Ever seen a grown woman squeal with delight when she learned her new public library has a summer program for adults? I can assure you that the librarians at my public library have.
I thought I’d make a plug for public libraries, given that it’s the summer, and there is nothing finer than sitting on the beach and reading a great book (under an umbrella for those who are sun-shy, of course). I make this plug not only because libraries support authors – like ourselves – and promote reading to people of all ages, but also because they are essential to an author’s success.
I always cringe when I hear writers say they have no time for reading. As writers, it is essential that we read! Even if you only read books in the genre in which you write, there is so much to learn. To start, they reflect the trends of your intended audience. Remember that year-long teenage vampire craze? Authors who jumped on the vampire train often found themselves published, because teenagers couldn’t get enough. Perhaps it’s the opposite - maybe you’re someone who wants to be completely original. By reading books in your genre, you know what major trends to avoid.
Books in “your” genre serve as much-needed comparison titles. Use them when pitching your books to literary agents or publishers. I’ve attended two writers’ conferences, and agents often asked for titles which are like my own. Comparison titles help agents get a sense of your book, but they are also evidence that you immerse yourself in the literary world.
Reading books helps you better craft your own writing – either through inspiration or by finding mistakes you want to avoid. I’m always interested to find which point of view an author chose to use, or to explore the unique settings they create. The quality of their writing inspires me to move forward with my own. By contrast, there are times, say, where I don’t connect well with a character. I use those experiences to figure out why and avoid those same mistakes in my work.
Although we naturally gravitate towards our favorite genre, I do suggest branching out. I’m the first to admit my initial reluctance to pick up anything that’s not YA, but I’ve read enough incredible books to take chances on other genres as well.
If it’s been a while since you’ve read a book, why not mosey over to your local library? We work hard to perfect our own writing, but we shouldn’t neglect the writing of others. What better place to find those treasures than the public library? And if you’re lucky, they might have an adult summer reading program. Six more books and a Chick-fil-A ice cream cone is mine.
Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here.