Become the Most-Popular Writer in Your Niche — Don’t Make this Mistake
How to grow to the top of your niche while avoiding this common pitfall
Most of us want to be at the top of our respective niches. If you’re a commercial writer you’d probably do anything to get your work before millions of people.
We want our work to be as productive as possible — gaining attention and growing our audience with every word.
However, most of us get after it the hard way.
We choose popular genres, topics, niches, and trends. We chase the ‘top tens’ — like a dog to the ice cream truck. Social media doesn’t help the hamster wheel either. We see the fan numbers grow and want a piece of the action too.
All the scoring is baked into to system. The likes, follows, subs, and thumbs are all designed to give us a little dopamine squirt each time the bell dings. We see the top of the mountain and think ‘why not me?”
But the chasing mentality is just that — following the success of another.
Instead, we’ll take a different path. We’ll make our own luck. We won’t chase anymore. We’ll become the tollbooth instead of the toll-feeder. If a reader wants content like ours she must come to us to get it. The work won’t be available anywhere else.
Whether you’re an author or a freelancer, a blogger or an article spinner — it’s time to fly your flag.
What the hell am I talking about?
I recently learned this new spin a niche-work from a professional comedian named Gary Gulman. He spoke in length about the way he crafted his jokes (bits). He never wrote a joke with a predictable punchline — the easy way is the wrong way.
If the audience could guess a comedian’s punchline, Gulman said that comedian was finished.
As Gary dug deeper into craft-talk, he explained the importance of building your own genre. This was a huge eye-opener for me. I’ve read about (and tried to practice) niche marketing for years, but he framed this idea in a new way.
Gulman spoke of how he avoided the popular news topics many of his peers clung-to. He said if we follow the trend of the popular media our work get lost in the pile. There are many news outlets with bigger budgets and larger audiences, covering the same material.
Gary went on to say if he comes up with his own niche he becomes the go-to person for that material. There’s no one else to offer it.
It’s much easier to get to the top of the mountain if you’re the only person climbing it.
Why compete with everyone else?
The bookshelves are stuffed. The archives are full. The search engines are running on fumes and hope. There’s so much content serving the popular niches, it’s a gladiator battle just to fight for the half-eaten rat at the bottom of the food pile.
Become your own niche instead.
When you compete with everyone you’ve got to be better than great. You must be perfect. And someone, more perfect than you, will eventually unseat you from the throne.
When you’re an island of one you don’t have the competition problem.
Sure, you’ve got to write great content people want to read — and we must continue to hone our craft — but you don’t have to destroy yourself with ‘treadmill’ work, just to be noticed above the noise.
You don’t have to tweak much to be an island of one
We need to get specific. Focus on every word. Gary Gulman said if he was the only comic telling airport jokes and suddenly everyone told airport jokes, he’d drop his jokes and evolve to something new.
All writers have much to learn from great comedians. They focus on every word — every syllable.
The more specific the better.
Great comedians dig deep into a subject to find the one golden bit no one would think of. There’s no bottom to specificity, especially when it comes to the human condition.
As writers, we can always explore our genre from a new angle — so specific, we become our own niche.
There’s this worry amongst creative people that once our ‘thing’ is copied, a creative piece of us has been stolen. Instead, this moment is our chance to create a new toll booth.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have — Maya Angelou
Once we get to the top of our tollbooth mountain ‘they’ will notice.
The bottom-feeders and copycats will swarm and circle. We’ll dump our version of the airport joke that got us to the top. We move, tweak, and dig into our writing on our way to the next mountain.
The path to creative success isn’t a one-time deal.
We get swarmed.
We dump the ‘airport joke.’
We climb again.
This metamorphosis is the creative cycle of continuous reinvention.
There’s no sitting still. We either keep growing or start dying. I get it. Sounds harsh. Life is harsh. There are 10,000 hungry writers lined-up behind your shoulder to grab your reader’s attention.
Think about the hungry writers next time you get lazy with your work.
I get lazy. You get lazy. We all get lazy sometimes.
All artists steal from each other. We steal. We combine. We Frankenstein something new, hoist it on our backs, and start up the next mountain. We get to the top. Our work gets copied. We get more specific and try again.
Motivation is powerful
I think it’s important to use the popular and the mighty as motivators. But these folks should only be used as such — rah-rah office poster material.
We look to these top people for inspiration, not emulation.
We borrow the systems and processes from these folks and apply their methods to our work — not their work itself. These people are already taken. There’s only one creative person we can be — ourselves.
I know this sounds like a bad ‘get well soon’ card, but it’s true. When we want to be like our heroes when we grow up our creative work isn’t ‘well.’ It’s stifled.
It’s time to stand up.
It’s time to dig our niche so deep anyone who copies our work will look like a cheap knock-off. When they come at us with our ‘airport jokes’ and pass them off as their own, we jump to the other foot, reach in our pockets, and pull out the next version of our lives.
I’ve had a really well-known celebrity in my niche rip-off my writing idea and podcast it to millions of his listeners with zero credit given. Sure, I was pissed for thirty seconds, but the incident gave me fuel.
I knew if someone at the top copied me there was plenty of room to climb my own mountain.
I’ve had a very hard time working my way along my creative path — but I’m getting there. As writers, there’s a long delay between the creation and the consumption.
But I keep writing every day.
I hope you will too.
We need you to dig your niche so deep it’ll take them years to realize you’re worth copying. Then it will be too late. Once they start telling your ‘airport jokes’ you’ll be so far up the next peak they won’t know what hit ‘em.
We’re waiting for you.