We’ve established over recent articles that the thing that attracts readers — including editors looking for stories to publish— is theme. It's what makes your book stand out as a three-dimensional piece rather than a flat 'Then this happened, then this happened...' narrative.
We’ve also established that ‘sellability’ in terms of a book consists largely of writing a masterful book which draws on the heritage of successful fiction and your own heart, and then finding the audience for it.
This boils down to writing a book jam-packed with thematic elements drawn from your innermost imagination, which utilises the techniques of master authors to attract readers, then placing that book in front of the people most likely to buy it.
Another way of putting that might be
‘Servicing readers' existing need for thematic elements while building up a knowledge of the marketplace and opening up routes for your public to find your work.’
It sounds simple written out as a single sentence like that, but of course actually doing it is more complex. One of the first steps is analysing where your own work might be in relation to that strategy.
You can be a seasoned writer with an established opus, or you can just be starting out and still in the process of creating your work. Either way, identifying and understanding the game you are playing is a crucial component of any effort towards success.
So let's break it down in relation to your work.
Does your work have strong enough thematic elements to service the needs of your readers?
Do you have enough knowledge of your marketplace? (Note: not the entire marketplace, just YOUR marketplace.)
Do you have routes that lead your readers (not just any readers) to your work?
After you’ve been around for long enough to have a few successes and failures of your own, you’re going to want to take things up a notch. This is where a SWOT analysis comes into play.
Taken from the field of business, a SWOT analysis is useful for making improvements and keeping your career on the right track. It’s a strategy used by many businesses for measuring and evaluating their overall performance, and that of competitors, in an objective manner.
SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
In business, all of these components are reviewed and assessed for a company — but we can adapt this approach for you as a writer in the context of the above strategy.
Strengths and weaknesses involve internal factors such as your thematic content, style, structure, as well as reputation, routines, market placement and intellectual property.
It’s within your own control to adapt or change them (which can happen for the better or the worse).
Opportunities and threats are related to external influences such as market trends, other writers and hard factors like finances. Unfortunately these are not always within your control, and you may not be able to change them. You can, however, work with these factors to your advantage, and also adapt your approach accordingly in order to compete with others in the field.
A SWOT analysis can be a fairly lengthy process. It’s used for making big decisions, as when, in this case, you’re looking to make writing your full-time career, or wondering whether or not to grow into a new field or rebrand yourself. It can help you draw conclusions by enabling you to see the bigger picture clearly, and then formulate a plan accordingly.
In the next couple of articles, we’ll go through the stages of how to do a SWOT analysis as a writer, reviewing both your own work and that of writers in your field. You’ll need to be honest with yourself as we progress through these steps:
Analysing your strengths as a writer
Analysing your weaknesses
Analysing your opportunities
Analysing any threats
Drawing conclusions and making plans