How to Break in as a New Author Today?
I had someone ask that question in a Facebook group I'm in, earlier today. Here was the advice I gave. It's not new advice. It's old, but still sound and solid. Check it out:
The steps haven't really changed. They're still the same as they were when Michael Anderle took off, a year and a half ago.
Step 1: Imagine a Venn diagram, with two circles. One circle is things that people like to read. The other circle is things you like to write. Where they overlap? Write that.
Step 2: When picking your genre, be prepared to write at LEAST six books in that specific sub-genre before moving on. If you move on that early - move to a closely related genre. For example, writing six space opera books and moving to military SF is fine. Moving from SO to epic fantasy is likely going to damage your brand and slow your growth. There are tons of exceptions to this, authors who have crossed genres and killed it anyway. They did that *in spite of* the cross genre work. You maximize your success by building a brand within a single type of book. Expand later, after you have a dozen or more books out.
Step 3: Write a great story that people want to read. To do this, you need a deep understanding of plot structure (or you need to get very lucky). Study structure and form. Understand the Hero's Journey. Read McKee and "Save the Cat" and Libbie Hawker and every other major type of plotting and structure tool. Study them, especially the renowned ones that have stood the test of time. YES, even if you are a "pantser"; in fact, it's even MORE crucial that pantsers grok plot and structure, since they're flying by the seat of their pants and need an intuitive understanding of those things.
Step 4: Get a great, GENRE SPECIFIC cover for the book. The one, primary thing every cover must do is tell any prospective reader precisely what sort of book this is. Ideally, it should look a lot like bestselling books in your sub-sub-sub-genre. You want a cover that tells the readers immediately what they are getting, with no questions or doubts.
Step 5: Publish. Then market. Your job as publisher is first to put out a top quality product (well edited however you make that happen, with a great cover and good blurb). Then it's to get eyes on that product. That's all the book is, once you upload it: it is a product that you must show to potential consumers to get them to buy it. Facebook ads, AMS ads, Twitter ads, Adsense, and anything else you can think of. Drive readers to that book page in enough numbers, with good enough targeting, and you will move copies.
Step 6: While you're marketing, be writing. Same genre. Same series. Get more books out. What I am seeing today is four books a year is the bare minimum to have a decent shot at financial/career success. Less than that and you're losing momentum too fast. The good news? Four books at 75k words each is only about 800 words per day. You can pound that out on lunch breaks, if you want this badly enough. If you don't want it badly enough, you won't do the work and it won't happen.
The question will usually come down to this one: how hungry are you?
The people who work the hardest are generally the ones who are succeeding the best. They're not always the best writers. Nor are they always the best marketers or publishers. But over time, the simple application of effort has a multiplicative impact on one's march toward success.