What Are the Best Niches for Self Published Books?

Updated on August 1, 2020
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert and advocate. Author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. Former trade newspaper editor.

Learn how to evaluate potential market niches for your self published books.
Learn how to evaluate potential market niches for your self published books. | Source

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

Comments

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  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    9 days ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Adrienne! Agreed. While the at-home hobbies have always had some following. But if the risky, no-mask, large gatherings are any indication, people are pretty anxious to get to their normal activities outside the home. So the pandemic bump might be short-lived.

    Hope you're doing well in spite of all that's going on in the world. Thanks for commenting and take care!

  • alexadry profile image

    Adrienne Farricelli 

    10 days ago

    Hi Heidi, you are so right about following certain trends. With the COVID19, there have been many changes in our lives and one major one is a renewed interest in baking, painting and doing other things at home. I have seen many courses and books on these topics selling like hotcakes. However, you are also right that these interests may subside once the pandemic is over.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    12 days ago from Chicago Area

    Chitrangada, I think keeping to those subjects which are most dear to you, and allow you to express your creativity, are the best ones to pursue in your book or blog writing. And your readers will be able to see that in your work.

    Thanks so much for reading and sharing! Have a great week!

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    13 days ago from New Delhi, India

    Nice, insightful and informative article.

    I have always written on topics of my interest, and the subjects, about which I know through my personal experience. Writing gives me the enjoyment of expression.

    Your article, as always provides good points of guidance and advice.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 weeks ago from Chicago Area

    Linda, I know you can appreciate! Your deep knowledge of biology and nature is fascinating, but your long-tail topics will probably not trend anytime soon. But you're writing for a specific audience that values the in-depth insight into your subject. That, to me, is more satisfying than latching on to a hot niche that'll be gone next week.

    Thanks so much! Have a great weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 weeks ago from Chicago Area

    Avyukth, agreed, this also applies to blog articles! I see so many writers here on HP write articles that won't last even a few weeks in terms of relevance.

    Thanks so much for adding that to the conversation! Have a great weekend!

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    2 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Thanks for sharing some more great advice, Heidi. I think that it's very important to write about we know and not to write about something just because it's popular.

  • Avyukth profile image

    Avyukth Krishna 

    2 weeks ago from Bangalore

    I completely agree with you on the fact that one must not chase hot topics. Not only for books , even for articles. I initially thought of writing articles on trending topics but I decided against it. It might get some traffic in the short run, but when we think long term, trending topics are not the way to go. Thank you for this article !

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 weeks ago from Chicago Area

    Peggy, it seems logical to write what you know, right? But I can't tell you how many want to chase the next hot trending topic. I'd feel daunted by writing way out of my knowledge zone.

    Agreed, self publishing should be done for the personal satisfaction it brings, not necessarily the money.

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments! Have a great day!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    2 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

    It makes perfect sense that a person should write about things of which they have some expertise and interest or first-hand experience. Not many people will get rich from their efforts, but hopefully, it is a satisfying effort for them.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 weeks ago from Chicago Area

    Bill, you know, I'm always thankful and somewhat bemused when my books sell. I just can't worry about it. I'm experienced and jaded enough to know that self publishing is a tough game that will unlikely pay all my bills. It's just something that I enjoy doing and talking about.

    Thanks for taking a moment from the Mailbag and whatever else is going on at Casa de Holland to read and comment. Have a great day!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

    I'm afraid all of my horses fled the barn long ago. Today I don't expect one of my books to sell. If it happens, great. If not, great. If this were 1970, to borrow from a long-dead actor, "I coulda been a champ!" LOL

    Happy Hump Day, my friend! Have a great one!

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