After I was contracted, several people—including my senior editor and my agent—mentioned that one reason I was so "sellable" to the publishing committee was because I had a definite brand and niche in the marketplace.

I know many authors hate to brand themselves or lock themselves into a certain genre or type of writing, but because it's becoming so difficult to get a contract these days, it's definitely something to think about. Several writers have been published in multiple genres quite successfully, but unfortunately, they are very few and far between.

To maximize a writer's chances of presenting a manuscript that will be accepted to a pub board, they have to think about branding. The pub board doesn't care as much about the writing--after all, that's why the manuscript has gone through the editors, to ensure the writing is strong. The pub board cares about if they can sell this book to booksellers, if they can make any money off of the print runs.

If a writer has a strong brand and niche in the marketplace, that goes a long way with the pub board--with the VP of Sales, the VP of Marketing, etc.

I had a strong brand--it was unusual because no one else had published Asian contemporary women's fiction in the CBA yet. It wasn't so unusual that it wouldn't be marketable, but it was different enough to make it stand out. I also had a marketing platform with my blog, which I'd been doing for several years and which had a modest readership.

My publishers offered me a contract because they could develop me as an author with my particular brand. It was marketable.

So look at what's being published and try to find a brand that will be both marketable and make you stand out.