Positioning one’s book in an already cluttered publishing arena is essential. Niching-down is another way of targeting a reader audience. Consider horror novels with all the sub genres: macabre, goth, post-apocalyptic, mystery, Victorian, etc. Authors and agents understand that before a manuscript is finished it needs to fit a market. Genre-defying books tend to be a challenge to position and are often avoided by major publishers. Is it a mystery or romance or high literature?
Cory Doctorow appears to either be a happy capitalist or a guerrilla marketeer by taking advantage of his online prominence (secure, soft market) and publishing leverage (200-copy give-aways are not cheap if one considers obscene postal rates) to penetrate a teen reader market.
“Since this book is intended for high-school-age kids, my publisher has agreed to send 200 advance review copies of the book to school newspaper reviewers, along with the same press-kit… (actually, the school kit has even more stuff — it also includes a signed personal letter explaining why I wrote this book and why I hope kids will read it).” (via Boing Boing) Link
Strategically this is a smart move—even for smaller, independent publishers. The best marketing device is the actual product. However, I wonder if offering a free downloadable preview—or entire book—would be more effective. Why bother with book reviewers? The actually end-user, the reader, is the one who will purchase the product—not the high school book reviewer.