Excellent post by Jane Friedman. Writers should subscribe.
Way back when I started in this biz, all the magazines kept saying to read read read in their area before you decided to write anything. So I read read read mysteries and thrillers and literary novels and short stories.
I still do that now, sometimes, it may be said, to the detriment of my own writing. But there are such glories in the ebook world that I could wallow endlessly for free and enjoy.
For those not quite yet in the know, you should check out the sites below. Free books or cheap ones are available for the cost of a review – I know they expect good ones, but I’ve tried to stay honest (without being too cruel) and they still send me books, so I think you can write pretty much how you feel.
What I love best about these places is that they give me access to authors and genres and stories that I might never have found otherwise. We tend, when buying books, to try for the sure thing, the ones we know will bring us good value. I used to pick my books by thickness, which meant I missed novellas and short stories – I read too fast to make it economical to buy these.
It makes it hard for new writers to get a toehold. Through these venues, even the starting out writer can get some feedback on their novel – you can release it and withdraw it and fix it if you want, based on comments, until you get the thing right – provided you’re the one doing the book. It’s a great way to get your book read, especially if you are with a smaller publisher or whatever.
Library thing – get signed up for their early readers program as well as the members giveaways.
Smashwords – many authors release their works through here for free or low cost
NetGalley – become a member and they put these wonderful books in front of you and you can request them. I’ve only been denied once but I have a lot of reviews to write as all the books look so tasty I had to ask for them.
Goodreads – everyone should be on here.
Penguin – has now started circles of reviewers for different genres – you join the circle through google and apparently get to review books – it’s totally new so I’m not sure how it will work. I’m in the Penguin.ca mystery circle, for example.
Public libraries have ebooks, too, and if you are wanting people to read what you’ve written you might consider donating a copy of your ebook to them.
It’s all about being read, and supporting other authors by reading them. All wonderful.
And using a lot of time…but in a good way…now if only I could get myself organized to put something of mine on one of these places!
I can’t keep up! Everywhere I look there are books books books I want to read read read! I have a stack of to-be-reads that is threatening to squash the dog, and then there are the ebooks that no one can see but me, but they are growing in piles, too. And yet, and yet – everywhere I look there is another one I feel I must read.
I thought I was safe reading Geist Magazine. It’s published in Vancouver and usually altogether too twee for me. I feel as if I should be smokin’ some BC gold and threading my toes through long sweetgrass if I am going to read that magazine – and it’s so Vancouver-centric I often smell the pacific blowing through. Being more of an Atlantic gal, I like my stories needlessly grim, preferably involving weather, religion, and perhaps some abuse. Or laughter and families. So first, it blew me away with a lukewarm review of Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists. This Giller prize winner left me cold. I did HAVE to read it, though, and bought it on an e-book so I could consume it as soon as possible, while the publishing house scampered to ramp up production. I would have expected a glowing fawning report, like so many of the other reviews. It wasn’t. How refreshing.
But the killer was “The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them” by Elif Batuman. Now, who could resist such a title? The excerpt, where an Aeroflot employee talks about a Russian phrase, “resignation of the soul” just poured spice on the review and I felt I had to read this book, now.
I can’t stop myself. It’s like eating a box of chocolates – you read (or eat) and read and read until you feel you must burst, and then, you read some more. I have three books out from the library now. I hate the library. First of all, it’s like free candy and I inevitably grab more than I should. It’s too wonderful, the way books leap out from everywhere with tempting titles and back copy and subjects. They beg me to take them home. But only for a while. And there’s the rub. I am always in the middle of at least two other books, and when I bring those library ones home, they want to be read first. But the other books object. “Just finish me”, they whisper seductively, “you know you want to…”
Or they say, “Hey, the print on that library edition is too small, don’t you prefer to read me?” My e-book thingie is a terrible temptation. It weighs nothing, it holds huge books without hand strain, and I can read it without my glasses on my very worst sight days.
But I can’t use it in the tub. Or the library books. So of course I need more books, of the bathtub variety. Or magazines. Like Geist. Or the excellent New York Review of Books. Which just starts the whole thing again.
Added to that is the feeling I should be writing my own books. So my brain wrestles endlessly between the need to read to learn how to write, and the need to write to learn how to write. And then there are the books specifically on how to write, which I buy and then never read. But they are there, sending me ethereal vibes, throwing dust on themselves so that I feel guilty about not reading them.
I feel like I am on a moibus strip, endlessly travelling, unable to pause. And it’s all glorious. For the first time, I can wallow in reading. Unless the dog needs walking, or I need to write something, or I feel the need to move.
The old addiction questions come back to me:
read alone? yup.
read before breakfast? yup
affecting budget? yup
people speak to me about my reading? yup
is it disturbing my ability to work? yup yup yup.
I suppose, years from now, I’ll be on the street corners, begging for loose change for the used book store, but for now, I’m going to plunge the depths of my addiction. Now is that Russian book available for Kobo?
I’d just bought a copy of the New York Review of Books and The Literary Review of Canada, plus a copy of the Journey Prize anthology. They felt pleasingly solid and filled with good things to read and inspire me as they rustled in my “bring your own bag”. I carry one always now, being too cheap to pay 5 cents for a plastic bag (but not too cheap to buy NYRB or LRC!)
Starbucks was packed, with students worrying their laptops at a long table with uncomfortable chairs; seniors curled up whispering to each other in the few really comfy chairs; on-line dates meeting up at the tables for two, conversing awkwardly. I’d just had a four-cup espresso at home as my cure (medically ordered) for my MS fatigue, something that dogs me always and blurs my vision, so I asked for a decaf from the tiny rounded Asian gal at the counter.
“Well,” she said, screwing her pink lips up into a rosebud and then wincing, “the thing is, we don’t, like, brew decaf in the afternoons anymore. Like, all the people who want it seem to come in in the mornings.” She brightened. “But we can make you a café Americano if you like for the same cost.” Every phrase she said ended on an upswing, the curling up of girly girls everywhere. She reminded me of “Hello Kitty”. Perky, a bit vacant, smiley without any real reason to be, inoffensively pink in nature.
I went for the caffeinated version and a banana and chocolate bread, low fat, but I suspect high calorie. I thought maybe the bread would help soak up the caffeine.
Looking about for a seat, I saw a spot at the earnest student table but discarded that. I hate being beside people who are working. Seems too much like real work. I would have felt observed. Fortunately, one table for two opened up in the middle of everything and, discarding my slight guilt at hogging two chairs, I grabbed it an opened the NYRB. I was wallowing in the excellently written review of Franzen’s “Freedom”, the coffee, and my yummy banana bread, pausing every few minutes to lick the chocolate off my fingers, when I tuned into the conversation on my left.
They were two precious young women. One had on white sandals made with exquisite soft leather that curled expensively around her well-turned ankle. Her eyebrows were perfectly arched, her smile orthodontically magnificent. She spoke in likes and diphthongs, explained that she got her sister to wear her shoes for a week to make them more comfortable because of her sister’s, like, “freakishly large feet”. She and her friend chatted about friends, classes, profs.
I turned to the Personals in the NYRB. Some of the best creative writing in the world is there.
Then the women started talking about a murder. One of their friends had just been let out on $500 bail after a bar fight/riot where another young man was killed. They spoke about it in the same tones as they spoke about the shoes. The fight was over the shocking fact that the man who was murdered was wearing a hoodie without a t-shirt underneath. Teasing started. Everyone was drunk. Their friend had an alibi because he was involved in another part of the bar, fighting someone else, though he started the original teasing.
The teased boy left the bar, and the general riot spilled into the street. The boy bicycled by and the gang pushed him over, forcing him to be hit by a car and killed.
The girls agreed it was horrible, especially horrible that their friend had to be put in jail overnight. Then they started talking about classes again, barely pausing for breath.
I turned to my right. A youngish man sat down, opening his Ipad. I asked him about it, and he, like a proud parent, showed me its tricks. Carefully. He mentioned about reading books on it and tilted the display away from me while he searched for an appropriate example, one where the pictures could be spun and enlarged and toyed with. I wondered what he was hiding. Porn? Romance novels? Religious tracts? What is still worth hiding, when murder is openly discussed in Starbucks?