Author career · publishing

Books To Read Before You Debut

Today’s focus on books is going to be a little bit different. Typically, our book talks involve a focus on craft but today I want to put more of a light on the business of writing. Whether it’s how covers are often out of our hands, no matter how “big” one’s name is, money and making a living as a writer, marketing and promotion, carving out a career of damn fine storytelling and ironing out what that actually looks like when laying out the risks we take in our current and future work, and so on.

Now I have not read all of these books below but the titles that I haven’t are on a list of books to read before I debut. No, that’s not an announcement or anything, I just love doing homework. So let’s dig in. Here’s a list of books with their descriptions and if you have a recommendation, be sure to leave it in the comments!

SCRATCH: WRITERS, MONEY, AND THE ART OF MAKING A LIVING by Manjula Martin

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A collection of essays from today’s most acclaimed authors—from Cheryl Strayed to Roxane Gay to Jennifer Weiner, Alexander Chee, Nick Hornby, and Jonathan Franzen—on the realities of making a living in the writing world.

In the literary world, the debate around writing and commerce often begs us to take sides: either writers should be paid for everything they do or writers should just pay their dues and count themselves lucky to be published. You should never quit your day job, but your ultimate goal should be to quit your day job. It’s an endless, confusing, and often controversial conversation that, despite our bare-it-all culture, still remains taboo. In Scratch, Manjula Martin has gathered interviews and essays from established and rising authors to confront the age-old question: how do creative people make money?

As contributors including Jonathan Franzen, Cheryl Strayed, Roxane Gay, Nick Hornby, Susan Orlean, Alexander Chee, Daniel Jose Older, Jennifer Weiner, and Yiyun Li candidly and emotionally discuss money, MFA programs, teaching fellowships, finally getting published, and what success really means to them, Scratch honestly addresses the tensions between writing and money, work and life, literature and commerce. The result is an entertaining and inspiring book that helps readers and writers understand what it’s really like to make art in a world that runs on money—and why it matters. Essential reading for aspiring and experienced writers, and for anyone interested in the future of literature, Scratch is the perfect bookshelf companion to On Writing, Never Can Say Goodbye, and MFA vs. NYC.

THE CLOTHING OF BOOKS by Jhumpa Lahiri

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How do you clothe a book?

In this deeply personal reflection, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jhumpa Lahiri explores the art of the book jacket from the perspectives of both reader and writer. Probing the complex relationships between text and image, author and designer, and art and commerce, Lahiri delves into the role of the uniform; explains what book jackets and design have come to mean to her; and how, sometimes, “the covers become a part of me.”

WHAT EDITORS DO: THE ART, CRAFT, AND BUSINESS OF BOOK EDITING

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Editing is an invisible art where the very best work goes undetected. Editors strive to create books that are enlightening, seamless, and pleasurable to read, all while giving credit to the author. This makes it all the more difficult to truly understand the range of roles they inhabit while shepherding a project from concept to publication.

In What Editors Do, Peter Ginna gathers essays from twenty-seven leading figures in book publishing about their work. Representing both large houses and small, and encompassing trade, textbook, academic, and children’s publishing, the contributors make the case for why editing remains a vital function to writers—and readers—everywhere.

Ironically for an industry built on words, there has been a scarcity of written guidance on how to actually approach the work of editing. This book will serve as a compendium of professional advice and will be a resource both for those entering the profession (or already in it) and for those outside publishing who seek an understanding of it. It sheds light on how editors acquire books, what constitutes a strong author-editor relationship, and the editor’s vital role at each stage of the publishing process—a role that extends far beyond marking up the author’s text.

This collection treats editing as both art and craft, and also as a career. It explores how editors balance passion against the economic realities of publishing. What Editors Do shows why, in the face of a rapidly changing publishing landscape, editors are more important than ever.

THE BUSINESS OF BEING A WRITER by Jane Friedman

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Writers talk about their work in many ways: as an art, as a calling, as a lifestyle. Too often missing from these conversations is the fact that writing is also a business. The reality is, those who want to make a full- or part-time job out of writing are going to have a more positive and productive career if they understand the basic business principles underlying the industry.

The Business of Being a Writer offers the business education writers need but so rarely receive. It is meant for early-career writers looking to develop a realistic set of expectations about making money from their work or for working writers who want a better understanding of the industry. Writers will gain a comprehensive picture of how the publishing world works—from queries and agents to blogging and advertising—and will learn how they can best position themselves for success over the long term.

Jane Friedman has more than twenty years of experience in the publishing industry, with an emphasis on digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is encouraging without sugarcoating, blending years of research with practical advice that will help writers market themselves and maximize their writing-related income. It will leave them empowered, confident, and ready to turn their craft into a career.

PAPER HEARTS, VOLUME 2: SOME PUBLISHING ADVICE by Beth Revis + PAPER HEARTS, VOLUME 2: SOME MARKETING ADVICE by Beth Revis

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The Paper Hearts series came from Beth’s desire to give back to the writing community. After years of posting articles and comments in answer to aspiring writers’ questions, Beth compiled the book in Wattpad. With more than 100000 reads in Wattpad, Beth rewrote the collection into a comprehensive book series with hundreds of pages of new content, practical advice, philosophy, charts, and more.

HOW TO MAKE A LIVING AS A WRITER by James Scott Bell

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It’s the best time on Earth to be a writer

More writers are making money today than at any other time in history. For centuries few have been able to support themselves from the quill or the keyboard alone.

Not anymore. With the rise of ebooks and indie publishing there are now more opportunities than ever for writers to generate substantial income from their work. And there is still a traditional publishing industry that needs new talent to keep growing.

In How to Make a Living as a Writer, you’ll learn the secrets of writing for profit and increasing your chances of making a living wage from your work. Here are some of the subjects covered:

– The 7 Secrets of Writing Success
– The 8 Essentials of Your Writing Business
– How to Reach Your Goals
– Keys to a Winning System
– How to Stay Relentless
– Unlocking Your Creativity
– How to Write More, Faster
– Comparing Traditional and Self-Publishing
– How to Go Traditional
– How to Go Indie
– How to Form Multiple Streams of Writing Income
– How to Write a Novel in a Month
– How to Choose Non-Fiction Subjects
– How to Keep a Positive Mental Attitude
– Resources for Further Study

And much more, all to help you write what you love and earn what you’re worth.

James Scott Bell has made a living as a writer for nearly two decades, and shares with you everything he knows about the best practices for turning your writing dream into a reality.

DAMN FINE STORY: MASTERING THE TOOLS OF A POWERFUL NARRATIVE by Chuck Wendig

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What do Luke Skywalker, John McClane, and a lonely dog on Ho’okipa Beach have in common?

Simply put, we care about them.

Great storytelling is making readers care about your characters, the choices they make, and what happens to them. It’s making your audience feel the tension and emotion of a situation right alongside your protagonist. And to tell a damn fine story, you need to understand why and how that caring happens.

Using a mix of personal stories, pop fiction examples, and traditional storytelling terms, New York Times best-selling author Chuck Wendig will help you internalize the feel of powerful storytelling. In Damn Fine Story, you’ll explore:

Fretytag’s Pyramid for visualizing story structure–and when to break away from traditional storytelling forms

Character relationships and interactions as the basis of every strong plot–no matter the form or genre

Rising and falling tension that pulls the audience through to the climax and conclusion of the story

Developing themes as a way to craft characters with depth

Whether you’re writing a novel, screenplay, video game, comic, or even if you just like to tell stories to your friends and family over dinner, this funny and informative guide is chock-full of examples about the art and craft of storytelling–and how to write a damn fine story of your own.

What books would you recommend a writer read before their professional career kicks off?

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