Friday, August 5, 2011

To Specialize or Not to Specialize

In marketing today, the catch word is “niche.” Practically every new business has to develop a niche market or it won’t survive in today’s tough economy. Niche marketing is all about targeting the right customers and for non-fiction writers in particular that means the right group of readers. Few magazines today publish general content. Most specialize in a particular subject area with its own group of dedicated readers. And to a non-fiction writer, like myself, targeting a group of readers means developing a specialty.

While some writers are generalists—writing about any subject for any market—the most successful ones specialize in writing about just one or two subjects.

So how do you develop a specialty? Begin by looking over the subjects you’ve written about already and see if you’ve written about some multiple times. If one subject stands out, perhaps, with some added subject and market research, you could develop it into a specialty. If none of the subjects you’ve previously written about stand out, consider you interests. Often specialties grow out of a writer’s special interests or hobbies.

Take my path for example. I began writing articles about traveling to various destinations because I like to do that. I wrote about all sorts of places, but go nowhere. Rejections piled up faster than I could write new articles. Eventually, after an eye-opening trip to Mexico, I began writing about that country. First a little, then more and more. Opportunities opened up for me to travel down to Mexico several times a year. By that time, I realized I liked writing about Mexico and discovered a wealth of topics to write about. So I began reading everything I could on the country while continuing to write about it. I explored lots of topics, from history to beaches to culture, food, and traditions. Soon over half the articles I was writing were on Mexico. I had developed a specialty.

One of my special interests is antiques. I love to collect things and to find out more about them, I began writing about them. At first, I wrote on antiques in my collection, then I started branching out to include ones I didn’t own. I found I especially liked writing about antique furniture. Eventually, writing about antiques and collectibles developed into a second specialty.

It takes as long as two years to fully develop a specialty. It’s not just a about gathering topics to write about, but also learning in depth about the subject and finding markets for your work.

The main advantage in specialization is the amount of knowledge you amass about a particular subject over time. The more you learn, the more opportunities will come your way as you become an expert on your chosen subject. And expertise is what you need to write books on your subject.

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