Big Fish, Little Pond

“Go big or go home.” It’s a familiar phrase applicable in all kinds of situations. But it’s not necessarily true for nonfiction publishing. Go small might be the better option. Niche publishing can be the wiser path.


A niche market or niche category is a smaller subset of a market or book category. For example,Canadian history is a category. Within this category, one niche title could be about the history of Italians in Ontario. A niche book usually has a specific focus. It addresses needs or interests that are different from the larger market. A good niche is one where there is a substantial market demand for a book that solves a practical need. You don’t want the niche to be so specific that it’s only a handful of people (left-handed antique pen collectors).

Publishing Options
The Big Five (the major publishing houses in North America) may not want to see your book if they deem the market simply too small. But there are many niche publishers in Canada. Some publish books in specific categories such as travel, history, nature, business, issues/politics (the latter usually leaning left or right). One advantage with smaller publishers is that an author can often pitch them directly rather than through an agent. And, of course, self-publishing is an option.
If your book is of interest only to a few thousand people in Canada, that can be advantageous. When the size of your audience is smaller, it is also more specific, so your marketing can be more targeted. (International sales can make your niche more lucrative, depending on the topic.)

Less Competition
A smaller market = fewer competitors. But be aware that even with a niche book, there may be similar titles, so finding your unique point of difference is still necessary.

Target Market
Your book speaks to a particular market to solve a specific issue. We often think of markets determined by age, gender, income, education. But your market can be more about like-minded people— getting creative, beating anxiety, travelling on $5 a day, living off-grid — categories that don’t always correspond directly with age or gender.

Marketing Media – where you find your target market
“Fish where the fish are.” For instance, if your book is for Gen Z, you likely won’t use Facebook ads. On the other hand, Facebook may be an excellent option for reaching middle-aged moms or young seniors.

Marketing Message/Content marketing – what you say to your target market
You’ll speak to your target market in their language. You’ll use images and comparisons that your target market understands. You can use jargon or slang words if you’re marketing to peers.

Community Engagement
In a smaller market, you can engage more often and meaningfully with individuals. Engagement in social media, for example, is measured in likes, shares, and comments. When your content uses a community-building approach — giving information, introducing people, offering solutions — you are building a community interested in your book’s subject; not every post needs to mention your book.

Niche Marketing
If you don’t consider your book subject niche, you can still use niche marketing. For instance, McDonald’s wants “everyone” to be a customer— hardly niche. But instead of the impossible task of creating marketing that appeals to “everyone,” they break the market into the segments they want to reach. Each McDonald’s ad campaign (marketing effort) targets a different niche market; young K-pop fans, burger-eating bros, young families, seniors. As above, the marketing media and message choices suit the niche.

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