Golf (or maybe tennis) has the true myth of the sweet spot. That special part of the club (racket) that magically makes the ball go farther and straighter.
There’s a sweet spot in promotion and PR as well. Let me give you a few examples from the book world to get us started:
Peter Drucker was in the sweet spot for the Harvard Business Review. His background, reputation and style of writing contributed to him writing more pieces for them than anyone else. (My stuff, on the other hand, is blacklisted by the HBR. They won’t even consider my work.)
If you want to get reviewed by the New York Times Book Review, don’t even consider self-publishing. Don’t write a how to book. Don’t write something particularly funny, either. But it sure helps to be published by Knopf. Literary fiction by respected writers published by Knopf is the sweet spot (history comes in a close second).
There’s a sweet spot for getting on Oprah and for being on NPR as well.You rarely hear about romance novels on All Things Considered.
My point isn’t that you shouldn’t try to get these middlemen to broaden their horizons or to give up on something you’re passionate about. It’s just that it might be easier to build a new sweet spot than it is to persuade an established middleman to change his rules for you.
I never had a chance with existing magazines so I invented a writing style for myself that worked well with Fast Company, which until then had never had a columnist. Bloggers around the world are discovering that it’s cheaper and faster and more effective to build their own media channel than it is to waste time arguing with the old ones.
So I guess my advice would be to either build your product and network along the way to align with exactly what the middlemen want… or reject them and live/thrive without them. It’s the middle ground that’s really frustrating.