Publishing is changing almost on a daily basis...still you have to know the answer to this question whether you're talking to an agent, editor, or readers. So how do you begin? Here's how I start:
- Write. You have to write a chunk of a book or two or three before you know what your style is. What kind of characters do you write? Is there a tone to your writing? Are your stories light and funny? Heavy and serious? Single point of view or a story with multiple characters sharing the limelight? If you can't answer some of these questions, then you're going to have a hard time identifying where your books fit.
- Read voraciously. What kind of books are you drawn to? Who are the authors you constantly read the moment a new book is released? Review your bookshelves. Look for patterns. What made a book a keeper versus one you passed on? Etc. Do you want to write books with similar themes, time periods, etc.
- Analyze your favorite novels. There are probably elements in those novels that draw you back time and again. Read a few of them intentionally. What about the pacing works? What about the characters? Which genre are they in? These are the elements that you might want to pull into your novels. If you do, these books and authors are now comparables that you can give to an agent or editor to show that you know the market and you are aware where you books fit.
- Weave these elements into your books and be able to articulate the similarities and differences. If there's a best-seller, how are your books similar yet distinctive? Analyze and understand the differences and similarities and you'll be far ahead of most unpublished authors.