Last Friday at AuthorWise I heard Brandon Mull speak--fabled writer of the Fablehaven series and Candy Shop. I found it interesting that Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain turned down his first novel, but they liked his writing and encouraged him to submit again.
So he wrote Fablehaven (now a NY Times Bestseller).
Brandon said that he wished he'd asked himself the following 3 questions before writing his first book (hence the reason it's not published):
1. What audience am I trying to reach?
2. How do I let the audience know about my book?
3. Will my book fulfill their expectations?
You need one sentence that describes your book so that you can talk about it. Then you also need a paragraph description that describes your book. This is not just advice from an author, it's also essential when you are meeting face to face with an editor or agent. In fact, today, Jessica Faust of BookEnds Literary Agency is critiquing pitches on her blog.
Brandon Mull also said:
1. Pay attention to your life--get ideas from those around you (i.e. quirky characteristics)
2. Be an observer all the time
3. Be persistent
4. Get your book in front of the DECISION MAKER (a challenge for every writer)
5. Network if you know people who know people
6. Think about places that you have any claim or tie (His example was that he based his Candy Shop book on a real elementary school. When he went to the town to speak to the kids and sell books, he sold 500 books.)
7. Don't make the jump into full-time writing until you're making more than your day job.
8. Internet groups--make friends with the moderators and you'll get featured on their shout outs.
9. Capture emails by having a sign-up on your website for newsletters, etc.