1. Understanding the market. It is good to get a feel for what is selling and what your potential audience enjoys reading. This will give you confidence that you are on the right track.
2. Knowing what’s gone before. If you’ve read widely in a genre you’re far less likely to end up rehashing something that came out ten or twenty years before. You will have a better sense of what makes your own work unique, as well as being able to recognise your influences.
3. Getting the tone and pace right. For children’s books this is particularly important, the complexity of language required differs depending on the age of your reader, but for all genres it is important to have an idea of how the books are paced and structured. If there are particular conventions then it’s a good idea to adhere to them as far as possible.
4. Studying the craft. It is always useful to see how other authors handle different aspects of the craft. How they refine their descriptions, how they bring in the back story etc. There is always something to be learned.
5. Market positioning. This is useful for when you come to pitch your book – which recent titles would it sit next to on the bookshop shelves? Which books would share a common readership with your own?
So now that I’m writing thrillers I’ve been reading thrillers, for all the reasons outlined above. Some I’ve really enjoyed. Others not so much. I’ll shortly be posting a few reviews, so watch this space.