Hi! My name is Humphrey. I’m a cat. I’m also a writer. You probably already know that. But what you may not know is that one of my goals is to specialize.
Why specialize, you may ask? Maybe it’s because I like to sleep a lot (on my back!) and specializing on one topic cuts down on the time I have to spend researching new topics, so it leaves me more time for naps. Maybe it’s because I’ve discovered that editors I’ve never worked with before perk up their ears when they hear I specialize, so I land a contract much faster than ever. Maybe it’s because when my target audience buys one of my books, they see my other books I’ve written on the same topic, so they buy them, too. This gives me more cash to buy tuna. That’s a definite reason. (I love tuna!)
When I first made it my goal to specialize, I chose a topic I was really interested in and wasn’t already flooded by kitten’s books in the market. Then I spent about three months writing an outline covering my topic from A-Z. I made sure to list at least one source on my outline for each item I plugged into it.
A Personal Reference Library
Then I visited local university libraries and browsed through their reference section. Hey, I figured if they thought those books about my topic were important enough not to let other cats borrow them, then I should find out what they were! I wrote down the titles of the ones I liked the best, went home and bought the ones I found for cheap on Amazon.
One thing I’m careful about, however, is contract negations. I don’t ever sell all rights to a manuscript I write about my topic. And I hold lengthy discussions with each publisher before I sign a competing manuscript clause on the contract. We word that clause so that I can continue to write manuscripts that COMPLIMENT my article or book, just not directly COMPETE. This gives me the freedom to keep on writing about my topic.
Build and Grow
That was about eight years ago. Each time I landed a book contract since then, I spent at least $100 to add books to my personal reference library and plugged in all the basic information to my big, general outline. My outline is over 200 pages by now, but with all that information floating around in my walnut-sized brain and getting lost between the memories of tuna and catnaps, with just one quick search on my computer, I can find just the kitty treat I need by checking in on my outline.
Now that I learned how to specialize, I have a new goal: Write a Magnum Opus. I’ve picked a huge, over-the-top project that will take me years to write. Sure, I’m not “qualified” to write it. Sure, the manuscript may never get published. Sure it’s way over my head. An impossible dream. But it’s fun! It gives me purpose as a writer. It gives me a sense of worth that I’ll leave my mark on cat history. What’s my Magnum Opus about, you ask? The topic I specialize in, of course! That way I can keep working on my Magnum Opus while I’m writing current manuscripts. It’s my goal.
-contributed by Humphrey, Nancy’s writing buddy