What Are the Best Niches for Self Published Books?
Got a question on TikTok that asked, “What are the best niches?” This is understandably a question that many self published authors have. We want to make sure that we get a return on our self publishing investments. But this is not an easy question to answer. I discuss what a “best” niche is and how to find ones that are best for you.
Are You Chasing These "Best" Niches?
High Book Sales Volume
Two popular fiction niche genres are romance and suspense novels. Does that mean you should shift gears to write in those niches because a lot of sales are happening there? No. These niches are highly competitive, too. When I checked on Amazon, both of these fiction niches have over 100,000 search results. So you’re up against a huge pool of writers and books.
What you’ll also find in niches with high sales is that the market is dominated by a few top authors, e.g., Nora Roberts for romance, James Patterson for suspense. Even if the sales volume is high, sales are not evenly distributed among all authors in that niche. So that doesn’t mean you’ll easily get a slice of that pie just because you’re there.
Hot or Trending Topic or Genre
“Hot” niches can become “not” niches in a hurry. Prime example is the book sales situation during the 2020 pandemic. Children’s education, religion, and pandemic-related topics were making sales gains. But those sales gains may not hold up when the pandemic subsides.
Even though self publishing gives you an advantage over big trade publishers in that you can get to market faster when a trend starts to emerge, it still takes time to properly produce and publish a book. Plus, if your knowledge and skills to write for a hot niche are not what they should be, by the time you beef those up, the trend could be done.
Hot and trending topics are moving targets. They can be impossible to predict even by experts, and depend on too many factors outside your control. This puts you in a constant chase for the next hot market which is counterproductive and unprofitable.
The Best Niche for You May Not Be Best for Making Money
The best niches for you are those that you are most capable of writing for with your skills and knowledge. If you attempt to write books that are way outside of your comfort and capability zone, it will be obvious to readers that you’re an impostor or opportunist. If you don’t have expert knowledge or skill for a niche, your “me too” book will get trampled by sales of books from other authors who are masters of their niches.
Realize, though, that the best fit niche for you as a self published author doesn’t mean it’s the best for sales or profits. Some niches are extraordinarily small. You don’t want to be the only book in a small market niche. This can limit your visibility in Amazon searches and “products similar to this” suggestions. I have personal experience here.
My first book in 2011, SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business, is in an extraordinarily small niche. I’m consistently at or near the top of my niche that has about 500 titles on Amazon, as of this original post date. The broader marketing niche on Amazon has over 80,000 titles, and the promotions niche has over 50,000. My book is still selling all these years later, and is often the most popular title I sell each year. But my ability to expand my reach and sales is hampered by its narrow niche appeal. Yet if I had written a more generic book on marketing and promotions, I would have been going head-to-head with some heavy hitters and flood of other books in this space.
So how do you balance writing for a narrow niche which leverages your expertise with a need for wider sales appeal?
The best niches for you are those that you are most capable of writing for with your skills and knowledge.— Heidi Thorne
Evaluating and Understanding the Niche Markets for Your Books
Evaluating Your Niche
To get an idea of the size of your niche market, go to Amazon and type in your niche topic in the search box. The number of results shows you about how many titles are already on the market. If it has less than 1,000 it’s probably a pretty small niche. If it has north of maybe 50,000 or so, it’s competitive.
This search will also show results for the top titles in your desired niche. How does your book compare to those? Also note if there are a lot of new titles in the top 100 or so search results. If there aren’t many, this may be a declining or stagnant niche.
Do this exercise for a number of niches in which you could be competitive based on your writing expertise. Then select a few (very few!) for your self publishing focus. This is also a great exercise to repeat occasionally in the future, especially if you’re seeing declines in sales. It will help you evaluate if new writing and publishing directions might be worthwhile.
Evaluating Your Author Platform
If you don’t have an author platform, also known as your fan base, you won’t make sales. My estimate of potential unit sales for a self published book is about 1 percent of an author’s fan base of social media followers, as well as podcast, YouTube, and email subscribers. That may even be optimistic, but it’s more realistic that some of the dream sales figures authors’ hope to achieve.
This is one of the biggest arguments against chasing a hot or trending niche market. It takes time to build your author platform, sometimes years. Building new fans is also a continuing effort that will never stop until you decide you don’t want to sell books anymore. Your fans follow you because of what you do and what you write, not because you create something that’s like someone else or everyone else.
Follow Publishing Industry News
When you self publish, you’re a book marketer. So you need to keep up with news of the publishing world to identify trends, especially those that relate to your niche topics and genres.
My personal favorite way to do this is by reading the Publishers Weekly email newsletter. It’s a free daily email that’s packed with news about trends and sales data.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2020 Heidi Thorne