MBM: Welcome to Niche-land! by JoLynne Lyon

Welcome to the third day of March Book Madness(Schedule and explanation is at the bottom of this post.) Today I’m excited to have JoLynne Lyon here to talk about those special, fun niches in books and music.

JoLynne has been a guest poster in the last two years of March Book Madness, so I’m thrilled she agreed to come back. (Her two previous posts are at the bottom of this one.)

So. Put on some classical banjo and let’s talk about mixing genres.

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JoLynne Lyon:

Fellow readers, I come to you today to celebrate the niche. The little corner that contains exactly what you needed, except you didn’t know you wanted it until you got there.

It’s like the first time I heard the Goat Rodeo, which introduced me to a music craving that is still not fully satisfied (though Spotify has helped take the edge off). Until I’d heard Yo Yo Ma join up with a banjo player, a killer bassist, a singing mandolinist and a honey-voiced blonde, I had no idea how much I needed a little folky bluegrass with my classical.

Two years later, I still get chills.

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Stories are like that, too.

Anne Proulx’s Bad Dirt collection did that for me. Her short fiction was set in Wyoming, and her stories made me think, and laugh, and laugh again. I grew up in Wyoming, and every one of them resonated.

Another short story made an impression during a forty-minute drive to my parents’ house, years ago. We listened to a public radio program in which literary people read a favorite short story, and that day they presented The Smoker by David Shickler. The miles flew past, and later I went on a search for that little gem of writing. I finally found it in an anthology of short fiction originally printed in the New Yorker. I didn’t like most of the other stories–they seemed dark and cranky, like most short literary fiction did at the time. (This is why we live in such a beautiful age. Writers can craft a tale that appeals to readers without having to go through some embittered literary editor first… but that’s a whole other blog post.) I still dig that book out and read The Smoker now and again.

Proulx and Schickler have different styles and they chose totally different settings, but their stories had something in common. They were pretty much unbelievable, but the writers took me in anyway—and I absolutely loved the ride.

That’s the power of stumbling onto an unexpected niche.

The wonderful news is, I think we’re going to see more of these moments.

Established novelists are now experimenting with short fiction because it’s so much easier to sell in e-format. Genres of all lengths are being bent, stretched and blended in ways never imagined before.

Genres of all length

It’s not that niche art is new, but it used to come to the forefront mostly when established artists had made enough money that they weren’t afraid to experiment again.

We still see some stunning examples of that, like when Sting put out an album about a shipyard. I’m guessing he might have made more money in the 80s when he sang love songs, but The Shipyard is another piece of human experience that I can’t stop listening to.

Here’s an example. If you’ve heard the album, you’ll still want to listen because this live presentation is totally different. It’s probably a good thing I never heard it on the radio, or I might have been blinded by my tears and caused an accident. (So you’ve been warned.)

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Now, if you’re a writer, I should probably repeat what I’ve been told over and over again, because I don’t want to mislead anybody. You may be able to jump into niche writing before you’re an established author, but it’s not likely to make you rich. It may remain in a corner that few people walk by.

But you may also have that idea that makes your readers ask:

“Where has this been all my life?”

And every once in a while–maybe as often as somebody wins a hundred million dollars in a lottery–you may hit your quirky idea out of the park.

It’s been known to happen.

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What was the last thing that made you wonder, “How have I done without this all my life?” Are you a fan of any niche books or are you writing any yourself?

Comment here.

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JoLynne Lyon

JoLynne Lyon is a public relations and marketing professional at Utah State University by day. Off the clock, she is perfecting an urban fantasy series featuring an alien hamster from outer space. No, we’re just kidding. She really writes quirky mystery.

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Connect with JoLynne:

Check out her previous March Book Madness posts:

Rebecca’s thoughts:

One thing I love about the emergence of self-publishing is the ability for authors to write specific stories which appeal to specific readers, but would never get through the gauntlet of traditional publishing world.

It’s like there’s this new kind of freedom happening in the book world, and while it was there before, like JoLynne said, it was on a much smaller scale. I’m anxious to see where this new wave takes us. Welcome to Niche-land indeed. :)

Thanks for your thoughts, JoLynne!

And thanks for the intro to some awesome new music for me (the first two songs anyway; with three teens I’ve heard the fox song plenty enough for one lifetime–lol). I always have some song or another playing in the background when I write or clean or drive, which means I’m usually on the hunt for new songs. So yay for me.

Tune in next Tuesday (the 11th) for our next guest: Tricia Pease.

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March Book Madness has nothing to do with basketball (sorry) and everything to do with books. March is National Reading Month, so March Book Madness gives me an excuse to discuss everything about writing, editing, and reading books with some amazing authors.

If you’ve missed any posts, here they are:

2014 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:

2013 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:

2012 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:

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Author: Rebecca Belliston @rlbelliston

Hopeless romantic and author of CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, SADIE and AUGUSTINA. Music nerd and composer of RELIGIOUS and CLASSICAL-STYLE music. I live in Michigan with my husband and five kids.

5 thoughts on “MBM: Welcome to Niche-land! by JoLynne Lyon”

  1. Great post, JoLynne. There are lots of new ideas out there in books. I’ve read several unique ones that were hard for me to categorize into a specific genre when I finished. They blurred the boundaries, but stuck with me on a deeper level so I couldn’t forget them.

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    1. I know what you mean. Because they’re unique, sometimes they stick longer than other stories. I wonder how the bookstores and Amazon will keep up with the emerging and blurring genres.

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  2. Wouldn’t it be cool to have someone say about your own work, “Where has this been all my life?” Small niches do create labeling problems. Even eBooks need to be categorized. Those keywords can add or diminish sales. I’m working on a niche called Book of Mormon Fiction.
    Great thoughts here and I loved the videos. Thanks!

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    1. Yes, that would be awesome!!! It will be interesting to see if Amazon (and others) create more categories to try to keep up with specific niches that spring up. (Book of Mormon fiction sounds awesome!). Thanks!

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