You guys know that I’m all about working from anywhere in the world, doing something you love. As full-time cruisers, it’s important to be able to create a way to make an income while not being tied to a desk or requiring consistent, reliable wifi, etc.
That’s why writing — whether it’s writing for a magazine or self-publishing your own book on Amazon — can be such a big win for us. I know several sailors who make a sustainable income just off their writing, and they don’t write just for sailing magazines, either.
That’s why I’m super excited to introduce this guest post by fellow sailor and author, Michael Robertson, who has some great tips on writing for niche-market magazines. He’s the managing editor of Good Old Boat Magazine, and he just finished an awesome book called Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines (and other niche mags), so he knows what he’s talking about. Be sure to read through to the end to have a chance to win a copy of his book!
Take it away, Michael!
Have you ever stopped to think that all we writers have to sell are ordinary words that are free of charge and available to anyone? Our challenge is to choose wisely from among these ordinary words and to string them together in a unique order that results in a story that’s compelling to readers. It’s like a game, a puzzle—and not an easy one. Like any game, there are other players (lots of them) choosing from the same finite word pile, each trying to spin a yarn more compelling than yours. In this environment, it can be hard to get anyone to read your writing, let alone buy it. Fortunately, there is a marketplace where selling your writing is not only possible, but where there is a very straightforward path to publication.
You probably subscribe to one. Maybe it’s a camping, climbing, or cat magazine? Maybe a knitting, kiting, or kayaking magazine? A gambling, golfing, or gardening magazine? Parenting, papyrus-making, or parachuting magazine? Boating, flying, hot-rodding, R/C modeling, sailing, surfing, skiing, or photo-taking magazine? There’s a magazine for everyone with a niche hobby or interest. And if you’re a writer just starting out, eager to get your first byline and your first check in the mail, these magazines are your market. Let me give you the top five reasons why this is true.
But first, I want to assure you of something: Your success will not hinge on how many editors are your Facebook friends, or even how talented a writer you are. Your success will depend only on how much you want it, whether you’re willing to learn and put in the work to make it happen. Because selling your writing to niche-market magazines isn’t sleight of hand or divine intervention or even the inspiration you’ve been waiting to strike, it’s work. You can sell your writing to any of these niche-market magazines, as long as…
- You are an enthusiast and can identify a magazine that caters to your special interest.
- You like to write and you are willing to take seriously the craft of writing and the business of selling writing.
That is it. You can do it. I am convinced everyone has a publishable story to write, and I know the niche market magazines are hungry for content. I wrote a book detailing the concrete steps I take to sell my writing and that have been used by others to sell their writing.
Top 5 Reasons Niche-Market Magazines are Your Market
1. Great news: Freelance writers produce a high percentage of the content in niche-market magazines. This is because these magazines’ budgets and staffs are smaller than those of mainstream magazines. It is more cost-efficient for them to buy stories from freelance writers than to hire staff writers. This is a market that favors the freelance writer. You are a freelance writer. That you are a freelance writer getting started means you are a freelance writer with a fresh voice. Use it.
2. The nature of many niche-market magazines is that they cover interests that are common to a small percentage of the population. Accordingly, this population is interested in learning about other members and how they are exploring the same interest. In other words, readers of People magazine are not interested in other readers of People magazine and do not want to read articles written by other readers of People magazine. However, readers of Model Railroader are keen to read the words of a fellow model train enthusiast, just as a reader of Yachting Monthly will give great attention to a sailing yarn spun by a fellow sailor. The New Yorker, The Atlantic, People, and Popular Science might not need you, but the niche-market magazines do need you. You, aspiring niche-market magazine writer, have it good. You have a market, an avenue to selling your writing.
3. Any niche-market magazine you can think of is a non-fiction publication. Non-fiction pays. Far more writers are able to make a living writing non-fiction than are able to do so writing fiction. It may not be fair, but it’s the way it is. Of course, writing non-fiction doesn’t mean ignoring or shutting down your creative impulses. On the contrary. The best non-fiction writing is compelling and uses the same structure and devices to grab and keep a reader’s attention as found in good fiction. So let your creative flag fly and grab some editor’s attention!
4. Niche-market magazines in general comprise a stable, healthy market to which to sell your writing. Because niche-market magazine content is focused, the audience is narrow — in some cases very narrow — and passionate. This is a readership that advertisers love and are willing to pay a premium to reach. Contrast this market to that of the mass-market, general-interest pubs available at supermarket checkouts. The broad-appeal magazines enjoy much larger circulations, but those circulations are generally in decline. They are increasingly under threat from other media sources that feature the same broad-appeal content. What’s a magazine going to tell you about the East Coast train derailment or the celebrity break-up that you haven’t already seen reported online — and that you’ve read for free? The mass-market magazines do not have advertisers who will stick with them through thick and thin; Ford and Folgers can advertise anywhere. However, the company that manufactures the tiny trees and lampposts that model railroaders love, they are loyal to Model Railroader magazine.
5. Finally, writing for magazines within a single niche means you gain name recognition quickly within your market. It means your story ideas are likely to feed off and build on one another. It means your knowledge of the subject matter builds on itself. Writer Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen (theadventurouswriter.com) has sold stories to both mass-market and niche-market magazines. She focuses on the health sector and makes a good case for the focused approach. “The more you write about one particular niche or beat, the easier it is to research and write the article. For instance, I write health articles for Women’s magazine (published by the BC Women’s Hospital). Every article I write teaches me more about medicine, medical terms, and health news, which makes me a better health writer. It’s an upward spiral!”
Michael Robertson is the managing editor of Good Old Boat magazine and the author of Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines (and Other Niche Mags) (2016, Force Four Publications). He lives and travels with his family aboard a sailboat and is co-author of Voyaging with Kids: A guide to family life afloat (2015, L&L Pardey Publications). He writes regularly for half-a-dozen niche-market magazines and blogs at www.logofdelviento.blogspot.com.