Many moons ago, I took a class on writing for magazines. Even then, those in the know said nonfiction was the best way to make money as a writer. Our instructor was a tall, stern looking woman who reminded me of a lumberjack (she had a preference for large flannel shirts). She introduced herself to the class by telling us a story, her story. She relayed how she came to write nonfiction articles for magazines – her husband dropped dead, leaving her with five children to raise and support. Alone.
Even now as I think back on this, I don’t know how she did it. If that were to happen to me, I think I would sprint to my local Starbucks and beg my friend Carol for a job as opposed to diving into the uncertain, perilous waters of freelancing. I still think what she did took an incredible amount of blind courage. After we picked our jaws up off our desks, hand after hand shot into the air. “Tell us how!!” we chorused.
The first thing she told us, even before she taught us the mechanics of writing an article, was to think about niches. Not those cute little alcoves people clutter up with dried flower arrangements, but a place where you, me, other writers can call our own to write about consistently, knowledgeably, and prolifically.
Ah, the old niche question. It paralyzes me even now. It’s like when somebody asks me what my hobbies are. I go absolutely blank. Umm…I love to read. My husband would say my hobby is spending money we don’t have. So, reading and spending imaginary money – could I possibly turn either of those things into a marketable niche? Maybe.
Some niches are large and brimming with competition. Take parenting, for example, the most obvious (legitimate) niche for me. Every other blog I read is a parenting blog. Editors of parenting magazines and ezines are inundated. Being a parent is not enough – what sets you apart as a parent? Are you a Catholic parent? Minority parent? Single parent? Parent of a child with a chronic illness? Alien parent who married an Earthling and who is now enjoying the challenges of raising a half-Earthling, half-alien child? That niche might prompt a magazine editor to think, “Hmmm…we haven’t run an article about hybrid alien children in awhile…” and presto, the article is picked up.
If you haven’t had the good fortune to give birth to an alien baby, what other niches might there be? Back to hobbies. There are as many different hobbies out there as there are people. If you think you have a weird hobby – Google it and I’ll bet you’ll find you have company; there might even be a quarterly or monthly journal that highlights your weird hobby and who better to write for such a publication.
I don’t have a hobby but perhaps I could write about the search for one- and the misadventures that would certainly ensue.
In this increasingly competitive world that we live in, are, generalists are a thing of the past? It’s true in the workforce – my peers with Bachelors degrees have all gone back to get Masters degrees and more. WOW! Women on Writing’s latest newsletter focused on whether or not specialization is key to success – I think the answer is yes. As the newsletter says, it doesn’t have to be just one specialty – if you have more than one, write about it! For more on this topic, check out this month’s newsletter at www.wow-womenonwriting.com
I’m still not sure about my niche. Is it too late for me to have an alien baby?