If there's something that the advertising for the Kindle, and indeed any eReader device, promotes, it's that reading digital books is for everyone. Whatever your creed, age, or apparent want to read in public with friends, the architects of the publishing revolution want to get all of us involved. It stands to reason then, surely, that if they are succeeding in this that we would see a similarly diverse range of books receive the very highest level of success. Right?
Wrong. At least, nearly wrong. You need only look at the top fifty best-selling books on Amazon's shiny new indie specific store-front to see that, at least as far as us independent publishers go, there is a definite demand for two things. Firstly, people want thrillers. Whether they feature cops, sleuths, or the ordinary man trapped in an unusually exciting situation, books that can be broadly categorised as thrillers, or those containing promises of thrills, do extremely well. They account, roughly speaking, for almost half of that top fifty.
It's understandable. Thrillers have always been a popular genre in print. Names like Patterson, Grisham and Brown continue to sell dead-tree books at incredible rates. Others like Christie, Fleming and Conan Doyle are true legends of fiction, having their legacy extend from the printed page to the silver screen and beyond. Although I'm using a broad definition of thriller, which would likely include suspense, mystery and police procedurals, it's clear that this super-genre continues to draw in the crowds. It has done so for years.
Why? What is it about thriller novels that draws people back for more time and again? Specifically, what makes them a good route for indie authors to take? Sean Patrick Bridges, author of ROLL OF THE DIE, weighed in.
"Indie market or traditional publishing route, it's not an easy task to walk the suspense tightrope, but I think the thriller genre works if you can pull it off. If you can keep the reader wanting and needing to turn the page, then the writer has done their job."
There's the trick. Thriller novels, by their very nature, are designed to keep the reader reading. While stories about robots, orcs, or life itself might focus on world-building or conveying a strong message, thriller books just want to keep you reading. It's all that matters, and, like Sean says, if the writer can succeed at that, then they will likely keep turning that page into another novel. Then another, and another. Just what an independent author needs to sell that broad catalogue of stories they have for sale.
Another broad genre keeps climbing up the charts. Kindle readers, based on the same top fifty chart, love love. Whether it takes place years ago, or in the modern world, or with vampires and werewolves, a romance novel is apparently far more likely to accrue chart topping sales than my own science fiction novels.
The romantic fiction industry is a strange world that, unless you are one of the large number of readers who enjoy the genre, you are unlikely to cross into by accident. While most have at least sampled a fantasy novel, it is a very dedicated audience that ravenously consumes Mills and Boon's endless list of saucy, lovey-dovey books. While last year, Random House, a generalist publisher, saw its profits dip a little, Mills and Boon, saw its own rise. Indie publishers are benefiting too. Romantic books account for the second biggest share of the current Amazon Indie top fifty, alongside thrillers.
Nichole Chase, indie author of the young adult paranormal romance novel MORTAL OBLIGATION, had this to say on why romantic books connect so well with the reading audience:
"The need to feel connected to someone else, to feel loved, is a common motivation. Romance stories allow others to live vicariously through the characters. They give the reader a little fix of hope."
If these two genres are quite so dominating, and offer the reader so much, then how is an indie author supposed to succeed with anything else?
While these genres certainly account for the highest volume sales on Amazon, you don't have to be breaking into the top fifty to be selling a lot of books. While your science fiction or fantasy book might not sell as many copies as Stephen Murcer or John Locke, many writing in these most popular fields aren't accruing the number of sales of quality writers in other fields. There are plenty of people who have seen the successes of the thriller genre, tried to copy then and haven't managed to mimic their sales, nor the sales of the most popular science fiction writers. After all, there are over thirty-two-thousand thriller/mystery books that aren't in that top fifty.
In the end, if you don't write from the heart, it'll usually show through in your work. Quality, even in the indie world, still dictates success more than any other factor. Thrillers and romances top the charts, but if that isn't the genre you feel compelled to write in, you shouldn't force yourself into it. There might be a large market for these two dominant forces, but that market isn't interested in reading half-hearted efforts. So, stick to what you love, and hopefully those Mills and Boon sales numbers will still find you.
Visit www.legacy-universe.com to find out more about Martin Perry's eBook releases, and read more about this new science fiction series. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Come back in a week or so for the next instalment!
Follow Martin Perry on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LegacyUniverse