Friday, June 11, 2010

Those Niche Markets ~ by Agent Terry Burns

I (Millie Samuelson) have heard very little about niche markets since I started looking for a publisher nearly ten years ago. So when I read this recent Hartline Literary Agency blog by agent (and author) Terry Burns, I immediately started checking out some small presses for myself and my agent, Diana Flegal (also with Hartline).

Next I thought about sharing some of my reseach with you, the readers of this blog. But then I thought, why not ask Terry to share his comments here instead.

And here he is, Terry Burns sharing about niche markets with far more insights than I'll ever have, and far more concisely, too.

It was nice to have a group of clients all at one place and time at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park. I was able to get with all of them, but scheduling was such that I couldn’t put together a little meeting with all at once. I would have liked that, and had a great cabin it could have been done in. Maybe next time. Still, there was some strategizing, some sharing of information, and good times to just get to know one another better.

I do want to get all my clients pubbed. I know the odds say that I won’t, but I’m trying. It was interesting when the editors sat down on the “Future of Publishing” panel that they remarked how the midlist was disappearing, and it was becoming either big or little. The larger publishers not wanting to address any niche markets, and the small independents making a living identifying and serving the niche markets the bigs don’t want to do. Over the past year or so, I have taken some of my clients into these niche markets and have even gone that way with my own books.

I am still more interested in having major titles with major publishers, but I am not afraid to use the niche markets to try and get authors started. A larger publisher bringing out a book and not getting some significant five figure sales can hurt on trying to sell more books. An independent publisher set up to go into a market of modest four figures sales, and the author does so and does so with a solid number looks more attractive to another publisher than someone who maybe sold more books but where the expectation was higher. In other words, quickly selling out a print run of 2000 copies might be more impressive than selling 5,000 copies when the expectations were much higher than that.

All of the start-ups and small independents are serving some modest but very viable markets. The "Future of Publishing" panel saw that as an emerging trend and one that would be increasingly important. They also pointed out how quickly things can change in publishing these days, and these smaller organizations can identify changes and turn on a dime, whereas the larger ones need time to work change in the organization. They felt authors can benefit from the changing nature of publishing if they were abreast of the changes and could turn on a dime as well, maybe even a nickel.

Some of the new technologies are gaining a following, but again, the smaller organizations are better positioned to identify and utilize them, and again authors and agents are better positioned to identify and embrace such technologies. Larger organizations have the resources to make more effective use of a new technology once it is established, but the smaller ones will lead the way.

It's a brave new world in publishing.
Terry Burns, Agent and Author


  1. THANKS, Terry! You've shared excellent information with us about niche markets! And I'm already searching for some to consider submitting to. . . :-)

  2. Thank you for sharing this information with us, Terry.

  3. Thank you, just my take on the subject. I'm sure others see it differently.

  4. Thank you, Terry! Would you share an example of a niche market publisher?

  5. There are hundreds of them such as the one that just printed the first of my new collection of short subjects "On the Road Home," Port Yonder Press.

  6. Lisa, I plan to post some more niche markets in my July HI post from my research (if I don't forget :-). Thanks, Terry, for the Port Yonder Press tip, and for mentioning your new book. I'm going to look up both right now. . . :-)

  7. Millie: I look forward to reading the results of your niche market research. I feel I may need to go that route, too.

    This was a most helpful post. Thank you both!