With 200,000 new titles being published in English every year, getting attention for your books is one of the hardest and most important tasks a publisher has. What strategies could you use to succeed?
One option is to throw lots of money at it. Large publishers (there are about 8) do that all the time. What can smaller publishers (there are about 80,000) do?
In my ongoing review of Tom Woll’s Publishing for Profit, he says the place to begin is to define your niche. And the place to begin doing that is with research. This veteran publishing consultant says that one way to do this is to hire a consultant. But remarkably he says, “I recommend that you spend your own time researching this important assignment” (p. 23). The information publishers learn will be of inestimable value as they carry on their work. After defining what niche you want to reach, then research that niche.
Publishers face many temptations. One temptation is not to be specific enough. To say you want to publish academic books is fine, but in what disciplines? The sciences? Too broad. Life sciences? That’s better but that may be too broad as well.
Religious publishers can be sorely tempted to publish too broadly because often their worldview or theology encompasses (or should encompass) all of life. A book that talks about everything talks about nothing. A publisher that publishes about everything will end up publishing nothing. Why?
Woll says, “If you’re trying to sell a varied array of disparate books to a broad audience, you must spend your advertising and promotional dollars in a scattered effort that has little focus and continuity. On the other hand, if you have a very defined, focused editorial list of books, then you can spend your money in a narrowly targeted promotional effort in which the impact of promoting one book accrues to the benefit of others in the list” (p. 31). That’s how you create brand identity with wholesalers and retailers, which can be of immense help as you build your business list after list.
Want to do parenting books, travel books, cookbooks, business books and fiction? I have a word for you. Don’t.