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Bonus Material: Niche vs. Trade Publishing, Which Has a Brighter Future?

By Edward Nawotka

In our lead article, Greg Albers, publisher of Hol Art Books, explains his business model, which involves “team publishing.” The company focuses on publishing books about art: from criticism and history, to fiction and poetry. “Writing about art isn’t a widely recognized or exploited niche,” acknowledged Albers.

In an interview in 2008 with blogger Eoin Purcell, Albers said his inspiration to start the company came from Mike Shatzkin of the Idea Logical Company, after Albers heard him give a talk at BookExpo America entitled “The End of General Trade Publishing Houses.”

“Part of his argument is that we’re moving from a product centric to an audience centric world, and by being a niche publisher I can serve my audience much better than a general trade publisher would be able to. We can achieve completeness in our category and this will be key to our success. Specific to our model, completeness lets us build a cohesive community of participants; and it means that no matter what specific books the teams choose to publish, we can market and distribute them through the same channels as every book from every other team. In fact if anything, I foresee a time when we’re no longer niche enough and need to spin off a couple different further-specialized publishers within the art field…So I guess it’s not that our model is destined to remain in specialist publishing, it’s that all publishing is destined to become specialist.”

The question is: Does the current state of publishing favor niche publishers who can cater to a small, well-defined audience of readers? Are traditional trade publishers simply trying to please too many people too much of the time? Are there some niches that are simply too small to ever be sustainable?

Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter via hashtag #ppbonus.

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