Hello Rebel, and welcome back to my life.
So I set myself the fairly audacious goal of reading 100 books in 2017.
I set that goal because I only read about a dozen books in 2016, and for someone who literally makes his living writing books, that’s completely unacceptable.
Spielberg didn’t become who he is by watching one movie a month. Michelangelo didn’t just look at one painting every few weeks. Hank Green didn’t become a great YouTuber by NOT watching other YouTube videos.
So far, I’m on schedule to meet my goal—barely. And let me tell you something: reading is great!
Holy cow, I seriously can’t believe I muddled through an entire year of writing and barely read anything while I was doing it!
Now even though I’m less than three months into this year’s big reading project, I want to share some of my big takeaways from what I’ve read so far, so here we go.
NUMBER ONE: Indie authors need to do better.
About sixty percent of the books I’ve read have been books by indie authors, and out of those, I’d say I only really enjoyed about a quarter of them.
Most of the indie books have been really poorly edited, or not edited at all. I’ve been reading all my books in print, and the print formatting is really shoddy.
Also, the story structures themselves have kind of been all over the place. Vanishing plotlines, subplots that don’t pay off, it’s a mess.
Basically, it’s rare that I’ve picked up an indie book where I instinctively felt like the author really, really cared about my experience as a reader.
Now listen: I’ve been there. I didn’t always have money to hire editors. I wasn’t always good at formatting print books.
I thought it was okay because they were my books and I loved the stories, but I’m telling you now from the other side: as a reader who doesn’t have the same emotional attachment to a story that doesn’t belong to me, HOLY COW is it a chore to wade through a mediocre book.
BIG TAKEAWAY NUMBER TWO: Traditional publishers need to do better, too.
So of the forty percent of books I’ve read that were traditionally published, I’d say I enjoyed about half of them.
That’s a much higher percentage than of indie books, but jeez, a 50% success rate is way too low when you put that much money into a book and take that much money AWAY from the author.
The thing I’ve noticed from traditional books so far is that they achieve really, really high technical quality, but too often it’s like they’re putting a tuxedo on a slug.
The window dressing is great, but they’re working with a story that’s just so mediocre, where the author doesn’t even seem to be TRYING to do anything new or innovative.
Whereas the indie books I mentioned earlier felt like cases of squandered potential, the traditional books I’ve disliked have felt like INCREDIBLY TECHNICALLY ADEPT … drivel.
Except the traditional books I liked, which have more than made up for it, which brings me to:
BIG TAKEAWAY NUMBER THREE: When you’re reading a lot, you care a lot less about bad books in general.
I’m reading a new book every three or four days, on average. And when I’m moving that quickly, even a bad book feels like much less of a chore.
My attitude has changed into one of, “Well, it’s not that great, but I’ll get through it and then read something good the day after tomorrow.”
It’s like when I was a kid and movie tickets were five bucks, I didn’t really care about seeing a bad movie because whatever, I’d only wasted a couple of hours and about ten bucks with snacks.
Whereas now, when a movie date with my wife can run fifty bucks or more, I’d better be DAMN SURE the movie is REALLY GOOD before I go see it in a theater.
And reading so much as I’m also being more productive and writing more has left me with:
BIG TAKEAWAY NUMBER FOUR: Holy cow, if you’re a writer, you gotta read.
Good books or bad, the sheer amount of words I’m consuming right now are having a drastic impact on my productivity and attitude as a writer.
When I read great books, I’m seeing WHAT is great about them and coming up with ideas of how I can do similar things with my own writing.
And when I read bad books, I’m evaluating them against my work and seeing if I ever do any of these things that MAKE it a bad book. And sometimes the answer is yes.
Especially as I’m going through and fixing all my books right now, I’m seeing some of the absolutely juvenile stuff I used to do as a writer, and I’m learning how to avoid ever doing it again.
Bottom line: if you’re a writer, you’ve gotta read. Whatever art form you enjoy, you HAVE to be an active, ravenous consumer of that art form, because otherwise you’re just going to suck.
Being a reader again just feels good, Rebel. I know it’s going to strengthen the next NEW book I write. And when that book finally comes out, I hope you can see the difference.
That’s it for today. Subscribe if you haven’t already, and while you’re here, maybe check out another video from my channel up there, or my Patreon down in the corner, where you can see my SECRET VIDEOS.
Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you on Monday. Byyye!