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Reading Like a Writer on the Bestseller List

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I’ve mentioned Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them before. And today, the book caught my attention because it’s number twenty on the New York Times Hardover Nonfiction bestseller list.

In the last year, I’ve had conversations with about ten agents who all claimed that books about writing, and publishing, are too small. There’s no market. “It’s too magazine-y,” they contend.

“Look at the size of your own slush pile,” I counter. “Editors and agents everywhere complain about the deluge of would-be writers. How can you say no one is interested in becoming better writers?”

“It’s too academic. Would-be writers don’t spend money, so they won’t buy these books,” the publishing experts argue.

“So then why are creative writing programs bursting at the seams? If they don’t spend money, why are the pages of writing magazines overflowing with ads for everything from writing doctors to novel software?”

The conversation usually reaches an impasse there. So maybe it’s just my own frustrations showing through, but I was damn proud of the fact Reading Like a Writer hit the bestseller list. Even if it’s only for one week, it’s still an accomplishment. And a tiny bit of proof to all those experts who say books on writing are too academic to find a market.