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The reason is pretty obvious, if you think of your own experience as a consumer. Certainly, many of us shop at discount department and variety stores, never knowing what kinds of bargains we might find at these places. But where do we go when we need something specific, or of high quality? The department store may or may not have a particular book we want to read, but chances are excellent that a bookstore will have it. The variety store may carry tools, but a hardware store will more likely carry exactly what we need for that fix-it project. In health matters, we go to general practitioners for routine check ups, but prefer to have specialists treat any serious conditions. Moreover, we're often willing to pay top dollar for expertise and reliable reputation that specialist, or specialty store, provides.
The same holds true for people in need of a writer. The celebrity seeks an experienced ghostwriter for her tell-all autobiography, one with a track record of completing entire books and getting them published, while political candidate needs a seasoned speech writer. Software companies want writers skilled at putting together user-friendly technical documents, while advertising agencies look for samples of creative copy. These writing styles differ as greatly from one another as, say, a watercolor from an oil painting, or reggae from a symphony-and our potential markets and customers know it. So although we might be fully capable of switching gears from one form or writing to another, few people are going to gamble on us if there is a tried-and-true specialist out there for hire.
So yes, I am advocating that one of first things you do if you want to start a profitable writing business or career is decide what kind(s) of writing you will specialize in offering. Start out with as narrow a scope as possible-keep in mind mechanic who works solely on Mercedes transmissions-and become very best at whatever type of writing it is that you've chosen. Once you have established yourself in one area, you can always diversify into others.
At very least, you'll be able to write that book: "How I Made Millions as a (Fill in Blank) Writer!"
Mary Anne Hahn is the editor of WriteSuccess, a free biweekly ezine of ideas, information and inspiration for people who want to pursue successful full-time writing careers. To subscribe, send mailto: email@example.com