Yesterday evening I bumped into this mannequin dressed as one of the Handmaids who star in Margaret Atwood’s eponymous tale. It was a fitting end to the day, as earlier I was doing some market research on the dystopian fiction genre in preparation for loading my forthcoming book Rockstar Ending onto Amazon.
The data I uncovered frightened me far more than this sinister figure.
Starting with the good news – the statistics prove beyond all doubt that people are craving dystopia at the moment.
The Testaments, Atwood’s long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, is topping the Dytsopian Fiction kindle chart, and running at number 16 for all books on kindle globally. If you put that result into the Kindlepreneur best seller calculator, it estimates that The Testaments is shipping more than 3,000 books a day.
So there is definitely a market.
However, for me to claim the title ‘Amazon Bestseller’ is a daunting ambition for someone without access to the kinds of budgets that have been thrown behind Atwood’s work. Her books have been promoted as never before, since The Handmaids Tale tapped into groundswell of armchair resistance to totalitarianism, appearing on screens around the world.
This goes way beyond the dummies in red haunting Waterstones Piccadilly. Atwood displays have featured prominently in independent bookshops for weeks now, and her launch programme continues to dominate the arts media, online and off, in the UK.
And it’s not just Atwood. There is a marching army of dystopians out there. I discovered yesterday it would have taken 900 sales – on that day alone – for me to break through to just 20th place in the Amazon ‘dystopia’ category.
Discussing this overwhelming challenge with my author friends at our monthly Waterstones Meetup, we mulled over one accepted shortcut to becoming an Amazon bestseller. You can top a niche if you invent your own novel category. I have come across this ruse before in the corporate world which is awash with awards for all manner of esoteric activities.
The problem with that is if I come up with something new readers may not recognise it. Given that my heroes are ordinary, funny people who are not often found in dystopic fiction, would a new genre of ‘cosy dystopia’ be too much of a stretch?
Photo: Nicola Rossi with a Margaret Atwood display at Waterstones Piccadilly, London UK, 1st October 2019
© Nicola Rossi