Stick To the Topic
For my last few entries, I've been writing about some of the insight for writers (and bloggers) from Blog Schmog by Robert W. Bly. One of the challenges for every writer is to learn to stick to your topic. Because blogs are everywhere, it's easy to write about something completely off the topic. For example in these entries, I could include some personal story about a difficulty with my car or another personal subject with no connection to writing or publishing. I'm not going to do that because when I do, I've instantly moved away from my topic. Much of the blogosphere becomes a mish mash and readers quickly lose interest.
The type of blog which Bly calls "The Best of the Breed: Topic Blogs." He says, "The pleasure of reading a topic blog is to become engaged with the mind of an individual who shares your interest, and from whom you can possibly learn. It also provides a forum for stimulation discussion on topics you are passionate about. The other advantage of a topic blog is they are more focused. As a rule, the more narrowly you define your topic, the more thoroughly, authoritatively, and effectively you can write about it. By that logic, a blog on customer service is good but if you are a concierge or hotel manager, a blog on customer service in the hotel industry will deliver more value to you. The ability to focus a blog on a niche topic is one of the advantages blogging has over other media, in particular books. A traditional book publisher will publish a book on customer service, because the size of the market of people interested in customer service will make it more likely they can sell the many thousands of copies needed to make publishing the book a profitable venture. What traditional publishers can't do very tell is publish topic books geared toward smaller vertical niches, like customer service for concierges. Reason: the number of concierges is relatively small, so the book will not sell enough copies to justify publication."
This same type of focus about blogs and sticking to the topic is an important discussion for selecting your book topic. I've often rejected book ideas and seen them rejected in the publication board meetings of publishing houses--because they are too narrowly focused. To use Bob Bly's example above, they've written an entire book proposal targeted to hotel concierges. Or maybe they propose a solution for a rare disease through more of a homeopathic cure yet the universe of people with this illness is too small to merit a full-length book. Or the publisher looks at the proposal and decides they have no idea how to reach that particular audience through their established sales channels. The result for the author is the same. They receive a form rejection letter from the publisher and troop off to try another publisher without a clue why it was rejected. As an editor, it's not my responsibility (and time is always the issue) to pass on this insight from the publication board.
Why? Because the next publisher where you send the proposal might be the right one with the right vision which matches your target audience. The world is full of surprises and each of us in publishing have our own stories about the "big one" that we rejected as not right for us. Just remember to stick to the topic.