Crosley, by Rusty McClure, David Stern & Michael A. Banks
The Holy Grail of Community

Booksquare on Phantom Markets

Books2The Booksquare blog comes through again with this great post on why some "can't-miss-hits" become big flops.  Blogger Kassia Krozser's example is a book for moms that she feels is better delivered as a blog than a book (more on that point in a moment).  Kassia goes on to distinguish niches from trends by saying "By way of example: moms arguably comprise a massive portion of the reading audience, while so-called “Mommy books” comprise a small portion of the book-buying audience."

Great point, and any publisher who tells you they've never fallen into this trap is lying!  I'll give you an example from the technology publishing world: Books on antivirus solutions.  Everyone knows they should be running antivirus software on their computer.  In fact, most do, but who really wants to go out and spend even $10 on a book telling you why/how to do it?  The unfortunate reality is that nobody cares about the subject of antivirus until their computer gets infected -- at that point, they're much more likely to look for immediate online/neighbor solutions than run out to a bookstore.

To Kassia's point, the audience of potential customers is huge but what percentage of those people are really going to buy a book on it?  (Full disclosure: My group recently co-published Simple Computer Security with CA.  The product includes a special version of the CA Internet Security Suite, all for $24.99; we figured we'd try a new angle with this market by basically distributing the software itself and wrapping a small book around it.  Only time will tell whether we really found a new approach or are still kidding ourselves.)

The question I've sometimes asked when new titles are pitched at an ed board meeting is, "do customers really want a book on this topic or would a nice magazine article suffice?"  As Kassia accurately alludes to, I need to get more in the habit of asking whether a blog, wiki or other online resource is the better delivery mechanism for this book's content, not just a magazine...

Comments

CindyK

Great post. We see this all the time: No one wants to buy a book on c-sections, or life insurance, or general travel tips. All good topics, but better magazine articles someone happens upon. Another interesting viewpoint on why some things become popular and others don't, and the impossibility of predicting what will be, has to do with the power of the masses, as covered in this NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/magazine/15wwlnidealab.t.html?ex=1178164800&en=dd4a5bd2d63b202e&ei=5070

Joe Wikert

Hi Cindy. Thanks for linking to that highly relevant NYT article. As I read it, I couldn't help thinking about one of the newer books I'm currently reading: The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I read one of his earlier books, Fooled by Randomness, last year and was immediately hooked. The guy is nothing short of brilliant and has some very compelling arguments.

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