable product, but writing and marketing are two completely different skill sets. Merely having been published does not mean those skills rub off on you. Lord knows if simply working with someone transfered those skills, I'd be able to draw something other than a stick figure by now considering all of the artists I have hired over the years!
 

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Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
If you are offended by my post, it is because you are chosing to be offended. Your initial post was written to imply a call for advice. i.e. I'm getting negative feedback and not sure if I am reaching my right market. I offered an answer based on the way you worded the query. You then made a second statement that effectively contradicted the first. Because there was obviously a communication breakdown, I followed up with a request for clarification. If the use of bullet points offends you, I can't help you. Bullet points are a longstanding communication tool designed to provide clarity during complex discussions.
Wow. Lighten up.
 

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Honestly, I have no strong feelings about this whole subject. I'm reminded of a horror novel that made me laugh out loud a few times - Resurrection Dreams - very horror, graphic sex and sexual violence, and funny. Should it have a niche genre? It's arguable, and like anything arguable, it will be, but not to any meaningful resolution. How specific would you get, and... really, why? So that people who might like your book avoid it as not their thing??


 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Jon Olson said:
Wow. Lighten up.
I know this thread is old but I just wanted to thank Jon. Thanks! I was off of Kindle Boards for a long time as you can see..just now catching up. I appreciate your comment. :)
 

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Genre is fluid concept. It's not a straight black and white lines thing. One person's horror, is another's thiller. If it's very dark, it's probably horror! (Oh, the horror!)

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Genre categories are irrelevant. I dislike them, but I do not have the casting vote.
Tanith Lee

Genre is a bookstore problem, not a literary problem.
Rick Moody

"Don't classify me, read me. I'm a writer, not a genre."
― Carlos Fuentes

[Publishers] have grown accustomed to slipping things into genres. It's either a best-seller or it's in genre. There's no longer a midlist. So you're either going to be a horror writer or a Western writer or a science fiction writer or a detective writer, or you're going to be Judith Krantz and write that shit.
Harlan Ellison
 

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I would try something like Romantic Erotic Horror (yes, I just made that up but so what?  You can put that in your description).  When you say Romance, you're specifically saying that there will be happily ever after (or at least happy for now). You're also saying that it is going to be what a typical Romance book is like, and clearly this isn't.  There's a reader expectation that disconnects, maybe more so than in any other genre.  Romance readers have specific expectations.

I think that the whole self-publishing thing really suits the niche.  For example, I write erotica.  Erotica is very much a micro-niche kind of thing.  People will read a variety of regular stuff, even if it isn't exactly their thing, but when you get into what turns them on, there's a very narrow place to fit for each person.  We don't have a lot of tolerance for things that make us go "ewww".  That not only drops you out of the story, it drops you out of the nice warm feeling you get from erotica, so it matters a lot.

My stories are BDSM, which isn't for everyone.  And, worse yet, they're dominant males with females on the receiving end.  Even though being swept away by the big alpha male is the most common fantasy out there, it just isn't for everyone to read about it in this way.  Even most of the small online erotica publishers don't want to do M/f books.  They'll do M/m books.  There are tons of F/m books.  And plenty of books with 3 or more intials.  But the M/f just aren't politically correct these days.  Even though everyone who loves them says my books aren't "typical" BDSM, even though they ARE Erotic Romance with strong positive relationships between the two, erotica publishers just didn't know what to do with it.  That's why I went with self-publishing.  I'm not as niche as people that write about furries (people who dress up in furry costumes as part of a sexual kink) or the people that are into sex and smearing food products on each other, but definitely more of a niche than the garden variety vanilla erotic romance.

So, I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about exactly who my audience is and where to find that person.  I post reguarly on forums that I feel will have my customer base.  I hang out with other erotica writers and leverage off them.  I've been able to post small excerpts on some boards and draw people in without scaring them off right out of the gate.  I've joined a number of Goodreads groups that I believe will be receptive.  Then it is a matter of building a following over time.

 

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I don't know. There has to be something polarizing a lot of bad reviews. As a firm, proud reader of romance, I wouldn't clutch my pearls at a drug-using heroine (though it's not a favorite trope of mine) but I'd get upset if the heroine slept with someone other than the hero, for example.

Is it possible that there are other things in the book that are upsetting the reader other than dark content? Because the BDB (which are now classified as UF, btw) has drug use and while it was unpleasant for some readers, people still bought the books in droves.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I'm appreciating everyone's comments. Thank you so much! When I first started this thread, my book was just released. Though I've received some wonderful reviews, yes, I also received a few not just negative reviews but really mean reviews. Since that book was released, my skin has thickened...A LOT! This is part of the biz, for ALL OF US. We aren't going to make every reader happy and I'm most definitely a niche writer. This particular book is what I would call ultra dark paranormal erotica. Though I wouldn't classify it as horror erotica personally, I know other's would so it IS classified as such at Amazon. BTW, this book continues to sell VERY WELL and has more great reviews than bad but yeah, some people don't like their heroine smoking a joint with the hero but probably the biggest thing SOME readers had issues with was that the hero is half wolf, a Wolfen Royal Male and lives in a pack while LOVING in a pack..though he decides to leave his harem behind for his soulmate. Some readers were truly freaked out by the fact that he fights with his animal side throughout the book and doesn't think and act like a normal man should. Now I've come to love those negative reviews where some were totally turned off by this concept. They don't get the werewolf concept AT ALL. Now I have a warning on my description, telling the readers there is drug use throughout the book and it is NOT your typical fluffy read, but a dark, edgy paranormal romance. Don't know why in previous threads I didn't name the book but for those wondering, it is Circle City: Lord of the Wolfen. And now I truly treasure my new found readership. I've received many wonderful emails from readers. I remember reading a great blog by John Locke a few months back where he states that if you aren't pissing off half of your readers, you aren't writing to your full potential. I loved reading that.  ::)
 

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Regardless of if there is a romance in the story, or if there is a love story central to the story, to label it romance it is supposed to have a HEA (happy ever after) ending and the lovers are monogamous once they fall in love.  Now, I am not saying you can't do something different and try to change the genre, but be prepared to make a lot of romance readers angry because they EXPECT those things when reading romance.

I had my series labled as historical romance.  The second book has a strong love story.  However, (even though I had many glowing reviews and no one got mad at me about the romance thing) I posted about the genre confusion here and listened.  It was evident that I was eventually going to run into trouble because, like it or not, romance genre has strict expectations.  I have since changed my series to historical fiction/family saga.  It could also be drama.  I know how hard it is to decide.

If your book does not have those two things I would change it.  Or not, if you want to constantly battle reviews from readers that are upset because they didn't get what they wanted.  We can like that or hate it, but there it is.
 

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There is a lot of crossover in genres, and it is often hard figuring out where your book belongs.  Romance... the romance genre is one of the few genres where every reader expects the exact same thing.  Romance readers are VERY forceful about what they expect in a romance novel, and that is great.  If you have a book, and you're debating if it's romance, the answer probably is that it doesn't fit the category.  As for what to call your books, I'm not sure.  They sound right up my alley, but I've never even heard of "erotic horror" as a thing, but it could be that I'm just unfamiliar with it.  I think the safe thing to do is just remove the romance from your calculations.  If the book is horror, call it horror.  If it's fantasy, call it fantasy.  A lot of books have a romantic plot line, but they aren't romance books.
 
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