Your Writing Niche: Does it Mix Well with Whiskey (and Chocolate)?

I made sure to close the drapes so the neighbors couldn’t see

Update: here’s the published piece: Whiskey and Chocolate: Collaborators, Colleagues,Comrades

Many freelance writers have written compellingly of how finding a writing niche—SEO, senior health care, inbound lead-generation for hiking sock companies—can provoke a steady stream of assignments and income. There are some persuasions: you understand your clients—and their audience—more clearly, your facility with the language and arguments of the narrow discipline becomes sharper and sharper, and as a specialist, you can often charge specialty fees.

I’ve mentioned this before, that because my brain has lobes that tingle over the oddest variety of subjects, I’ve never been inclined towards a niche or a specialty. In the past couple of months, I’ve written pieces about viral marketing techniques, Hawaii, rock and roll, house-sitting, the vulnerability of fictional characters, and issues facing independent contractors.

Thus, niche-less I am. But, that’s not to say I don’t have some distinct interests. One of them is spirits, meaning booze, hootch, firewater, grog—you know, the sauce. I enjoy looking at it in bottles, and out of bottles. I perk up to its piquant aromas. I like the mad-scientist aspect of mixing it with today’s wealth of natural infusions, bitters and botanicals that supply tang and lift to cocktails.

I even like to drink the stuff.

High-proof Publications

It took me a while (probably because of that drinking) to realize that there’s an audience for those interests, even for those subhumans that think Jaegermeister is something to drink, rather than a wood refinisher. So, in the last couple of years, I’ve sent out my share of queries to various publications on various intoxicant ideas, and I’ve published pieces in magazines like Whisky Life and Spirits (now defunct), Draft, and Wine Enthusiast.

One of the most recent tippling magazines I’ve worked with is Whiskey Wash, which is bathed in all things whiskey. After I wrote a few country-specific whiskey histories for them, they invited me to work up my own queries, one of which resulted in a fascinating interview with a professional “nose,” who works with distillers to refine their products in very exacting ways.

But my latest assignment was sweet. Literally. They accepted my pitch for what high-end chocolates might pair best with three kinds of whiskey (straight whiskey, bourbon and rye). So this past Friday night my pal-so-gal Alice and I nibbled, sipped, and nibbled and sipped again. My, was it fun. For hours, I forgot that our president-elect is a misognynist, racist, First-Amendment-mocking orange gasbag.

Pitch Until They Itch

Useless political commentary aside, my point in this is that some freelancers aren’t comfortable, or not interested in establishing a niche for their work. Some might take years of generalized commercial writing to find a niche, which they then lovingly settle into. And some, like me, might write about a whirling world of things, but might also find a way to take their special interests into their writing.

Oh, not to make it sound TOO easy: I’ve sent lots and lots of queries to lots of magazines on a crazy range of spirits pitches. The bulk have been turned down, but that’s freelancing. Enough have been accepted to keep me pitching anew, as any freelancer should do as a matter of course.

Oh, and I’ve tasted some interesting booze too. I’m not sure when the chocolate & sauce article will run, because I haven’t written it yet. That’s for the next day or so. But it will be up on Whiskey Wash soon, and there’s even some chocolate and whiskey left over.

And they pay me for this. Goodness.

[Oh, and a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kraazy Kwanzaa and Freaky Festivus to all!]

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7 thoughts on “Your Writing Niche: Does it Mix Well with Whiskey (and Chocolate)?

  1. This is definitely your niche. But you also have another niche, the glory of the Airstream.

    I’ve been waiting some time for your Airstream bourbon article. What gives?

    Lateral arabesque: a new local pub, Helio Basin Brewing, has a special dessert, ice cream/beer pairings. Those who can have all that dairy have said it’s marvelous, interesting, delightful. I used to put good vanilla ice cream in a glass of Xingu black beer.

  2. Ah, the things one can get paid for.

    I hear there are a coupla chaps and lassies who work for Disney, whose well-paid career it be to sally forth and–not to mince words–spy on rival theme parks.

    As for me, I’d rather savor whiskey with you and Joel, because there’s no waiting in lines.

    Agree on keeping variety in one’s writing. Specializing in *part* of one’s writing career sounds rewarding. Specializing in *all* of it smacks of dull routine.

    Unless one writes about airplanes. ;}

  3. Joel, would making an Airstream into a whiskey still do the trick? I will need a clever welder…

    Though I loved root beer floats as a kid, my first visceral thought about ice cream and beer was “no.” Though I could see it in something stout like a Guinness. Or I could just see it in a bowl now, and drink the beer on the weekend.

  4. Rick, I would have gladly been one of those theme park spies in my younger days, but I think some of those new “have your brain removed from the forces of gravity and whirl it at blender speeds” rides wouldn’t work for me today.

    Airplanes, yes. I do think that you need to put together some kind of monograph on a theme like “How the Spitfire Saved Civilization (and Scared the Bejeezus Out of Me)” and put it together with vintage, royalty-free images and print it and sell it on Philadelphia street corners. I’m sure some reporter will write about you, before the therapists arrive.

  5. Actually Tom, I *never* would have taken that Theme Park Spy job, because I don’t do roller coasters. Except Space Mountain at Disney World, because on that one, in all its hill-hiding darkness, you can’t see where you’re going.

    Yet I’d happily fly in a Spitfire; the Mark IX they’ve fitted with a back seat, where the humongous WWII-era radio used to be. Heck, I’d even have a go at flying a Spitfire myself, even though my pilot skills are rudimentary. That game would be worth the (flaming) candle to me.

    What’s the diff? Control. If roller coasters had little red buttons that I could push to stop the bloody things, I’d happily ride them, and probably never push said buttons. It’s just the fact of red buttons (not to mention Red Buttons) not being there at all that leaves me freaked out even when merely gazing up at coasters, in all their non-Euclidean, uber-Escherian madness.

    And yes, yes, I must write such a tome! Wait … I feel the title coming on …

    “The Splendid Triangle: How Spitfires, Hurricanes and Scotch Whiskey Saved Human Civilization.”

    Talk about a niche!

  6. Rick, yes, I’ve had some historically dramatic non-digestibles results from some amusement park rides, much to the chagrin of my nearby comrades, who had no towels.

    It’s clear from your musings that there should be a Spitfire ride at an amusement park, leaving the controls to the rider, after signing all the non-liability papers. (Might be quite a Darwin-Award result though.)

    Fine idea on the book title. I will help with chapter headings.

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