Discovering Your Secret Sauce by C. A. Newsome
There is a lot of advice geared to “writing to market.” In my opinion, that leaves you chasing both the cart and the horse with little likelihood to catch up. You might make a few dollars cloning “Twilight,” “Fifty Shades of Gray,” or Harry Potter, but you’ll have no sustainability after the market moves on and you’ll be back to square one because your backlist will not serve you
Better to find your own “secret sauce” and build your own audience.* To do this, you need to do what every breakthrough author has ever done: write what you love. You have to create a premise close to your heart, for four reasons:
- Your excitement about what you are writing will carry you through the frustrations that inevitably come with writing a book (and they always come!)
- You’ll know enough about this thing that your writing will be believable.
- Your love will shine through and engage readers.
- You won’t get so sick of the series by book 3 that you hate the idea of writing book 4 no matter how many readers are clamoring for it.
To be successful, you need to find a vehicle for all the things you want to say, one you can come back to year after year. How do you find that concept?
If you read five pages of “Fifty Shades of Gray” and thought, “any idiot can write that,” just stop. If you don’t love and respect a genre, you’ll never understand what pleased the people who made the author wealthy. Instead, take the authors and genre(s) you read the most and the books you read more than once.
If you are truly ready to write a book, you are an avid reader with a slightly jaundiced eye. While enjoying a book you’re also criticizing or admiring plot twists, the author’s skill, and the nature of the characters. You have random thoughts like, “Somebody should write about a woman who (Fill in the Blank)” and, “If I were a writer, I’d NEVER (Fill in the blank) to my readers.”
Make a list of things you think when you’re reading, all the things you’d like to see that you’re missing, all the things you hate and never want to see.
List your favorite authors. What do you love about their books? What makes you roll your eyes? Who have you quit reading and why did you stop?
Think about genre norms. Are there tropes you’d like to blow up, or at least violate? What elements of your genre keep you reading those books?
If you sort through these things you’ll find the elements of your own secret sauce. Focus especially on what you’d like to see in a book that you aren’t finding elsewhere. Pile on everything you gleaned from your lists. Hone this down to your idea of the perfect book.
“But what if nobody else likes it?” Seth Grahame-Smith found an audience for Jane Austen and zombies. If it pleases you, love it enough and it will please someone else.
* The advent of self-publishing makes this increasingly easier to do, as you don’t need to convince an agent, who has to convince an editor, that your book will sell. Instead you can market directly to readers. A quirky premise that won’t sustain the immense feeding chain of a publishing house can provide a nice living for a self-published author.
C. A. Newsome is the author of the Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries. Her newest book, Fur Boys is available for pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0727RFDK1/ . She lives in Cincinnati with a chow-mix street urchin named Shadda and a furry piranha named Gypsy Foo La Beenz. You can find her website at http://canewsome.com and her Facebook author page is https://www.facebook.com/AShotInTheBark/.