The publishing industry has begun to see the growth of more niche markets than ever before. Digital publishing has helped foster those niche markets, growing communities centered around specific niches, genres, sub-genres, and so on, creating success for those publishers who target niche markets. This will probably continue to happen long into the year of 2014, especially when the new publishing company of the future emerges from its cocoon.
As Mike Shatzkin has said, “A publisher that mines a niche can profit on something incredibly esoteric.”
Now that the gatekeepers of publishing are no longer the Big 6 (or Big 5, as is the case), publishers need to be innovative and forward-thinking in their marketing. Because the new gatekeepers are the readers. And the readers can be a fickle bunch. The ebook has brought in a wave of easy-to-get, easy-to-read content that readers gobble up like leftover turkey after the holidays. So publishers have to stay on top of trends when it comes to marketing. Not only to keep current readers engaged but also to create a community that brings in eager new readers, as well.
One way to target these niche markets is to market to what Porter Anderson calls “adjacent customers”—customers whose interests are closely related to your content. In doing so, publishers can engage these underground enthusiast communities, bringing in new readers and loyal customers, thus developing relationships with these new gatekeepers. Peter McCarthy, former VP of Marketing Innovation for Random House and VP of Penguin Group (USA) Online, offers examples of marketing to “non-book book audiences” and adjacent customers, as well.
McCarthy says that using “comps”—titles deemed comparable to other works or publications—can draw in a built-in audience with an established market already in place. McCarthy gives specific examples, citing phrases such as “will appeal to fans of John Grisham…” These comps appeal to audiences of more well-known published books or authors. But what about the adjacent customers? The non-book book audiences that McCarthy loves so much? There’s a niche market there, too.
“Fervent crowds which are very large, consist of readers (check Pew – most Americans read) and can be sliced and diced to target within the group,” says McCarthy, “without losing the key aspect of this comp’ing: the ability to hop on an existing wave that is far larger than the book could ever make on its own.”
What fervent crowds? Fans of Doctor Who, Sherlock, Star Wars, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones,—these are the kind of non-book comps that can become niche markets for publishers that continue to break new ground and adapt to change.
“Books are books but they are also containers of ideas, worlds, beliefs, philosophies, attitudes, world-views, etc.,” says McCarthy. “As such, they ‘comp’ to life. Busting them out of the ‘book’ pond and into the ocean used to be difficult, scary, and, really, undoable save for some ‘no brainers.’”