All my life until a few years ago, I was simply a reader. A consumer. Growing up, books were a daily and vital part of my life. I always had a book with me, whether in bed, at the school table, when I went out, and yes even in the toilet (that’s a great time to read!). Dad had to make rules about when we could read at the table. Left to our own my mother, myself, and my three siblings would ALL have our noses stuck in a book, eating around a silent dinner table. Dad instituted the dreaded “10 minutes of conversation” and required us all to put down our books and talk to each other for at least 10 minutes at every meal. Mom was constantly chasing me around, taking away my books so I’d do homework. She’d check on me after lights out to make sure I wasn’t staying up late reading. I got crafty at hearing her coming and hiding my book, but being a Mom, she always found it. Most parents had to force their kids to read. My parents had to force me NOT to read.
These past few years, however, I’ve gotten to learn about and experience the other side of the fence: writing. It’s been fascinating, discouraging, exciting, disenchanting, and an absolute joy all at once. The way I think about stories and reading have been permanently changed. I can no longer JUST read a book. I’m always judging, evaluating, making notes and considering what’s going on behind the scenes in the writer’s head. It’s a mark of a good book that can make me forget all that and get lost in the story.
But it’s not just a new way to look at stories. My head is swimming with the nuts and bolts of story creation, marketing, and publishing: cover art marketing principles; types of editors (there are at least 3); print on demand mechanics; social media strategies; principles of SEO; Amazon publishing rules. These are just a sliver of the library of information I’ve been building in my head through internet research, craft books, events, and picking other authors’ heads for advice. I’m an artist at heart, and the creation of the story is what keeps me writing. But to make a living, I also have to be business savvy and know about things like LLCs, taxes for small businesses, long-term business strategy, copyright laws, the world publishing market, and more.
Things have changed so much in the past twenty to thirty years, from when traditional publishing was the only viable route and the author did little beyond shutting themselves up and churning out the next best-seller. Yet I think our world is better for it. There are more opportunities for authors to achieve their dreams as small business owners, and more great stories for readers to read (though there’s more to wade through to find the good stuff).
Having a foot in both worlds, I have some food for thought for each side:
For Readers: knowing more about the book publishing world and meeting so many authors has greatly expanded the pool of books I read. Don’t restrict yourself to your local Library (though go there too), also set up accounts on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, and Audible (I love audiobooks so much! A fantastic option for a busy person). I’m also a huge fan of Half Price Books where you can discover new and amazing stories, and take them home for just a few dollars. Most importantly, support your favorite authors and support good writing. If you read a book you like, tell other people about it. Put a review on Amazon. Go see your favorite authors at conventions and events. There is so much more to stories than just the pages, and those pages are somebody’s life. Don’t be a passive consumer, be an active member of the reading community. Your life will be richer for it.
For Writers: do not underestimate the power of the internet. 90% of everything I’ve learned over the past three years I found by reading stuff online. Use google search, sign up for newsletters, watch webinars (free ones! everything you need is somewhere online, free), and bookmark everything useful so you can find it again and share it with your fellow authors! Second: don’t be a loner. The writing community is a COMMUNITY, and your journey as an author will be so much more fulfilling and successful if you make friends with, support, and seek advice from other authors. These two things are essential, and will get you everything you need to be a successful author, as long as you put in the work, stay focused, and be persistent. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to write ;).
I still have a lifelong journey ahead of me experiencing both sides of this fence, and I look forward to the many stories I will enjoy, the things I will learn, and the ways in which books and publishing will evolve. Who knows, maybe in fifty years they’ll be selling 3d virtual reality books where you can step into the story as you read. The most important thing is: never stop reading or learning. It’s important for your health, for society, and for history.
What do you all think? What are some of your best experiences as a reader or writer? What advice might you have for the other side of the fence? Please comment and share, thank you!
Next week I’ll be posting a bunch of useful links for readers and writers, so stay tuned! In the meantime, enjoy some shots of Gizmo, my writing “helper.”