Writer’s Niche—–Hidden in Plain Sight


All it took was a google search “finding your niche as a writer” to find a multitude of sites devoted to helping anyone find their place in the diverse world of writing. Two main themes emerged with encouragement either to write what you love or to focus on the markets.

Nick Osborn’s article, “3 Ways to Find Your Niche as a Writer,” stressed that writers must first know who they are and what they love. Then they can write in a niche that meets those needs. This seemed like a restating of the old suggestion to “write what you know.” Marika Flatt in Finding Your Niche Market, focused on marketing your work. She zeroed in on the business aspects and seemed to stress writing what consumers want rather than writing what you love.

Perhaps it’s the best of both worlds to love a certain topic that’s hot and will sell. But it seems writers who manage to get both are a rare and lucky breed. Three contemporary writers came to mind as I thought about niche writers I’ve enjoyed: Roger Welsch, Michael Perry and Jerry Apps. Two of them are retired college professors (Welsch and Apps), one a nurse (Perry), yet each took their passion (tractors and trucks) or their history (farms and small town living) and have turned them into a cottage industry.

Roger Welsch was a regular contributor on CBS’s Sunday Morning. His segment, “Postcards from Nebraska,” provided a humorous look at small town life. Roger’s hobby, restoring old Allis Chalmer tractors, was a frequent underlying theme in his commentary. His early books (Busted Tractors and Rusted Knuckles, and Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them) focused on tractor restoration and miscellaneous guy things.

Michael Perry who returned to his rural hometown after college and big city jobs, used his experiences as a local, volunteer fireman/EMT to fuel his book, Population 485. Following the small town theme, his next book, Truck: A Love Story, combined his continuing adjustments to rural living, the restoration of an old truck and his urge to get married.

Jerry Apps has built an empire founded on growing up on the farm. A retired UW Professor, Jerry’s many books could fill a library wing with witty and poignant stories of life on the farm. Country Wisdom: Timeless Values and Virtues From America’s Heartland and When Chores are Done are only two examples.

These writers each provide a slightly different perspective, but are equally adept at provoking a laugh or bringing the reader to tears in the gentle unwinding of their simple stories. Their uncanny ability, to jump with ease from the truly quirky, comic episode to a heartbreakingly, poignant incident, proves their talent.

Each could teach a class in the use of metaphor; their florid command of the language gives gears and bolts the pizzazz of precious jewels and bestows colorful, local characters with the majesty of epic heroes. What is most clear is how they love their subject matter.

The history of these prolific writers goes back to their younger days as they struggled with real life, writing what they knew best when they had the time. Little did they know this side line, this seemingly minor part of their day, would end up being the corner stone of their writing life.

The on-line advice, for writers to find their center and really know themselves, is exemplified by each of them. And that appears to be the lesson learned when searching for a writer’s niche. Niches appear in the most unlikely places and are often right in our own back yard. Giving this serious thought might provide a niche that already exists just over our shoulder. Writers simply need to look around with a new perspective.

So, I wonder what I want to accomplish as a writer and what niche interests me. The multi-million dollar book deal isn’t one of my goals. I’m satisfied with the excitement when my short, human interest piece is published in a newspaper or magazine.

Roger Welsch would encourage me to write about the intricacies and demands I’ve encountered in my long career as a social worker. Jerry Apps would appreciate my stories about memories of childhood and family relationships. Michael Perry would relate to my adjustments relocating from city to country. I think that’s enough to get me started.


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