I've always had a fondness for castles, so I've been very interested in following the career of Lise Hull, who makes them the focus of her writing and has a website dedicated to British castles. She's done very well at taking a popular niche topic and making it her own, publishing several books. She's gotten so well known, in fact, that publishers now come to her. As she tells it:
"I began writing as a way to share my passion for castles and for Wales. My initial foray into the publishing world came with a column I suggested for Ninnau, the North American Welsh Newspaper, titled 'Wales, Off the Beaten Track', in which I featured lesser-known castles and other sites I had visited along with my personal photos. From there, I decided to expand my writing into a career and began studying what was involved in becoming a freelancer, how to search for markets to sell my stuff to, and how to do a proper query letter.I also took some online courses to educate myself on this process.In addition to selling articles to various publications, I became a staff writer for Renaissance Magazine and the Wales Correspondent for Museums Journal, through which I made numerous contacts in the museums and heritage fields in Wales and England. I looked for publications that fit with my interests and expertise, and queried them. In time, I had gained enough experience and visibility to take tentative steps into the book publishing world. Not only did I make successful proposals to publishers but I also received requests from publishers to write books for them, and I was able to publish my dream books as a result.
For me, the key has been to seek out publishers who have gaps in their lists that I can fill with the type of writing I want to do, on castles and other subjects. These are not necessarily the biggest and most renowned publishers, but those whose interests mesh with mine. Thus far, I have not felt the need to use an agent to sell my work. I have also established a network of colleagues, both in the castles and heritage fields and in the writing profession. I have been given tips on which publishers to pitch to and have been able to open doors for colleagues as well.
There is no one, best way to get your foot in the door. It takes a lot of work, persistence, and research. I am happy to say that the process has proved interesting, rewarding, and enjoyable (most of the time). Along the way, I have been fortunate to meet some of my "idols" in the castle studies and British heritage fields, and have made some fine friends in the world of writing."