“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that,” Stephen King wrote in his memoir, On Writing.
When I hear from aspiring authors they don’t have time to read, I think about Stephen King’s observation. The likelihood of publication plummets when a writer doesn’t read. It IS that simple.
As a developmental editor my responsibility is to tell it like it is. I am not a cheerleader or psychotherapist. I am not going to tell you what you want to hear. I am going to tell you want you need to hear if your goal is publication. Writers NEED to read.
When I hear a writer tell me she doesn’t have time to read, I know the writing will reflect that fact.
If you don’t read, how do you know someone hasn’t already written your book? How do you know how to write a book if you don’t study them? Can you tell the difference between a good book and a great one?
Study them as works of literary art.
Study them as products in the marketplace.
Study them from a reader’s perspective.
If you want to publish a book, consider reading your job. You need to read widely in your genre and deeply in your subject. Study the writing craft found in the classics in the subgenre. Observe the conventions specific to this subgenre. Notice what expectations readers bring to books of this kind. Keep up with current releases and become aware of trends in publishing.
If you want to publish a book, you need to prepare a book proposal which includes a comparative title analysis. This requires you read the most recent bestselling books that the readers of your book would be reading today. Your ability to identify the market competition depends on avid reading.
Reading is not optional. Reading is the first step toward writing. You can’t be a writer and not read.
And aspiring authors need to think about leveraging their reading practice into an audience platform. When you read a book, write about it. Write a review on GoodReads, LibraryJournal, Amazon, and your blog. Let the author know you’ve read the book and posted a review.
If you want to be an author, be a reader first.
What’s on your summer reading list?
Six or seven years ago my advice to aspiring authors of nonfiction books was to build an audience platform by blogging. An example of how critical blogging could be to securing a publishing contract can be found in the case of Ann Marie Ackermann, author of Death of an Assassin: The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee. After an initial assessment of her manuscript, I had recommended she start a historical true-crime blog, and she did. In fact, the editor of the ideal book series at Kent State University Press became a fan ofRead more…