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Book Lovers: Know Your Tribe

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Book Lovers: Henry, Emily: 9780593440872: Amazon.com: BooksFind a niche and make it work for you!

Everyone likes to belong. We all want to be a part of a group or fan club or exclusive membership. One might even argue that tribalism is one of the most fundamental driving forces of, well, everything!

Knowing this, one has to acknowledge the genius of Emily Henry's bestseller book... about book people.

Book Lovers succeeds on a whole lot of fronts. It's a quippy, witty, and fast-paced romantic comedy about a career-driven woman and the grumpy, brooding, gorgeous man she's forced to work with because of her job. Overdone trope? Perhaps, but here's where the book takes a brilliant turn. The main characters in Book Lovers aren't big-city lawyers or business executives or high-powered CEO's.

They're a literary agent and an acquisitions editor.

Few people outside the world of publishing even know what those two job titles are. Everyone who's ever queried agents knows the blank stare your friends and family will offer when you tell them what you're doing. But why do you even need an agent? Even editors are, to the outside world, a vague and unspecified role outsiders only know about because of how often they show up on the acknowledgements page.

And yet this story has landed on every bestseller list in the country.

Perhaps this is due to Emily Henry's sizable online following and previously successful novels. It's entirely possible that this book's success was compounded by the momentum of her backlist, inspiring readers to take a chance on a topic they know nothing about. But I'd argue that there's a large and satisfied segment of her audience who are book people, who love to see themselves represented on the page. Neurotic, obsessive, half-mad, overworked, heartbroken but still fighting, we in the publishing industry ironically don't see ourselves in stories all that often. Sure there are plenty of portrayals of the genius writer in the rustic cabin, banging out his next masterpiece on his ancient typewriter. Or perhaps the mustache-twirling publishing executive kicking the young hopeful out of their office, or pressuring a late writer about their deadline. But this hopeful, funny story about two people elbow-deep in the back recesses of an industry few people know about clearly has hit a nerve.

And it doesn't hurt that both main characters are gorgeous, successful, and talented. It is a romance novel after all.

All this to say that it's worth thinking hard about whether or not your project could be targeted toward a small but dedicated niche audience. Are you relying on well-worn tropes like ambitious lawyers, lazy stoners, or manic chefs? Could you shift your story to dig deep into a specific world or culture? Could you write from inside a group you're a part of and speak to those who might not often see themselves in whatever genre you're writing in?

Could you, as they say, write what you know?

Niche audiences might be small, but don't underestimate their power. Win over your tribe and you're well on your way to success!


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"King of Pantsers"?


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