Lately I've been trading email with Daniel Read of Developer.*. Our conversation has given me some great insights into the working of a 'Boutique Publisher (see Walmart and the Publisher for more details' He's given me permission to excerpt some of our conversation here. I hope you enjoy these snatches of conversation.
Who are you writing for and how does this affect your marketing?
Daniel: Certainly the same person who is looking for a good Java reference might also really enjoy our book Software Conflict 2.0, but it's more difficult for us to catch that person at the right moment. This hypothetical programmer/reader spends a great deal of time in a state where it's important have a good Java reference at hand, but a much smaller amount of time during which he or she is in a more contemplative state, ready to invest time in something that's not obviously applicable to today's programming tasks, ready to be challenged, seeking to be surprised, to learn something unexpected.
Not only do we as publisher have this "smaller slice of the day" challenge with our target readers, but we also have to contend with the fact that a huge percentage of our *potential* readers are not tuned in at all. Partly this is because a large number of software professionals, in their entire careers, simply never seek out reading material beyond straight how-to/reference that's directly applicable to their jobs.
Also, however, I think many people will not start seeking out "general interest" books like The Mythical Man-Month, Peopleware, or The Parnas Papers until later in their careers. When I was a younger programmer, I was intensely interested in learning everything there was to learn about the new tools coming out (and I still keep up with this kind of reading a good deal), but over time my interests expanded, especially as I realized that the technical stuff is often the easy part.
So our challenge is to find the readers who have already developed an appetite for a diversity of reading material, and to entice a few of the pure-technical readers to make a little time for a different kind of book.