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Vertical Writing: Where The Money Really Is!

Updated on March 20, 2011

Horizontal Markets Are Dead. Go Vertical And Profit!

The advent of the internet has marked the transition from an era of media broadcasting to one of extreme narrowcasting. While just 40 years ago you could discuss what was on the Ed Sullivan Show last night with almost anyone you met, today's massive successes are lucky to get 5% of the overall national audience.

The same phenomenon applies to writing, whether fiction or non-fiction. The days when a writer could successfully pitch a project that crossed demographic lines are long gone, unless your surname is Rowling or King. The successful writer these days is a penultimate specialist, an expert who has delved into one particular sub-genre or very narrowly defined field of endeavour and has mastered all of its most obscure aspects and minutiae. The horizontal market is forever out of reach. The real way to the ca$h is now the vertical market!

In order to hone your success as a writer in today's market you have to be a specialist. It's an unfortunate fact, but nonetheless true. The vast majority of the greatest writers in history have been generalists, but these days they'd be lucky to score a minimum wage copywriting job.

The explosion of knowledge and information has created a situation where even the most intense expert can only master a mere fragment of their field of enterprise. However, the writer may find that mastery of that tiny fraction of a field is more than enough to be able to earn a very reasonable living.

It is not sufficient to simply present yourself as, say, a virologist. You now have to be an expert in the finer points of major capsid protein architectures, and if you only specialize in VP5, that's better yet. This micro-specialization opens up a field of opportunities which is equivalent to the number of facets which you have now closed off to yourself.

In order to be a writing specialist, you naturally require some form of qualifications. It's not enough to just wake up one morning and decide to start tackling apoptosis in monoclonal IBDV gene-inserted Vero cell lines expressing VP5 proteins.

If you have some previous experience or degree in a field, then that is definitely your best start. If you have an overwhelming amount of common sense which dwarfs your educational qualifications that may very well be enough in some cases. There are ample writing opportunities where all the research has been completed and all you need to do is to reformat the abstractions into a coherent narrative. You certainly do need to know your VP5 from a VP2 in those cases, but you certainly aren't expected to hold a virology degree.

This rather obtuse virological metaphor can apply to almost any field of writing, from Linux Virtual Servers to the best way to keep a souffle from collapsing. In an overly specialized and narrowcast world, you will find your bank account much healthier if you are able to market yourself as a specialist in a specifically pre-defined field of enterprise than you will in pitching yourself as "I write stories, poetry and blogs."

We can weep and rend our garments for the days of great literature which touched the soul of a common humanity, and it still will do nothing to bring that back. The 21st century is a mercantile and mercenary age which is interested only in the minutest of details and has completely lost perspective on how those ever-evolving and proliferating parts fit into the whole. If you can't beat that trend, at least profit from it!


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