We live in a judgmental world and fear of judgment is certainly something I come up against in my own writing. In today's article, Sagan Morrow discusses the issues — and opportunities — when writing in genres with perceived stigma.
If you’re a reader of romance novels, how often do you read those books in public? Does that depend on what the cover looks like? And if you do choose to read that romance novel in public, do you find yourself angling the book so no one sitting beside you happens to look over your shoulder and read the steamy bits?
Even admitting to reading romance novels is something many readers feel embarrassed to say out loud… let alone flaunting those books in a public space.
I’m a romance author (and reader), and I’m proud of it.
But whenever I meet someone new and they ask me about my career, I always wonder to myself, “How will they respond when they found out I write romance novels?” Those reactions get even more interesting and unpredictable in a case like mine, because I write polyamorous romance novels: my characters are involved in consensually non-monogamous relationships.
Unfortunately, there’s a huge amount of (misplaced) stigma around polyamory in our society. Polyamory is about ethical, consensual non-monogamy: in its essence, it’s about welcoming and providing more love.
It’s just as valid and healthy as any other form of relationship, but because there’s a lack of awareness or understanding about it, there’s a lot of pushback against it. Even in the romance community, there’s a lot of pushback! And that makes dealing with this kind of stigma more than a little bit challenging. After all… how do you go about marketing your book if so many readers out there aren’t even willing to give the subject matter a chance?
Writing a novel is a big enough undertaking, without it being in a niche surrounded by a lot of stigma.
Here are 5 tips for how to navigate writing in a niche that has perceived stigma attached to it, so that you can promote yourself better and get your books in the hands of more readers…
Tip #1: Clarity
Get clarity (internally) about why this subject matter is important to you, and your goals/purpose in sharing about it.
Why are you telling this particular story? Why does it matter so much to include this particular subject matter in your novel? What is the purpose for including this subject matter in your novel, and what are your goals in doing so?
Understanding on an internal level why this is important to you will enable you to have clearer messaging for marketing your book. It will make it easier for you to identify who your target audience is and where they spend their time.
For example, with my Polyamorous Passions series, my purpose in writing the books is built on a foundation of increasing awareness about (healthy, positive) alternative relationship styles.
Having clarity about my own internal goals for the books has been a useful exercise in connecting with readers.
Tip #2: Transparency
Be upfront and clear with readers about the subject matter.
You don’t want readers to be blindsided by your niche. State clearly that your novel includes your topic so that readers know what to expect going into it.
In my case, I’ve made this very easy for readers to see immediately what the subject matter is because it’s in the title of the series—Polyamorous Passions.
Of course, one of the problems with doing this is that a potential reader might be turned off right away, which brings us to our next tip…
Tip #3: Tropes
Use more common tropes in your novels for crossover.
Using tropes such as “enemies to lovers” or “fake relationship” or “secret romance” ensures that more readers will find your novel.
Just because there’s a stigma surrounding the subject matter of your book, doesn’t mean it can’t still be enjoyed by readers of all backgrounds. Draw them in with more common tropes to pique their curiosity right from the beginning, so that they are willing to give your novel a chance.
Tip #4: Community
Find allies and communities of people who approve of/understand your novel’s subject matter.
It can be tough to break into mainstream audiences when your novel deals with stigmatized subject matter. The good news is, this usually means there are niche communities you can connect with on a deeper level!
Make meaningful connections with communities that embrace or celebrate your subject matter. People in these communities can act as advocates for your books and help you get the word out there that much more.
Tip #5: Education
Use social media as a platform to share more information about the subject matter in general.
What do you want readers (or the general public) to know about this subject matter? Sharing news stories, podcast episodes, quotes, expert interviews, anecdotes, statistical data, and other resources about the stigmatized subject matter can be a great way to help your social media followers understand more about it, and, over time, be more amenable to it.
We fear that which we do not understand. Typically, the reason you might experience pushback around a stigmatized topic is because readers don’t know much about it. The lack of awareness makes them uncomfortable.
The more you can spread awareness and share information about the topic, the more they’ll understand it, and the more comfortable they’ll become around it… and the more interested they’ll be in reading your book.
You can still have success with your author career, even if you write a novel in a stigmatized niche! We sometimes just have to be a little more creative with our marketing efforts.
At the end of the day, your story wants to be told. Get out there and share it with the world! You’ve got this.
Are there any stigmas attached to your books, or to the genre you write in? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Sagan Morrow has a degree in Rhetoric, Writing and Communications, with a decade of experience as a freelance writer and editor. Based in Winnipeg, Canada, Sagan is a hobbyist burlesque dancer and identifies as polyamorous. She writes contemporary new adult romance novels and shares behind-the-scenes stories and practical tips about the writing journey in her Indie Author Weekly podcast.
When she isn’t writing romance novels, Sagan teaches online courses to empower other solopreneurs as they grow their own successful businesses, specializing in productivity and time management for multi-passionate creatives. Learn more at SaganMorrow.com or connect with her on Twitter and Instagram: @Saganlives.