I was riding my bike the other day (as I am wont to do) and noticed a number of new eateries popping up around my stomping grounds. Now, I should mention that Louisville, Kentucky has a LOT of really cool, unique places to break bread that are menu, style, and user-base specific. It’s actually suprising how many great places to eat we have.
I have a point that is universally awesome — stick with me.
I bring this up because many of these new diners popping up are trying to cater to everyone. They are one-stop eating shops that have menus to please a huge cross-section of eaters. In my opinion, this waters down not only the appeal of such places, it detracts from their unique-ness and the power their product and the marketing of their product holds.
But I get it. The economy is still a big fat flapping challenge and every business is doing what they can to stay afloat. The same phenomenon is happening in the world of books. Authors are branching out in order to bring in the mighty pennies and dollars of consumers from every genre and niche they can. From my perspective, I see this as an homogenization that shouldn’t be taking place.
There’s a reason why certain diners and authors (and musicians, and painters, etc) find incredible success — they concentrate on what they do best. Most often that “best” is a rather narrow scope. It’s when they start branching out, in the attempt at garnering more and more sales, the quality of their product lessons.
For a while, I toyed with the idea of writing young adult titles. I even banged out a few outlines. After that I tickled the feet of erotica. During these flirtations, one thing became very clear — no matter where I ventured, it turned dark. I couldn’t write straight-up erotic without adding elements of horror and my ideas for YA were simply not YA-appropriate. I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) break out of the horror mold.
Take a look at my Fringe Killer series — each of them contain elements of the grisly and macabre. The second Shero book has zombies (the first a few frightening fashion faux pas). The lesson? I am a horror writer. That is my niche, my shtick, my calling. To try to branch out and write things not horrific is to lesson the effect and appeal of my brand. I don’t want to be known as the horror writer who also dabbles in Housewife BDSM and Mommy Porn.
But honestly, this all goes so much deeper and further than just the world of books. A niche-centric society is an interesting society. It’s like walking down the hippest street in a city and seeing shops of every sort. One of the coolest downtowns I have ever visited was Savannah Georgia. Every street was an exercise in something different, something unique. The variety Savannah had to offer not only made me desperately want to move there, but made that small city incredibly magical. There were shops that catered to amazingly small niches and did so beautifully.
And you know what — they knew their market. That, in and of itself, is crucial to succeeding in a world that is completely and utterly flooded with more of the same. Everywhere you turn there’s a knock off of someone else’s work. Because we live in a meme-driven society, when something is hot everyone leaps off of one bandwagon and onto another. Along with that, we wind up with books such as Fifty Shades of Underpants.
Okay, maybe not underpants but you get the idea.
Now, in the defence of the genre hoppers — I get it. We’re all doing everything we can to make a name for ourselves. Sometimes that means writing outside of your genre just so you can sell enough to afford you the privilege of actually writing what you love. We all have to pay the bills. And many of us hope that writing that one grand slam hit (regardless of genre) will drive audience members to our own personal truth-in-fiction.
Personally — I have a different approach. I want to stick with my beloved horror (with the occasional Shero for an added layer of fabulous) so I can always be on top of my game. Maybe my lenses are too rose colored, but I figure the more horror I write, the better I get… and I am always looking to improve so I can give my fans and readers the best experience possible.
Our society doesn’t need further homogenization. What we need is more people standing up and shouting “We love diversity and want more!” or “Give me niche or give me death!”