Do I need a niche?

Posted November 8, 2015 by Lory in discussions / 63 Comments

DiscussionNEW

When I was preparing for last week’s Witch Week event, I started to look at and think about the reading preferences of bloggers I regularly follow. I was somewhat surprised to realize how many of them don’t appear to read fantasy at all — their focus being on midcentury fiction, or classics, or simply anything other than fantasy. I read and enjoy their preferred genres (otherwise I wouldn’t follow their blogs), but it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around. And if I blog about a children’s book one day and a classic nineteenth century novel the next, followed by a biography or some historical fiction, such readers might get confused. What is the focus of this blog, anyway?

This made me wonder whether I’m alienating some readers by not sticking to a more narrow range of books in my blogging selections. If they stop by one day and see a book or genre they are not interested in, will they give up on me altogether? Would I build a stronger following by being more predictable in my choices?

I actually have no intention of creating a “niche” blog, because I like to read without boundaries and I want my blog to reflect that. But I do question what effect this eclectic approach has. Is it still possible to create a sense of identity and convey a blog “personality” without sticking to a limited range of reading choices? What are readers looking for when they visit my blog?

This also made me think about what I’m looking for in other blogs. I don’t mind blogs with a particular focus, and find that it does help somewhat for me to “place” them within a certain set of expectations. But if I find that the blogger never reads or talks about anything outside of that box, I become less interested. It starts to seem rather one-sided to me — not that I expect everyone to be interested in everything, but some willingness to branch out seems to indicate a curiosity and openness that is attractive to me.

What about you? Do you prefer blogs with a distinct focus, or do you like them all over the map? Does it completely turn you off when a blogger posts about a book or genre you’re not interested in, or are you still willing to try that blog another day?

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63 responses to “Do I need a niche?

  1. I prefer bloggers who are all over the map. I enjoy learning about different genres they love because I don’t stick to one genre is particular. I also find that if some of their posts are more personal, I tend to keep coming back because I feel like a have a connection with that blogger. πŸ™‚

    • I’m wondering about doing personal posts, but so far I feel like I don’t even have time for all the bookish posts I want to do! Maybe next year I’ll make that my challenge.

  2. I think your blog is great just the way it is! While I like to discuss books I’ve read with another blogger, I’m also interested in them as a person and seeing their personality reflected in their blog whether that means they have a niche or not, or are all over the map. It’s all good to me! As for fantasy, I enjoy it a lot but books from other genres always seem to be at the top of my list.

    • Thanks C.J.! I agree that what’s interesting about blogs is seeing how the personality of the blogger is revealed through her posts (whether specifically “personal” or not). If I just wanted reviews I’d read the New York Times.

  3. My advice: don’t confine yourself with a niche. The more variety the better, I say. Personally, I just scroll through my Bloglovin feed and read whatever catches my eye. I never read weekly memes, but I’m fine scrolling past them (within reason). I don’t even pay attention to who wrote a blog post – except in a few special cases. The important thing is to enjoy yourself, and your fans will too.

  4. I only just started following your blog, so I’ve yet to get to know you and your blog better. However, when I think about what makes me decide to follow a blog, it is usually someone’s personality (as far as I can see it) that does it. After seeing your comments on other blogs, I was curious, clicked on yours, and liked what I saw; someone who loves to read and talk about what they’re reading. And, I definitely think that it you’re interested in reading widely than your blog should reflect that!
    To answer your question, I like most blogs that are enthusiastic and fun to read, whether they are focused or all over the map. I just wish I had the time to read more of them!

  5. Good topic! I enjoy niche and non-niche blogs alike. I don’t mind reading about a variety of books if I enjoy the blogger’s writing style. I like finding out about books I may not have encountered otherwise. If I’m really not interested in a post, then I’ll just skip it. It would take a lot of skips in a row for me to finally dismiss a blog from my reader. Re: niche blogs – I like their dependability and their function, for me, as a ‘one stop shop’ for when I want to find a specific kind of read. Though, I’m not sure I follow any blogs that strictly follow their niche…

  6. I think that your blog is great and you should blog about whatever you want to.

    In a way, blogging about a variety of genres is a niche in and of itself.

    Personally I also find that it is also enlightening to read about books that I myself would not read.

    On a side note, I really like the fantasy genre. I wish that reading time was not so scarce as I would like to read it more often.

    • You’re right, I sort of think of my blog as belonging to the “eclectic” niche. I should just embrace that.

      There are many books and genres that I just don’t get around to because of time limitations as well.

  7. You have a distinctive voice in your writing, which is like a niche, only better! I like fantasy and your post inclines me to write about it more. My own blog started with a pretty narrow focus and I’be gradually broadened, I hope. On the other hand, when I veered onto a completely different tangent, I began a new blog (Northern Lights Reading Project). A lively blog will grow and evolve, so I look forward to wherever your interests take you.

  8. My focus for my blog is simple; it is to act like a reading diary. So I discuss all the books I read during the year and as I read an eclectic mix of genres that means the books I discuss from day-to-day are eclectic too. I don’t let this worry me though because it is true to me. I do read blogs where the blogger leans heavily towards a genre, but I don’t think any of them only write about one genre specifically.

  9. I look for a personality and for variety. If a blogger only ever talks fantasy or YA (two genres Iike) or whatever, it gets too repetitive. But then, I guess I am “eclectic” myself, so maybe I’m biased. It’s quite possible that focusing on a niche will get you more of an audience. I am terrible at that part.

    I’d be pretty happy to do more personal posts, because I agree that they are a plus and go a long way towards putting a face and personality on a blog. ButI’m also always behind on booky posts…

  10. I like it when a blog has a couple of different genres or is all over. If a blog is posting a lot about a genre I am not really into I will keep checking them out I might just not comment as much. I try to read a variety myself (although I go on kicks) and let my blog reflect that. Great post!

  11. Speaking just for myself, I like it when bloggers read a variety. I do follow a few bloggers who read primarily (or only!) speculative fiction, and that’s fun for me because I do read a lot of speculative fiction, but then I also follow a bunch of bloggers who read books I’d never ever read. I like knowing what books are out there! And I’m often following bloggers for their voice as much as for their reading recommendations.

  12. I think niche is important only as an identity. I mean, having a niche helps you focus however, setting up a very small and narrow niche or you’ll end up having nothing else to write. Nope, it doesn’t bother me if a blogger talks about book genre I don’t particularly enjoy and I do like variety. I honestly dislike it when a blogger post reviews all the time. It’s like they’re trying to be another Goodreads or Amazon.

  13. I think bloggers should write about what they enjoy and not worry about what they think others will like, both because that will enable them to stay invested in their projects and because it can be hard to predict what others want to read.

    I tend to find, too, that I read someone’s blog for their style or personality more than for the genres or age ranges they read, so I end up reading a lot of reviews for, say, romance novels, even though I don’t even read romance novels usually, just because I want to see what a particular blogger had to say about them. I also find that I relate to others’ reading habits on a different level than genre. I like whimsical and quirky books, for example and Tolkien. So maybe I’ll follow bloggers who also appreciate whimsy and high fantasy, regardless of whether the whimsical books and the fantasies they review are marketed for adults, teens, or children.

    • That’s a good point — genre can be way too limiting anyway. “Reading personality” is an ill-defined but powerful element in identifying our tastes and preferences.

  14. Regarding all these comments above: I’m glad to see I’m not alone in enjoying eclectic book reviews! The most popular book blogs I’ve been seeing focus nearly exclusively on YA/fantasy… while I’m a big fan of these, I’m always pleased to see interesting bloggers covering other genres, too.

  15. I have to agree with you that a blog with more variety is better. It can attract more readers that way, and even if one post doesn’t talk about something they like, the next one might. I feel like I’m really attracted to blogs that have a strong, friendly personality behind them, so that I enjoy reading their thoughts and discovering what they are up to. So definitely keep doing what you are doing Lory! πŸ™‚

  16. Kay

    I don’t think you need a niche. I don’t have one. I read all kinds of books, and my blog reflects my reading. Some posts get far fewer views than others, but that’s life. I am continually surprised by which posts get the most views. I don’t think you need to restrict yourself to one kind of book or find some theme for your blog.

  17. Kay

    It’s actually a play on an old Mad Magazine slogan. Their character, Alfred E. Neuman, used to say, “What, me worry?” So, technically it’s “What, me read?”

    • The commenting system picks them up automatically — except sometimes it doesn’t, I’m not sure why. I think there should be a box you can check or uncheck. When I’m logged in and commenting it doesn’t pick up my own posts as that would be rather redundant, so I can’t actually see what other commenters are experiencing. Sorry if it’s annoying.

  18. Kay

    It’s not annoying. I just wanted to tell you because I didn’t want you to think I was posting links to my reviews in your comments. I think that’s rude, unless the person has asked for it.

    • Oh thanks, no, it was intentional — sometimes I like to click through to a commenter’s last post, and others might want to as well.

  19. Two main points leap to mind in terms of ‘niche’ blogs, Lory:

    1. I tend to write the kind of posts that I would like to read myself, hoping that other readers and bloggers like it too. In that sense it’s a niche blog because it has my voice and my point of view, in exactly the same way that your blog reflects your voice and your viewpoints. I may not read everything you post, in the same way that I don’t listen in on all my friends’ conversations, but I follow you because I like what you say and the way you say it.

    2. My favourite bookshops are those where I don’t always end up at the genres that I tend to go for as a matter of habit. These are the ones where the authors aren’t in alphabetical order, or where the managers constantly ring the changes over displays, or genre positioning, or stock. The same applies to blogs, and this is where you score, Lory: sometimes you have a theme, or you do a round-up of recent books, or you review a one-off title or — as here — you throw in a discussion point. You provide variety, but there is a consistency in quality and incisiveness.

    That’s why I follow!

    • That is quite a compliment, Chris! Thank you very much.

      I’m fascinated that the consensus seems to be that “how” is at least as important as “what.” It’s not what you write about, but how you write it that conveys a personality and a focus. And the more naturally it’s done, the better.

  20. I’m late to this post – my own blog is all over the place – I read a bit of everything – at least that’s the plan. Of the blogs I follow – it’s not the books they cover, but their voice that makes me follow them, even if I have no intention of reading some of the books they mention. If the voice and quality of writing are there, I love to read as many as I have time for.

  21. I think about it a fair amount as, like you, I read and write about various genres. I can’t limit my reading, the only thing I do do is try not to have loads of books of one genre then loads of another and so on, but then that fits my personal reading preferences anyway. I read others who read various genres so it hasn’t affected my readership.

    If I’m not interested in a particular book I’ll just come back another day or read the post anyway because often another view can change your mind. I do read some one genre only blogs, it all depends on how the blogger writes.

  22. Haha – I had this exact same debate with myself this summer! I read mostly literary fiction, but also throw in sports books, some nonfiction, historical fiction, and an occasional YA (but no fantasy!). Then, I started thinking about other bloggers I follow and realized I have this little bumper sticker in my mind about what their blogs are…and that I couldn’t really apply that to my own blog.
    I agree, though, that a lot comes down to the style of your posts and your voice…and creative post ideas you have. That is distinctly you and reflective of how your mind works.

    • I’m now thinking about how to branch out more in my own reading — I do tend to get stuck in some ruts of subject and time period. Not that I think we have to make ourselves read books we hate, but I want to try to keep my mind flexible. All the better for coming up with creative and original blogging ideas!

  23. I totally do not have a niche. I’ve wondered before if I should advertise what I like to read and review, but I really do read a lot of genres, fantasy included. I have realized, however, a lot of the people who visit my blog don’t necessarily read the books I do. It’s kind of interesting. But I do read a variety.

    • The genre I think I’m not-reading the most right now is gritty contemporary fiction (Room, Our Endless Numbered Days, etc.). Yet I follow several blogs that post about these kinds of books, just because I like to know what’s out there. Next year I’m making it one of my goals to actually read some!

  24. All over the shop with occasional forays into blogs with niche specialisms I’m interested in. I have a certain wariness around genre, only because whilst any genre will attract wonderful writers who happen to be interested in writing about certain areas, genre can also be a dumping ground for a lot of derivative cliche, and can be formulaic. So I’m also interested in readers who quirkily follow their own rambling paths, gathering reads from all over. And, like many, it will be the individual voice and personality which the blogger expresses, which will make me want to drop by and see how they are seeing the world through their bookie ( or something else) travels.

    • Agreed about the potential hazards of genre literature — it can be a hotbed of cliches and lazy writing, but I also feel sorry sometimes that “genre writers” who are truly original and could appeal to readers outside of their usual audience get overlooked. Blogs are great for drawing attention to these, as one gets to know a blogger and trust his or her tastes, thus being more open to recommendations that might not have been considered otherwise.

  25. Most of the blogs I read have a pretty eclectic focus, which works for me because that’s how I read too πŸ™‚ I think I only follow one blogger who exclusively focuses on one genre. I’ve often asked myself this same question, but I always stay eclectic for two reasons – because I like eclectic blogs and because I’m not going to stop reading what I want just so I can blog about something else.

  26. I find myself going through stages where I’m a bit more eclectic and phases where I’m more focused on one type of book. I find that when I’m slumping a bit, I tend to fall back on YA – especially YA fantasy – because that’s what I naturally gravitate to. Sometimes I have to remind myself to read other things! I think writing about what gets YOU excited is always the best path. If it’s not something that interests me, I might pass it up in my feed, but I wouldn’t give up on your blog completely because I know that you write plenty of things that I AM interested in!! πŸ™‚

    • I think everyone has “comfort reads” to fall back on when the new and different temporarily loses its appeal. And I always love to hear about what excites other readers — enthusiasm is contagious.

  27. I love this topic. Like I said in my other comment on your sunday post, everyone was saying to pick a niche. But not such a narrow niche, more of a “are you a fashion, book, movie blog” broad spectrum. I think that if people enjoy having a more specific focus, that’s great. Like you said, you can know what to expect from them and if you’re looking for something in that category, you know which blog to check out. I could never do that because I don’t read like that. I mainly read YA but that’s not all I read. I also don’t only focus on books on my blog, I talk about movies, video games and television. If it’s too all over the place for some people, that’s okay, because it’s what I enjoy doing and there will be readers out there who like it as well. So I don’t worry about losing some people, as long as I’m doing what I enjoy.
    As for others’ blogs, there are a few people that I no longer follow based on their very narrow niche. This is rare but it mainly occurs on blogs that focus a lot on romance simply because I don’t read romance. Otherwise, I like blogs that are eclectic and others that are more narrow in their genres. Just depends on what I’m looking for.

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