What’s In a Niche?

December 1996
by Curt Matthews, IPG/Chicago Review Press

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Of course we all know now that as independent publishers we should exploit
niches and practice niche marketing of our books. But what exactly is a
niche, and how can you tell a good niche from a bad one?

A useful place to start is with a negative definition. A niche is a
potential market or audience that is not big enough to attract the interest
of a large publisher. Large publishers, because of their high overheads, are
not interested in publishing titles where a sale of less than 15,000 copies
(and this number seems to be on its way to 25,000 copies) cannot be
confidently projected.

For most independent presses, a sale of 5,000 copies can be a reasonable
proposition. This gap between 5,000 and 15,000 copies leaves us with a world
of potential titles that we can publish profitably. It also, in my opinion,
includes an increasing share of books that are worth publishing from any
point of view, no matter how elevated.

A negative definition of a niche, however, just identifies areas that an
independent press might want to avoid. A positive definition is needed to
identify opportunities especially suited to our capacities. A good positive
definition of a niche, I think, has two essential parts. The first part is
that there is a large enough (but not too large or the big publishers will
jump in) group of potential buyers with a strong, already established
interest in the topic of the book.

The “strong, already established interest” is crucial because…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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