"As such, they become experts in a certain field, and publish to the market of that field," says Nathan. "For instance, an independent might say it is going to focus and produce everything it can about eating disorders or pregnancy."
This is a great advantage in today's world, Nathan says, where people focus on specialized publications.
One example is Catbird Press, a North Haven, Conn., independent that publishes about four books a year and specializes in Czech literature in translation, and American and British fiction. Another is Camino Books Inc. in Philadelphia; founder Edward Jutkowitz started his press in 1987 out of a love for reading, and publishes about eight books a year on traveling, cooking, history and biographies related to the mid-Atlantic region.
Other areas in which independents are making their mark include self-help, cooking, health, children and young adult books, gardening and parenting.
"Our niche is production of high-end technical books appealing to a broad audience," says Wulfinghoff, whose company is another example of an independent that's found a niche. The company has focused for 25 years on energy efficiency, and he says, "Major publishing houses can't offer that kind of time and devotion."
Crawford adds, however, that as a niche publisher, it is a challenge to acquire titles that outperform average titles. "I can't say independents always know what the best titles are. For us, it is based on experience and lessons learned from mistakes," he says. "We do know that [some] of our niche areas are stronger, such as photography and graphic design books, and we have been [planning] to focus on them."
Despite the overwhelming challenges, Nathan believes that independents are on the rise in the world of publishing for a couple reasons. For starters, she says, during the mid-'80s, computers became affordable, and more people who had only dreamt of writing a book began to do so. In addition, independents are meeting the demand of a world obsessed with specialization.