There are decisions that you as the author of a work can make that will improve your odds of getting that work published. (I'm not going to tell you it will get you published. Publishing is far too subjective. But here are some things you can think about when choosing which story to write next or when revising the story you're working on now.)
1) Think about who your reader is and make sure you appeal to them specifically. Start with your title. I chose to title this blog "How to improve your odds of getting published" because it appeals to the core readers of this blog--writers. It is meant to interest my current readers and draw in new readers who are looking for writing how-to articles. The title of your book/work should reflect your knowledge of what your genre is and who your reader is and what you know they are looking for. If you don't know who your reader is, stop everything. Do some research. How? Go to the library/bookstore/online forums. Look for books like yours. Where does your book fit in your genre? Which books/authors are most like your work or the work you are thinking about writing. Look at the titles. What do they say to the audience? Read their reader reviews. Listen in to book club discussions. Do a little digging and find out what readers are saying about books like yours.
Once you have a title and some knowledge of what readers of your type of book are looking for, take a hard look at your work.
2) Does the work follow reader expectations?
Reader expectations can be a fine line. A plot or story line must be fresh (not over done) and yet meet what the reader wants/expects from a book of this type.
How do you do this? First and foremost weed out cliches. How do you know it's a cliche? When a reader who does not read the genre knows what is coming next, then you've fallen into the realm of cliche. Example: if two guys who don't read romance know that that guy the heroine just attacked is going to turn out to be her new boss or coworker or love interest, then you've stepped into a cliche. If you can't identify a cliche on your own or you are uncertain, wrangle your own non-genre readers into looking at the work and ask them if they know what is going to happen next. If they do, then you need to change the work.
It is important to surprise your reader while giving them what they expect from the genre. Example: You can't have a romance where the dog and the hero die in the end. Romance readers will never read you again if you don't provide them with a happily-ever-after ending. It's what they read romance for. It's a fine line, I know, but being able to straddle it will improve you chances of getting published.
Let me repeat that: It is important to surprise your reader while giving them what they expect from the genre.
How do you do that? Know your genre. Know your reader. How do you do that? Read as much as possible and discuss with anyone who will talk to you about books (There are a lot of people out there.) Use trial and error and hard work. Trust me a few months investing in reading and discussing and research will vastly improve your chances of getting your book published.
Good luck! Next week- Part II