Publishing consultant Tom Woll thinks a publisher needs to start by defining its niche. In an earlier blog I said I agreed. My wise friend, Al Hsu, commented on that blog that authors need to think the same way, but that “calling” might be a better way to think about it—a term that gives both focus and flexibility. This of course can be a helpful way for publishers to approach their work as well.
Niche (or calling) can be defined by:
* topic (history, travel, gardening, etc.)
* genre (children’s fiction, mystery novels, humor, poetry, college texts, etc.)
* audience (men in their twenties and thirties, the AARP generation, women leaders, city dwellers, Methodists, etc.) or
* the publisher’s own attitude or stance toward or view of the world (conservative, ironic, educational, elitist, entertaining, etc.)
Many publishers are very successful in focusing on just one topic (e.g., travel). Some are successful with several topics, genres or audiences.
The last category of attitude or stance is probably closest to Al’s notion of calling. It is also close to the idea of mission. Thinking in this way gives both focus and flexibility. If your attitude toward or view of the world is conservative, there are many different audiences, topics and genres you could develop out of a single worldview. This can help keep a publisher from getting stale and just doing the same thing over and over.
But this is where the danger lies—going in too many directions at once. So even within a certain worldview, discipline must be undertaken to stay focused on what you do well and what is closest to your audience and at the center of your calling.