Why Writers Should Visit a Large Bookstore at Least Once a Month

I stopped in at Chapters yesterday, on my way back from somewhere. I didn’t buy anything. These days I buy most of my books from a small retailer near my daughter’s swimming lesson. They have a limited selection, especially when it comes to middle grade and YA, but I only buy bestsellers if I’m desperate to read them anyway (because I can’t wait to get to the top of the waiting list at the library), and they usually stock those.

Just ONE of my bookshelves

I know you can’t have too many books, but really people, I have too many books. I have books in every room in my house, including the bathroom. So mostly I prefer to borrow books from the library, which of course, everyone should visit at least weekly.

That said, I love to browse in big chain bookstores. The bounty of books inspires me, for one. Sometimes as I write I start to have doubts that my book will find a place I the world. The sheer numbers of books on display at Chapters oddly reassures me. It reminds me there will always be room for another book.

I also love the staff at big chain bookstores. While library staff are mostly college educated, and smaller bookstores are often staffed by the owners, mature business people with a sophisticated love of books, chain bookstore staff are regular people, many of them in their first job. I love that you can even find an actual teenager stocking shelves in the teen section.

Many times I’ve had animated discussions with a young bookstore staff member about the latest bestsellers, or some hidden treasure that no one has heard of. I also love their insight about what customers are drawn to, what is selling and what people are saying.  These bookstores are much busier than smaller retailers, and serve more than just the local neighborhood, so the staff there get a broad sense of the market.

Finally, sometimes the books themselves help me write. Yesterday I opened about a dozen popular teen sci-fi and fantasy titles, just to see how they start. I don’t want to read most of these–I can tell after reading the first few lines–but it helps to see how other authors are doing things these days. And a few of them seemed good enough that I’m going to get them from the library.

I managed to resist buying anything though. I can’t afford another bookshelf. Speaking of bookshelves, check out this awesome YA readers blog whatchyareading.net. One of my fellow NaNo writers is a contributor. They have great reviews of recent and upcoming YA releases.

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