So we’ve already established that I’m a book-wrangler (as in, I’m a library assistant), but I also write young-adult fantasy. When I took the job, I assumed that the only writerly benefits I’d reap would be plenty of spare time to write since it’s only a part-time post. And obviously access to plenty of awesome books. But that’s where I was wrong.
I didn’t foresee just how beneficial working on the frontline with readers would be for me as a writer. I have unlimited access to readers since I work on the frontline every day. They are my audience; those people who may one day form part of my own readership. I do take advantage of the opportunities to casually interview readers; on every from what gets their pulse racing to what lures them to particular genres. And we’re not just talking about readers of young-adult fiction, but of all genres and every generation. Fortunately, the majority of our borrowers don’t mind being harassed on all things book-related.
Another fascinating aspect of working on the frontline is observing the reading trends that borrowers go through—it’s immensely revealing. Obviously this heavily influences the cycles of our library stock, so we keep an eye on it, anyway, but I find it especially interesting. Film adaptations and television series have a huge impact on what becomes popular—Suzanne Collins’ incredible HUNGER GAMES trilogy just one example of this. Hype behind books goes a long way, too, as is evidenced by the extensive waiting list for the infamous FIFTY SHADES OF GREY by E.L. James. Seriously, we can’t get enough copies in to satisfy the requests. Borrowers are being forced to wait months for it—and are totally fine with it.
Until recently I’d struggled with guilt over carving out time to read. Shouldn’t I be utilising that time to figure out my next scene, or research that plot point? But that was before I realised that if anything, I should be reading more. Reading enriches my own writing. And I’m already making the best use of that time by devouring those stories—I’m feeding my soul.
And that same goes for book-wrangling. Sometimes it occurs to me that perhaps I’d be better taking some time out and just pounding out the rest of my work-in-progress. Sure, it’d give me plenty of time to do it in, but I’m not sure it’d actually do me any good, especially since I get easily disheartened with my writing. That’s how I’ve always been. But being on the frontline feeds me. Being so close to readers is the greatest motivation—one the days that the words just wouldn’t flow or when a plot hole rears its ugly head, hearing their enthusiasm for books and reading in general keeps me going. It reinvigorates me more than anything else.
One of the ways I like to give back to our borrowers is by sharing insight on how the publishing industry works. Yes, I’ve not got any firsthand experience as far as that goes, but I’ve researched a lot of it as part of my own writing career. Many of our readers are beginning to appreciate all the hard work that goes into putting a book together, on so many levels. It was largely assumed by most that an author wrote the book, polished it up a bit, a jacket was slapped on it, and it was released on a certain date. Ah, if only it was that simple. My explanations do seem to have reduced the amount of borrowers who used to whinge about all the waiting around they had to do for new books by their favourite authors. Now the readers know why authors usually need at least a whole year between releases.
More than anything, working on the frontline has allowed me to be a bit of a go between. They share their opinions and experiences, and I share what I know of the publishing industry and a little of what trying to establish a writing career these days looks like. There’re plenty of writers working in bookshops and libraries across the world, playing similar roles I guess, but it’s a wonderful position to be in.
If you’re a writer and ever have the chance to hang out with a bunch of readers—not just your own—then snatch it up, please. Hearing about readers’ experiences with stories—old and new—and how they’ve affected them is wonderfully inspiring.
You won’t regret it.
LAURA WARDLE is a book-wrangler by day, and a YA fantasy writer by night. Currently she’s drafting Soulbound, an urban fantasy novel about a nephilim girl whose soul is marked by Death. When not writing, she can usually be found catching up on her enormous to-be-read pile, drinking copious amounts of tea, and nurturing her unhealthy obsession for Pinterest. She lives and writes in East Yorkshire, England. She can be found on her blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.