It’s writer conference season. In July I’ll be at International Thriller Writers “Thrillerfest” for nearly a week of speakers, panels, and “Agentfest” with more than 60 agents to pitch. In May, I’ll be at the OWFI Conference in Oklahoma City speaking about my kindle-ization journey, and media training for authors. And tomorrow I travel to Norman, Oklahoma for the Society of Professional Journalists conference , speaking on Saturday about “niche marketing,” how to become an expert, and making a living as a freelance writer.
Holy crappiocca. Do they want the feel-good answer, or the truth? *eg*
I know a bunch of savvy “furry” writers follow this blog (~~waving!). How many of us started out saying, “I want to be a niche writer. I want to be an expert in a teensy narrow topic. I want to make a living making sh#$%^&….(ahem) stuff up.
Okay, I’ll cop to that last one. But the hope of making $$ at writing, working for myself, staying at home with the fur-kids, evolved out of self defense—I’m not a very good employee. They say confession is good for the soul, so Yes, it’s true! I’ve been fired more than once. At least twice was for telling the truth and not sucking up.
The dream of getting out from under the boss’s thumb is the big carrot tempting lots of us into turtle-ing along the writer’s path.
Niche writing and making a living at it is a contradiction in terms. By definition, a “niche” focuses on such a specific topic that the audience for that topic is limited. Therefore, a niche expert limits the market before the first word ever gets typed on the screen. If the other successful niche experts out there are like me, they’re accidental experts.
#1. Become a niche writer by having a passion for a particular subject. I happen to adore pets. And I happened to fall into working for veterinarians. Being bored in a small town left either channeling my inner wise-ass (an even narrower niche) or that old saw, “write what you know.”
#2. Become an “expert” by knowing how much you stand to learn, asking endless questions and (most important of all) WRITE GOOD. Period.
#3. Make $$ at the gig by good planning and/or getting lucky. Hey, it can happen!
I quit my last “real job” in 1992 . . . nope, wasn’t fired that time, it was a good job, great people to work with, and my spur of the moment unplanned choice. Took four years to get a fantastic agent who sold a bunch of books, which led to a killer spokesperson gig. None of it was planned, but one step connected to the next like Legos until the career-of-my dreams was built. However, each time I came near understanding this writer’s biz, and got comfortable in my niche, I got bit on the butt. Publishing changes the rules more often than I swap sparkly socks. And it sucks. Even puppies target used up footgear.
So now I’m tasked with being the expert on becoming an expert. Here’s #4 to becoming a success—BE A CHAMELEON. Learn to reinvent yourself.
I’m not the same writer, and it’s not the same biz of 25 years ago—and it’s changing on a daily basis. If I hadn’t changed, I’d be out of a job. Today I still have a boss. She makes me work harder and longer hours (and pays less!) than any previous employer I’ve had. She also knows anytime I goof off. My boss is a bitch.
But I love it. For the first time, I’m actually planning my career. I’m not taking one step and waiting on the whim of an agent or publisher to take the next. I get royalty income every month. And get to write what I know my audience wants to read and I want to produce. Including bloody-good fiction. I’m counting on y’all to tell me what you want to read—that’s what comments are for, right? *s*
I love the control. I know more than before, and accept that change will come and I’ll survive. I’ve got plenty of sparkly socks to mix and match. That’s why that whole Agentfest pitch thing has me torn—not sure I want to give up my newfound freedom and climb back on that hamster wheel.
Calling all chameleons…writers and readers, what would YOU do?
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