‘There’s a gap in the market’

This is the number one motivation my clients tell me they’ll give a publisher when pitching for a new book contract. As if publishers, with all their experience, don’t know the market, and this never-before-been-published person really is the expert.

[Fact is, this might well be true. I don’t necessarily believe publishers are market experts. They only know what sold in the past. And they apply expert intuition (Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Blink’) to predicting the future. But if the future is very different to the past, and if future markets will be different to those of the past, then what they need to apply is ‘strategic intuition‘, as described in the brilliant and methodically-researched and -told book of that name. But that’s a whole different blog!]

Fish paste.

There is a gap in the market for sardine-flavoured toothpaste. Think about it: everybody makes mint toothpaste. The market for that must be saturated. Fish, on the other hand, is an extremely popular flavour, and one indulged at breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Think salmon bagel or kippers and eggs for breakfast. Tuna mayo sandwiches for lunch. Hake and chips for dinner. All extremely popular Everyman meals.

And of course the fish is the symbol of freedom, swimming in the world’s oceans. It could be seen as symbol of purity, of all that is natural and good.

So surely there’s a gap in the market for fish-flavoured toothpaste, no?

No. I don’t see it happening. But every day wanna-be authors use similar logic to the publishers they’re trying to impress. My advice: when you’re pitching your idea to an agent or publisher, pitch it in terms of what works, rather than the unknown. Liken it to something that has sold well. Or quote stats from other media that prove that this is an existing market that simply has not yet been saturated with books.

So, for example, you might want to highlight the strong market move to organic, local, artisanal. These are proven. Pitch your hand-reared, home-made, organic mint toothpaste.

And if you do want the fish. Do it for the sheer joy of it, rather than as a money-making venture. Produce it yourself. Do it because you’re passionate about it. And just a little odd.

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