Would you try to make a movie without watching some movies? Lots of them? Thousands?
Books have to accomplish much of what a blockbuster movie does. They have to capture the same audience.
Meanwhile, the big-budget movie maker has millions of dollars and a promotional budget, actors, special effects, sound effects, musical scores, etc. We have some carefully arranged lines and curves on paper. Best to make the most of them.
How? How do we prepare to do that? It’s vital to read books by other writers. Lots of them. Thousands. Worried you won’t have enough time to write? Don’t. Reading counts as writing time.
Get to know the recent award-winning and notable books, but don’t stop there. Make sure that a hearty part of your reading diet is composed of books published over time, especially during the past three-to-five years.
If you’re writing for a specific age group or about a specific theme, become well read within that age and subject category. You’ll get a first-hand feel that no how-to book can provide, a hard look at the “competition,” and a sense of what’s passé. You’ll be able to identify publisher lists that seem to fit your style and to rule out any that might already be featuring a too-similar book.
Don’t become easily discouraged if you notice a variety of books that tackle the same theme, especially if they don’t cover all age ranges. There is always room for excellent stories, so long as your twist, your breathing characters, and your voice keeps them fresh.