As the old adage goes: if you can’t write, read. There’s no such thing as an aspiring writer. If you write, you are a writer. But there is such a thing as an aspiring author: writers who are serious about getting published. I love recommending my top 10 books for aspiring authors that focus on the business of writing, that is, elevating your writing career to the next level. While these resources mainly provide information on getting published, there are a couple of cheeky craft books on my list that I couldn’t not include. Enjoy, my aspiring author friends.
1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Best no-frills writing advice
2. Before and After the Book Deal - Best for business-minded writers
3. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life - Best classic writing advice
4. Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 29th Edition - Best for researching literary agents
5. Screenwriting is Rewriting: The Art and Craft of Professional Revision - Best left-field must read
1. Getting Published: How to Hook an Agent, Get a Deal & Build a Career You Love
By Harry Bingham
This Jericho Writers guide will talk you through everything you need to know about this industry, from scrubbing up your manuscript, to Planet Agent, to the book deal, right through to publication and beyond. I personally found Jericho to be an invaluable resource when researching literary agents.
2. Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book
By Courtney Maum
This funny, definitive guide is a must-read for all aspiring authors looking to break into publishing with their first book. Featuring tidbits from over 150 contributors, New York Times bestsellers, and fan favorites, this tell-all guide from author Courtney Maum gives you the total lowdown on how to survive your first book deal.
3. The Business of Being a Writer
By Jane Friedman
Fangirl confession: I love Jane Freidman. I have been following her updates and reading her newsletters for years. She was one of the industry people who inspired me to launch Aspiring Author. Friedman calls her book “the business education writers need but so rarely receive” – and I couldn’t agree more. You need this candid, business-led advice from a business boss and author.
4. Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 29th Edition: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over
By Jeff Herman
Now on its 29th edition, I trawled through this comprehensive guide, highlighting my target literary agents based on exactly what they were looking for. There are some useful essays on getting published in here, too.
5. Writing The Blockbuster Novel
By Albert Zuckerman
Written by a notorious New York literary agent, this book gives you a formulaic approach into fashioning, launching, and promoting that commercially successful, blockbuster novel through carefully considered outlining.
6. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
By Anne Lamott
You can widely ignore the instructions on writing (taking it bird by bird, day by day), and instead focus on the motivational “life” instructions that Lamott provides. TL;DR we’re all just faking it until we make it. A great kick up the ass for aspiring authors everywhere.
7. APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book
By Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
The authors provide a “how-to” manual for self-publishing your work, from promoting your work on Amazon, to formatting an eBook, to cover design.
8. Screenwriting is Rewriting: The Art and Craft of Professional Revision
By Jack Epps Jr.
Through a screenwriter’s lens, the creator of Top Gun provides a fresh take on revision on rewriting work so that it meets professional, commercial standards. With excerpts of real edited Hollywood scripts, I recommend this book as a left-field must-read for all aspiring authors.
9. The Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students
By Tom Kealey
The latest edition of this useful handbook for prospective MFA (Master of Fine Arts) students will help you to navigate through the minefield of researching, applying to, and selecting the MFA program that is right for you.
10. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
By Stephen King
I couldn’t write this list and not include this absolute treasure. While primarily an (excellent) craft book, memoir, and account of how writing saved Stephen King from the brink of a near-fatal accident, my absolute favorite part of this book is the story of how King broke out from obscurity and achieved dizzying publishing heights. If that doesn’t give you faith as an aspiring author, nothing will.