I was having an imaginary conversation with an aspiring self publisher who owns a pet store while I was out running this morning. She was bouncing ideas off me for both fiction and nonfiction books she was thinking about writing - I'm rubber. The conversation went something like this:
Adrian: "I really love dogs, I've been working with them for over 20 years, I go to all the shows and conventions. If I know one thing in this world, it's dogs. So I was thinking of writing a novel about an alcoholic vice cop whose daughter turns tricks to support her drug habit."
Morris: "Uh, does the cop have a dog? Does the daughter have a dog? Is there a crime in a pet shop? Do you have any experience with police work, or, uh, you know..."
Adrian: "Well, I read a lot of books and watch a lot of TV and there don't seem to be that many dogs in prominent roles. I want to give myself the best chance of success."
Morris: "If you really feel you have to start off with an action novel, I'd at least try to work some dogs and a pet shop into the plot, maybe even the title. It helps quite a bit with believability if you can write from experience."
Adrian: "Oh, if you mean I should write some how-to book about animals, I have been thinking of a book on raising possums for pets."
Morris: "Uh, is there a lot of demand for pet possums?"
Adrian: "Well, I did some research, and there aren't any competing books, so I should be really successful."
Morris: "That's not always a great sign in publishing, it could mean that there isn't much demand. Have you considered writing a book about, you know, dogs?"
Adrian: "Oh, there are thousands of books about dogs, I sell them in my store. How can I compete when it's all been done before? Every show I go to there are dog books for sale, dog breeding, dog feeding, dog psychology, dog humor, and most of them aren't any good! People are always asking me to suggest a book about choosing a puppy, but it's hard because I don't agree with the authors of the published books."
Morris: "That's usually a good sign in publishing, that there's a lot of demand. If you write a good book, even if there's direct competition in your niche, say, "Purchasing A Pet Shop Puppy", at least you know that there''s a market. If you write the better book and do a better job marketing, you'll do well."
Adrian: "But I could practically write that book in my sleep! What would that prove?"
Morris: "That you're a pretty smart self publisher."