I know all of you will be writing for pleasure, but I guess many of you will be wanting to sell – you may even be hoping that you can make a decent salary out of your writing. A question you will need to ask yourself, if that is the case: ‘What makes you and your book stand out from the crowd?’

I have been working with a thriller writer who’s done very well selling his self-published e-books, so much so that an agent has sought him out and signed him up. His first book was a medical thriller – and swiftly became a bestseller of that sub-category on Amazon. His second book is still perfectly competent, but it contains much less of the medical techy stuff that made his work stand out. He was looking to up his game, but I felt it was important that he didn’t change it. His ‘pharma dramas’, as I call them, are his USP. Were he to join the general melee that is the thriller-writer rat race, he’d be just another set of scrabbling claws.

So what quality marks you out, I wonder? I’ve just read Nora Roberts’ The Witness. I was impressed with how she’d managed to pull off an engaging hybrid – a mixture of the nestle-up-with-a-box-of-chocs love story and pacy gangster thriller. Of course plenty of thrillers contain a love story – but it wasn’t just that: the tone that underpinned the whole was one of honeyed comfort. I hadn’t read anything quite like it before – there was nothing particularly new in the story, but there was something fresh and appealing in the hybrid.

Agents are longing for authors who can create a niche for themselves, especially if they can offer a series of books that readers can get glued to. If you’re wanting that annual salary, then plan ahead and think smart.