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The next time you’re in the mood for a café latté, head for your local Borders or Barnes and Noble and browse the magazine section. Notice how most of the magazines are designed to appeal to a narrow population base. That’s because publishers know their success comes from targeting a specific reading audience. As writers, we can profit from the same lesson. More and more specialized magazines are hitting the newsstand each year. And, as baby boomers reach the peak of their buying power, you’ll see even more niche publications being released.
Goodbye one-size-fits-all magazines. Hello “Golf for Women Equestriennes”!
What does this mean for you, the writer? Work. And lots of it.
In the book, 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Al Ries and Jack Trout describe 22 strategic models which govern success or failure in the marketplace. Rule #13, is called “The Law of Sacrifice”.
The Law of Sacrifice says you have to give up something in order to get something. In the real world, that translates to focusing on a specific market. For example, Victoria’s Secret specializes in sexy undergarments; Foot Locker on athletic shoes; and The Gap on upscale clothes for the young at heart.
So what does marketing ginseng or adventure travel have to do with your career as a writer? Everything.
Publishers have a product to sell, just like every other industry. They know the demographics of their target industry and they know the types of articles which will keep a loyal readership.
Editors want writers who understand the magazine’s market share-and who query with tightly focused ideas that fit the magazine’s particular niche. Corey Rudl of the Internet Marketing Center said, “Find a problem [understand your editor’s needs] and then offer a product or service [your article] to solve it… People will buy solutions to problems.”
For writers, Ries and Trout’s Law of Sacrifice means you can be a successful writer by marketing yourself (which is the name of the game), as someone who specializes in a niche market.
What If You Are a Generalist? Take heart. Although you may see yourself as a generalist, it’s likely you’re really a specialist-however instead of specializing in just one niche area, you may specialize in two, three or even more. During the ongoing writer’s debate about “to specialize or not to specialize”, I always took the generalist’s view because I like to write about a wide variety of subjects. Fortunately I realized that I can market myself as a specialist in more than one niche market. As far as my history clients know, I’m a history specialist. My collectibles markets think of me as a vintage collectible whiz. The genealogy editors who buy my work see me as a family tree expert. The people who buy my astronomy books and articles think of me as a science person.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
Do you wonder if niche writing and marketing is an effective way to build your income? Yes it is. In fact, some writers make a career in specialized markets.
Last year, my niche writing invoices (not including other jobs like newsletter writing, editing, and e-books) were:
If my Excel spreadsheet is correct, those markets alone earned $35K. This year my goal is to expand into two more niche markets (health and technology), and increase my income by at least 25%. And, that’s a goal I’m sure I can reach.
We’re writing in an era of specialization. Let’s take advantage of it.
Nancy Hendrickson has been a freelancer since 1987, with a list of clients that include Astronomy Magazine, eBay, LA Parent, San Diego Parent, History Magazine, Family Chronicle, Family Tree Magazine, Men’s Health, Collectors.com, Discovery.com, Today’s Collector, Business Life, and Smart Computing. She helps new writers get started in their dream careers through her Write Coach program.