Who is the author coach who reads the most? I think I might be.
People who work with books for a living (editors, author coaches, gurus) should be voracious readers, right? That’s what I thought. Imagine my surprise when I found that most don’t read that many books.
How many books editors read
From the data I can find, the average book professional reads 3,000 books in her lifetime. I would love to find information contradicting that and showing that people in the writing and publishing industry read much more.
Recently, I mentioned to a colleague that I’ve read at least 19,000 books so far. Well, that required a little clarification.
Crazy school assignment
In high school, my English teacher gave this assignment: Make a list of all the books we had read up to that point in our lives, one book per line. We had some time before it was due, but I don’t remember how long that was.
You might be surprised to find out that I didn’t do the assignment properly.
I stopped at 10,000 lines—193 pages front and back—because my hands were so sore from all the writing. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m on the Spectrum. I also have dysgraphia, so writing anything by hand has always been painful for me.) There might have been more books that I had read by that point, but I couldn’t think of any more, and I couldn’t stand to write any more, and I didn’t care if I got in trouble for not getting all of them.
How little people read
People just don’t read much.
I told myself the teacher wouldn’t know, anyway. I expected to see similar stacks of paper being turned in. Most of the students handed in one or two sheets of paper. The closest one to me had four pages, front sides only. That totally blew me away. I had no idea I out-read everyone by so much (four of those students were in Gifted class with me! I expected at least theirs to be like mine), but that assignment made it clear that I really was from outer space or something.
Everyone’s jaw was on the floor.
At that moment, I realized that having read that many books was significant and possibly something to be proud of. The experience of writing out all those titles and authors and of seeing the reactions of all of the people in that classroom really stuck with me. Because of that, I kept the number in my head and started counting from that point on. Yes, I’m an oddity.
So that’s why I say “at least 19,000.”
If you can think of a better way for me to say that, just let me know.
I had already been “eating” every book I could get my hands on since I was three years old. To this day, I haven’t stopped. That appetite helped me in becoming the author coach who reads the most.
Choosing a career
At the time, I couldn’t put a name to what I wanted to do for a living—or at least not all of what I wanted to do for a living. I knew I wanted to help people and to write and edit, but I had no idea that what I now do was even an option. Certainly I couldn’t say I wanted to become the author coach who reads the most. The closest I could get was to enter things like this on the guidance counselor’s form:
It had six blanks for possible careers. I filled them with job titles mostly from helping professions and added one more for a total of seven.
Teacher trying to limit my options
Poor Mr. Larry Gwaltney had a major attack of stuttering, and I was worried he’d have a heart attack during our meeting. He told me to pick one job or career.
When I said there was no way I could do that, he said, “Okay, you may have two. But only two. Mark out the rest of them.”
I simply couldn’t. I apologized to him over and over, but I could not pick only one or two. It felt like he was asking me to lie, and I couldn’t lie, even on some stupid form that nobody cared about, to please somebody that I did care about.
He finally threw up his hands in frustration and let me keep all seven careers on the form.
I ended up doing all of them, or all but one of them. The stat at the time was that most people have seven career changes in a lifetime, so Mr. G. should have been okay with my form.
When I saw him years later, I let him know that I had done almost all of the jobs I’d put on my form in school.
He smiled and said he was glad to hear it and not surprised. Then he apologized for trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.
At that time, I was getting into editing and author coaching. Perhaps I was already the author coach who reads the most. Who knows?
Author coach requirements
While there are no legal requirements and no certifications needed to be an author coach, coaches should know their field and be able to serve their clients.
An author coach should read many books, both in the genre they work in and in others. If the person does not read much, has not studied book structure and other elements or writing productivity and habits, then how can the person help authors?
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