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Read Widely, It’s Vital to Your Career

You cannot have a successful career in publishing unless you read widely. It’s critical to success as a publishing professional and an author.

When I suggest you read widely I don’t mean reading books you hate, but I do mean reading books beyond what you represent. A picture book editor can not only be reading picture books and a romance agent can not only read romance. The same holds true of authors.

Read Widely for Publishing Professionals

As a publishing professional you can never know where your career will take you. When I started as an editorial assistant I was working for two editors. One primarily worked on romance and women’s fiction and the other worked on mystery and romance. I can’t say I was all that knowledgeable in either, but I leaned. I also learned a lot about the other genres Berkley published– upmarket fiction, nonfiction, thrillers, suspense, science fiction. etc

After Berkley I went on to work at a nonfiction publisher and from there I formed BookEnds where I represent business books, upmarket fiction, and a lot of other genres I wasn’t able to work on in my previous jobs.

If I had narrowed my reading to only one thing, let’s say romance, I would have narrowed my career. It’s a lot harder to move on to another genre if you aren’t even reading it. That’s not just for career growth, it’s for longevity.

Most everyone in this business has pivoted at one point or another. The horror agent had to move on to thrillers when a once thriving horror market tanked. The same holds true for the editor whose passion was once chick lit.

New Ideas Come from New Things

For authors, and professionals actually, new ideas often come from new things. Some of my best women’s fiction ideas come from the cozy mysteries I read. A romance author can learn a lot about tension by reading suspense, and nonfiction writers can learn about writing from fiction.

Expanding your reading outside of what you write or work on also expands your mind into thinking in different ways. It’s growth and it’s vital to career success.

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6 comments

  1. All around great advice embracing the totality of the field. What you said: “That’s not just for career growth, it’s for longevity.” Yes, especially for the writer beyond the fiery passion of re-inventing and honing their own wheel – that is, developing their voice in a self-imposed vacuum (like, um… I relentlessly battled lit instructors for the right to do – lol). Because, even beyond the benefit of broadening your access to new or different genre-related perspectives or writing styles, it’s a great ‘workshop’ opportunity to refine your own approach to the craft by thoughtfully analyzing, justifying and specifying any alterations you believe would benefit an already published book by another author/editor. As Jessica wisely advises: read, read, read – widely. Even subconsciously, it can sharpen your chops and is highly likely to serve you as widely!

  2. I have committed the first three months of this year to reading and reading and reading before I start work on my next series. My TBR pile has been flagged by the FAA because of how close it reaches to the stratosphere.

    But I’m finding my inner editor is making it difficult at times. For instance, I’m struggling with Jane Eyre right now. I understand literature back then was not, um, structured the way they do it now. But was it really acceptable to use that many semi-colons in those days? 😀 And…at ~50K words in, I’m seriously starting to wonder if this book is EVER going to actually have a plot! But, I’ll finish it because everyone assures me it’s one of the roots of the Gothic genre.

    And after that I am going to read some more David Wong.

  3. This might sound weird, but most of the ideas for my novels come from my non-fiction readings. I love science, history, philosophy, languages, and cultures. All of these ideas fall in love with my thriller writer’s spirit, and their newborn is what I write.

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