Why you may not want to niche publish

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The past four blogs have explained, perhaps a bit stridently, the virtues of niche publishing. And there’s much to be said for it, except if your book just isn’t for niches: it’s a kid’s book or a novel or it (also a bit stridently) preaches world salvation. The niche system fails miserably when the buyers are widely and erratically scattered out and are finding out about you and your message on their own.

These are the most obvious disadvantages to niche publishing:

(1) Niche publishers will never get their book on any major best-seller list, except in their niche, where indeed they will be a big cheese. Just don’t look for a niche book at Costco, or more than one copy at a time (with luck) at Barnes and Noble. Yes, it will be on Amazon, but it will probably be very lonely.

(2) Some authors decamp to create their own niche-publishing firms. Others won’t do public speaking. This is important only if you are the publisher and are gathering up a cadre of top authors and you want them to write and publish more books through you so you can build your empire. You also want them to be public, particularly speak often, so you can sell their books by the box rather than the ones. Two observations. If you don’t do good for your authors, maybe you deserve the desertion. On the other hand, it’s a lot peskier to write and publish. They may be back with their new book in hand, and their empire not, asking you to sell the book and let them back in the fold.

(3) This is by far the biggest disincentive: for about 20 days, after fliers are mailed and until orders arrive in volume, niche publishers need a bucket of money to finance that first printing and initial flyer mailing. (Sleeping pills are helpful too.) In Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time I tell how that can be controlled. Use the fat cat, skinny cat, or alley cat approach. It also helps if the printer will give you 30 days to pay after printing, or at least a small amount down and the rest in 30 days. (They won’t take spouses or children as collateral.) The ogre is the Post Office. They want you to pay for stamps immediately. The good news? If you did a solid pre-test and the buying ratio is sufficient, as long as your book (and flyer) are in fact as promised in the test, you should be in the black within a month. I know, that sounds impossible. But it’s just the opposite: if the test is solid, the potential buying ratio is well into the positive realm, and you follow through as suggested, you can actually breathe again in about three weeks.

(4) Niche publishers sometimes bind themselves to a niche and authors they eventually dislike. As with marriage, it’s a whole lot wiser to court slowly. Niche publishing properly established is much more than a one-book commitment. It can take several years to hit full flower. Alas, it can sometimes take nearly as long to sensibly de-root.

(5) Fulfillment one book or product at a time is tedious and seldom very profitable. That’s why you aim at the heart of the niche and you set up your strategy to sell by the dozen or the box (often about 40 books), and hope that that reduces the single orders quickly and almost forever.

(6) The whole process is sort of overwhelming in the beginning. All the marketing, like all the horses, go before the niche cart, and all of it requires proper timing and attention to detail. Still, done with courage and patience, it’s hard to tip the cart over since the publisher can always pre-test again and again–and if it still isn’t working, can back out without having written the book (or had it written), printed it, and mailed many fliers. But the first time(s) there is the sense of both having created the flood and having one thumb too few to hold it back.

In publishing, even in writing, I still think the niche way is the best deal around.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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