A writer can build his or her career writing strictly in one genre. This, of course, doesn’t mean you have to make a career out of a genre in order to write in it. However, if you choose to develop your writing career in a particular genre, you may want to find a few different models within your chosen genre. Not to follow, per se, but to gain an understanding of the traditional career path within your genre.
Think of one or two big names in your genre and do a little research to figure out how they became big names. You don’t have to become an expert in their careers, but you should take a look at the works they’ve produced and how long it took them to become a “big name.” You just might be surprised at what you discover.
Most writers will never be “big names.” That’s okay. Find a few—three to five—mid-list authors whose work you enjoy, and research their careers. What have they done to get where they are? Again, you might be surprised.
Find one or two newly published authors. These writers should have one or two books out in your genre, and preferably none or only one in other genres. How did they get where they are now? Where does it look like they’ll be five years from now?
When considering your career, think about what you’ve learned. You don’t have to follow any of these paths you’ve discovered, but you can use their successes and failures to inform and improve your own journey.
One thing to keep in mind is that the publishing world is undergoing a tremendous shift. So, what worked when your “big name” authors were just starting out may or may not work now, and it might not work for you at all. You might not even be looking to be a “big name.” There’s nothing wrong with mid-listers. A lot of mid-listers are great writers who produce profound and inspiring works. Nothing wrong with that at all!