Publishing as a niche business – Part II

Part I of Publishing as a niche business looked at the notion of niche businesses and the challenges facing all players – from writers to readers – in the world of publishing. Today’s post continues with a series of questions. Here’s a repeat of a diagram from yesterday’s post.

Publishing - a niche business

Questions to consider

  • Perhaps one question is whether publishers are adjusting their strategies to tackle challenges of profitability and lack of consumer data in an effective fashion?
  • Another question, how should authors adjust their strategies to take advantage of niche publishers? It seems to me that publishers have buffered themselves from authors – except their own stable of authors – and consumers; the one through agents, the other through retailers. Could cooperation strategies link authors and publishers in a more symbiotic relationship through well defined niches? Can authors capture their own consumer data?

Which publishers operate successful niche strategies? Harlequin comes to mind as a publisher with presence in the mind of consumers.  Hay House concentrates on self-help and inspirational books, Osprey’s focus is military history books, Chelsea Green’s focus is the politics and practice of sustainable living. I’m sure there are many more examples. With such specific focus come strategic alliances, marketing strategies, author support, distribution arrangements, conference participation and other tactics that are different from broadly based publishers like Hachette or Random House.

To add to the list of questions:

  • Are these niche players more sustainably profitable than the famed ‘Big 6′ players in publishing?
  • If you write content in the markets they serve, can you develop a different kind of relationship with these niche players?
  • How will or should the roles of literary agents change?
  • Will sites like Goodreads and Amazon change the way reviews are submitted, adding some level of scrutiny to avoid drivel and abusive behaviour?

Just to leave you with one further thought – the adjacent diagram occurred in a post about reader-writer relationships.

Here’s the question: how should publishers insert themselves into the interconnectivity mix in order to add distinct value?

I’m sure I’ve missed many other insights and of course asked more questions than answered. Perhaps these two posts will spark some dialogue.

10 Facts about WWI Trenches

In two of my novels, I created scenes set in WWI trenches. To make them as realistic as possible I needed to understand trench layouts and the nomenclature involved. I found a few diagrams on various sites and in one of my non-fiction books.

(1) There are front line trenches and support trenches as well as interconnecting alleyways – called communications trenches.

(2) Artillery is in behind, firing over the heads of their troops.

(3) All trench lines zigzagged in part to prevent explosions from rippling sideways – and hence wounding or killing more soldiers – for more than a short distance.

Trench layout 1

The second diagram (source: Vimy Ridge 1917, Osprey Publishing) sets out the concept of a platoon attack against its objectives.

(4) Troops are deployed in waves. Note the planned 1st Wave and 2nd Wave troop deployment.

(5) riflemen and bombers in front (1st line),

(6) rifle bombers and Lewis gunners in behind (2nd line)

(7) and finally moppers up (3rd line) charged with the responsibility of guarding the entrances to dugouts and communications trenches.

Source: Vimy Ridge 1917, Osprey Publishing
Source: Vimy Ridge 1917, Osprey Publishing

A third photo – also taken from Vimy Ridge 1917, Osprey Publishing – is an artist’s depiction of a German trench. It would have been critical in battles like Vimy Ridge for attacking troops to know something of the layout of German trenches.

German trench

Apparently German trenches were often better established than British and French ones and had more reinforcing structure.

(8) Troops sheltered in the deep dugout, the entrance of which we can see at the top right, during preliminary bombardment. Months of rain often left trenches waterlogged.

(9) Two men on the ledge operate a Maxim gun; one man firing the other feeding ammunition. They stand on what’s called the fire step. Two other men carry boxes of ammunition to resupply the machine gun which is capable of firing 500 rounds per minute.

(10) The dead man was likely in charge of sighting the Maxim gun, a task requiring him to look over the parapet.

Perhaps more than you wanted to know about trenches!