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What is the author’s biggest challenge?

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May 23, 2024

— Visibility! This is the one thing which 79% of 300 authors we interviewed mentioned as their single biggest challenge. How to stand out from the crowd? Let us take a look at the Kindle market to illustrate the point. The total number of e-books available on Amazon.com is more than 6 million. The number of English-language e-books approaches 4.7 million by now. And this represents just a snapshot of a point in time. Every month another 70,000 titles are added to the platform, translating into approximately 18% annual growth in Kindle e-book supply.

The implications of this are clear: The indie author's biggest challenge for the time to come is visibility. How to stand out from the crowd? How to get noticed at all? No, a Kindle user is not going to browse through hundreds of thousands of titles to make up his mind what to read next. Most readers will click on the book that is shown to them or highlighted.

So, how to get one's book noticed? One strategy is clearly to focus one's efforts on book marketing. This is a must-do for all authors, and there is a myriad of blogs and books about it. The other often ignored strategy is to target one's writing to specific niche markets that represent a clearly identifiable group of readers and are less crowded.

Degree of Competition in Kindle Market Segments

So let's have a closer look at the Kindle e-book market (which some sources claim to represent more than 70% percent of the U.S. e-book market.) What is the competition in the various book genres?

The degree of competition in Non-fiction is about 70% higher than in Fiction. No big surprise. But who would have thought – on the next level of detail – that Religion & Spirituality is the single biggest main category on Kindle in terms of book supply?

On the other end of the spectrum, you find genres such as Law, Travel and Engineering & Transportation. There, the number of English speaking titles is around or less than 70,000. Now, this is still a lot, and to make sense of this, one must do two things.

Two Essential Strategies For Your Book Market Niche

First, relate the number of titles (=competition) to the level of sales the respective book genre. The target is to identify those niches that show the highest book sales but contain the fewest books in the category. This is exactly what you can do when you subscribe to our monthly K-lytics Kindle category database.

Second, you have to "niche it down." In other words, you have to take the analysis to the next level of detail. On the next level of detail, you will find more than 426 book sub-categories (and corresponding Top 100 Best Seller lists on Amazon). And many of them break down into 3rd level sub-sub-categories (of which there are more than 2,500) and even 4th level book genres (i.e., sub-sub-sub-categories)..

Key Takeaway

Know your market. Book publishing and marketing only works (with some degree of prediction) if you know what market you target, what the commercial potential it represents and what the degree of competition is that you will be facing. K-lytics makes all these factors transparent. Want to see for yourself? - Have a look at our home page to find out what K-lytics can do for you.

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6 Responses to What is the author’s biggest challenge?

  1. ibizwiz January 5, 2017 at 12:37 am #

    Useful research, Alex — thanks!

    I especially appreciated your succinct conclusion:

    “The other often ignored strategy is to target one’s writing to specific niche markets that represent a clearly identifiable group of readers and are less crowded.”

    Technically, marketing begins with understanding the needs of the customer/prospect/reader segment one wishes to serve. But as you observe, few bother with this step. For an ancient marketer-turned-fiction publisher like me, it was obvious that the “audience segmentation and needs analysis” process had to come first. Only then could we identify with the readers we want, and know what to write for them.

    After that, we can then consider how to reach them. “Visibility” in your words. As a search engine builder, I agree with you that most readers don’t do the hard work of searching for new books; they try them on impulse or connect with a new author via serendipity. More important, we know that the reader search tools such as Amazon are fundamentally flawed, even broken.

    Connecting with new readers is a challenge, but as we’ve worked through the initial audience-definition step, Facebook has emerged as the ideal tool to “map” micro-audiences with precision. We’ll therefore be using Facebook to introduce and engage our targeted readers as we launch our new series of four books. And naturally, we’ll augment this approach with tailored landing pages, building out our newsletter and various lists, and providing free stories and handouts specifically for our defined audience.

    Thanks again, and keep up the good work!

  2. Wendy Owen October 14, 2017 at 11:58 pm #

    I think a lot of the problem is due to Amazon’s (very strange) category system. Their store categories don’t align with the BISAC system.

    While Amazon has the right to implement whichever categories they choose to sell books, they don’t give their authors the same privilege. Not every author realizes they can contact support and change the category for their book. Even if they did, it would create a lot of work for their employees.

    This is the one thing that continues to puzzle me about Amazon!

  3. Rose Deakin January 4, 2018 at 2:12 am #

    This is brilliant stuff. It needs work by the individual writer to tunnel down to choose the category that is both most appropriate and least competitive.

  4. Ruel Fordyce January 5, 2018 at 3:56 pm #

    Hey Alex great info can you do a review of the religion and spirituality genre. Would love to see what analysis you come up with the competition in that genre is stiff

    • Alex Newton January 5, 2018 at 5:50 pm #

      Hi Ruel, thank you for the kind feedback. Yes, we have religion and spirituality in our database for members.

  5. Adrianne December 10, 2018 at 10:22 pm #

    Wow, again you make the hard things understandable.

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