Get out of your box

Stuck in a writing rut? Follow these tips to find new markets for your work

We all have our special markets for our articles and photos. Yours may center on hunting, fishing or hiking publications. I focus on boating magazines. I write about cruising under sail, sailing regattas, boat designs, motor yachts, dinghies, rowing shells, canoes, and anything else that floats on water. I’ve written for all the major North American boating publications as well as those in Europe, Asia, and Australia-New Zealand. For years I did well, but I was stuck in a box.
So I got to thinking about developing new markets. But where? How could I use my boating skills to approach a different type of publication? I started by reflecting on the issues that boaters face. How to stow equipment and supplies when space is limited? How to secure items that may be tossed about when underway? What emergency equipment might be needed? How to navigate?

TIP ONE: Take your skill set out of the context of your existing markets and investigate where else your knowledge might apply.

I soon recognized that these same issues confront people who operate motor homes, campers, and RVs. So I went online to look for publications dedicated to these markets. Up popped RV Life, where coincidentally I knew the editor. After explaining the crossover parallels between cruising yachts and RVs in my query letter, the editor assigned me an article to write about exploring Idaho’s Panhandle by RV. The subsequent article, “Exploring Idaho’s Northern Exposure,” was well received and led to another piece, “Seeing London’s Olympics by RV.” Since RVs are essentially cruising yachts on wheels, the articles practically wrote themselves. (Both pieces were award winners in the OWAA and NOWA EIC contests.)

TIP TWO: Any outdoor pursuit involves travel, so write about the area’s unique food, drink and accommodations.

Another market opened when I reflected that when cruising afloat, I would frequently pull into marinas hungry for a good meal and bottle of wine. Since boat owners tend to be high net-wealth individuals, they typically seek out fine dining and good wines. Putting these ideas together, my wife, Risa Wyatt, and I have written about cruising to destinations that offer local foods, wines and beers in the San Juan Islands. The article appears in the September/October 2012 issue of BoatUS magazine. We’re currently working on a similar article about the island wineries in the Canadian Gulf Islands.

TIP THREE: Break out of the geography box, and apply your expertise to foreign markets.

During my early years as a freelance boating writer, I stuck mainly to events in the U.S. But soon I realized that I had confined myself to another box. American boaters face the same issues as sailors and yachtsmen all over the world. That’s when I began my international travels to cover nautical themes. After writing many years about regattas in the US, I covered similar races in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Antigua, and Europe. Having written about cruising destinations in the U.S., I wrote similar articles about Tahiti, Fiji, Australia, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden and elsewhere. My feature article about sailing in Palau in Micronesia appeared in the October 2012 issue of Yachting magazine.
Now I’m looking to identify other areas where I have unknowingly boxed myself in, and how to break out of these confinements as well. ◊
A member since 1994, Peter Schroeder currently serves on the OWAA Board of Directors. He is a freelance writer and photographer. Schroeder specializes in recreational boating, cruising under sail, scuba diving, snow skiing and worldwide adventure travel. Contact him at ptrschrdr@

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