Step One: Published Books Tell a Good Story
The first, and probably most important, thing you need is a great story. While some would say that all the great stories have been told, this is clearly not the case because new and different stories come out all the time. You need to have a story that is unique, filled with meaning and gives the reader the sense that this is unlike anything they have read before. It is really easy to write a generic story but this is a story that most likely won’t make it to the publisher. This is really the hard part. You need to really think of a premise and storyline that has not been thought of before. Such a story has a good chance of selling.
Step Two: Published Books Have Great Characters
The second thing you need is a protagonist that is believable and, while maybe not loveable, is someone that the reader wants to see succeeding. Successful characters as protagonists can be of any gender and of any age. It is your job to make the character as rich as possible so that the reader can step into the protagonist’s shoes, believe that the character is real and want the character to overcome whatever challenge he or she faces.
Step Three: Published Books Have Awesome Settings
Thirdly, you need to set your story in a place and time that in and of itself is interesting. Settings of stories can be characters, too, and have challenges and quirks all its own. Imagine setting your murder mystery in Akron, Ohio during the present time. Imagine, on the other hand, setting your murder mystery in 19th Century London during the time of Jack the Ripper. The intensity of the time and place make the story stand out even more and make the characters more interesting or unique. It’s basically a better story because people can get into the fascinating time and place.
Step Four: Published Books Often Have Unpredictable Plots
Fourth, you need a plot that strays from the predictable. Many writers, for example, can write the classic love story or the classic murder detective story. You need to take that kind of plot and turn it upside down. Put plot twists within the story or make something about the classic plot stray from the norm so that it surprises the reader and keeps the reader reading, not knowing exactly what is coming up next.You can also choose a plot that has not been written about before. Think of unique things that have happened in real life or do some deep thinking so that you create characters that go on a path that has not yet been traveled by any writer you know. Think of the best few books you have written and notice how they have plots that are new and refreshing. You can do something new and refreshing, too, and put it into a book that will grab the attention of the literary agent you send the query letter to.
Step Five: Published Books MUST Stand Out in a Crowd
Fifth, you must have some aspect of your book that grabs the attention of an agent who is willing to represent you. While you can always self-publish, books that really get read are those that come out of the great publishing houses. This means you must have an agent who sells your manuscript to a publisher. It all starts with a simple query letter that must say enough about your book to grab the agent’s attention. Whether it’s because you have a great setting, a plot that has never been done before or a character that sticks out and is endearing from the beginning, you must have elements in the book that immediately reveals your book for what it is: a timeless classic that tells a unique story to a widely read audience. Can you make money self-publishing? Yes, but unless you have deep pockets and unlimited amounts of time, your best bet is the traditional route.