By Mary Jo Hazard
Peacocks have lived on the Palos Verdes Peninsula since 1924, but no one ever wrote a book about them until I did in 2010. Since then, The Peacocks of Palos Verdes has sold over 4,000 copies — identify a niche market and you can do it too! Read on for my road map on how it worked for me.
FIND YOUR NICHE:
Twelve years ago, my four-year-old grandson was fascinated with the peafowl that roamed the canyons and neighborhoods of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. We’d go on peacock adventures, and he had one question after another: “Why?” What? Why?” We went to the library for answers, but it wasn’t much help. There were no books about the birds.
The children’s librarian said she often got requests for books about our notorious birds, but there weren’t any. There were a few non-fictionbooks about peacocks, and some picture books, but nothing specifically about the local birds.
Carpe diem! A niche market, I could write that book!
GET TO WORK:
I researched peacocks online, spoke with the Vanderlips — the original owners of the first peacocks on the hill — interviewed people who lived in peacock territory, questioned city officials about the pros and cons of peacocks, and took an online class at UCLA about writing for children. Two years passed.
I joined a writing group at the library and wrote a verse about peafowl behavior. I hired a local photographer to illustrate the book with pictures of the birds in neighborhoods where they lived.
Another year passed.
AFTER THE BOOK LAUNCH:
Although I was passionate about my book, The Peacocks of Palos Verdes exceeded my expectations. When the book launched in March 2010, the local newspapers covered it, the library and I co-hosted a party, preschools and elementary schools invited me to read in their classrooms, and several of them used the book as a fundraiser. The library and various local businesses, including a small mom and pop drug store, a retreat center, a botanical garden, and an interpretive center, ordered copies. I was interviewed by local television stations, FOX news, and NPR.
Believe it or not, the peacocks do most of my marketing. Remember the Oscar Wilde quote, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”? The peacocks are always getting themselves in trouble — they screech and leave large droppings on lawns; they perch on roofs and lift up tiles. When the birds upset enough people, the media hears about it and comes to me for explanations and quotes. I’m happy to oblige; it costs me nothing and the sales of my book go up up up.
STEP IN UP A NOTCH:
Don’t be shy, put yourself out there. I suggested to the local newspaper editor that I write articles educating people on ways to live happily ever after with peacocks. She loved the idea. It wasn’t long until I parlayed the peacock articles into stories about different subjects. This spring, the editor asked me to write a weekly column, PV Neighbors.
SIT BACK AND ENJOY:
Eight years later, The Peacocks of Palos Verdes still flies off the shelves. It continues to enjoy a niche market in Palos Verdes — the only non-fiction children’s book about the local peacocks — and it sells on Amazon to people all across the country.
Look around your community; what makes it special? What do people take for granted? Identify something that’s been hiding in plain sight and you can rock a niche market too!
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Mary Jo Hazard is a Marriage Family Therapist, author, and columnist for the Palos Verdes Peninsula News (PV Neighbors). She has written three children’s books, The Peacocks of Palos Verdes (2010), Palo’s World (2011), P is for Palos Verdes (2014), as well as Stillwater, a coming of age novel (forthcoming, Mascot Books, 2019). She’s a popular presenter in the South Bay area elementary schools. You can find her online at http://www.maryjohazard.com/.
Images provided by Mary Jo Hazard