Books for Writers


The Art of the Interview: Lawrence Grobel. Three Rivers Press. Taking us step by step through the interview process, from research and question writing to final editing, The Art of the Interview is a treat for journalists and culture vultures alike.

Bird by Bird: Anne Lamott. Anchor. “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my  brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.'”

Building Believable Characters: Marc McCutcheon. Writer’s Digest Books. Unlike the others on this list, this one isn’t a how-to book; it is reference book filled with descriptions you can use to build unique characters.

Characters and Viewpoints: Orson Scott Card. Writer’s Digest Books. Viewpoint is difficult for a beginning writer to fathom. This book has sketches that visually demonstrate the various viewpoints. An essential book for the writer’s library shelf.

Conflict, Action and Suspense: William Noble: Writer’s Digest Books. This book concentrates on how to keep the tension high in order to hold the reader’s interest.

Creating Short Fiction: Damon Knight. St Martin’s Press. Written by a master of fiction writing, it has lots of good pointers and techniques to help a writer build stories.

DIY MFA: Gabriela Pereira. Writer’s Digest Books. This is the do-it-yourself alternative to a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. By combining the three main components of a traditional MFA—writing, reading, and community—it teaches you how to craft compelling stories, engage your readers, and publish your work.

The Elements of Style: William Strunk and E.B. White. Macmillan Publishing Company. What do you mean you’re a writer and you don’t already own this one? (or a similar book)

Handbook of Short Story Writing: edited by Frank A. Dickson and Sandra Smythe: Writer’s Digest

Handbook of Short Story Writing Volume II: edited by Jean M. Fredette: Writer’s Digest

Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Adair Lara. Ten Speed Press. As thorough and instructive as a personal writing coach (and cheaper, too), Naked, Drunk, and Writing is a must-have if you are an aspiring columnist, essayist, or memoirist—or just a writer who needs a bit of help in getting your story told.

The New New JournalismRobert S. Boynton. Vintage. Forty years after Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, and Gay Talese launched the New Journalism movement, Robert S. Boynton sits down with nineteen practitioners of what he calls the New New Journalism to discuss their methods, writings and careers.

On Writing: Stephen King. Scribner. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have.

Plot: Ansen Dibell: Writer’s Digest Books. A good book on how to develop a plot.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: Renni Browne and Dave King. Harper Perennial. A must-have book for authors. Filled with information on how to improve your stories and your writing skills.

Spunk & Bite: Arthur Plotnik. Random House Reference. Today’s writer needs more than just a solid knowledge of usage and composition to write successfully. Bestselling author Arthur Plotnik reveals the secrets to attention-grabbing, unforgettable writing.

Story: Robert McKee. Regan Books. A thick, excellent book on writing fiction by a master screen writer teacher. As McKee points out, screenplays, stage plays and novels all have the same story design process and problems; only the output (the manuscript) in each is formatted differently.

Telling True Stories: Mark Kramer and Wendy Call. Plume. The country’s most prominent journalists and nonfiction authors gather each year at Harvard’s Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism. Telling True Stories presents their best advice—covering everything from finding a good topic, to structuring narrative stories, to writing and selling your first book.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. A book filled with information about characters and their emotions.  Highly recommended.


Complete Self-Publishing Guide: Hank Quense. Strange Worlds Publishing. Besides describing a process to publish your book, you’ll learn how to market it and how to deal with the business side of being an author.

The Forest for the Trees: Betsy Lerner. Riverhead Books. This is an essential trove of advice for writers and an indispensable user’s manual to both the inner life of the writer and the increasingly anxious place where art and commerce meet: the boardrooms and cubicles of the publishing house.

Publishing 101: Jane Friedman. MBA for Writers. Whether you’ve finished a manuscript or just have the seeds of an idea, learn how to smartly approach editors and agents with your work, while avoiding the pitfalls of first-time authorship.

Scratch: edited by Manjula Martin. Simon & Schuster. 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.

Self-Publishing Books 101: Shelly Hitz and Heather Hart. Body and Soul Publishing. In this book, the authors cover everything from the different companies and costs, to copyright information and book design.

Successful Self-Publishing: Joanna Penn. About self-publishing.

Book Marketing:

The Book Marketing Expert: Penny Sansevieri. Ready to sell books by the truckload? This marketing book is a compilation of one of the industry’s hottest newsletters: The Book Marketing Expert. It’s packed with literally thousands of marketing tips, articles, and shortcuts to selling thousands of books!

Facebook Marketing: Adam Richards. How to leverage Facebook’s platform and reach a lot of potential customers on a shoestring budget.

Marketing Plans for Self-Published Books: Hank Quense. This book contains a complete set of marketing plans. The marketing tasks are explained in non-technical language along with the rationale for the task and are grouped by timeframe. The marketing plans are ready to use. Built around the book’s launch date (i.e. the availability date) there are marketing plans for pre-launch, launch and post-launch activities.

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide: Mark Corker. The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide contains practical, easy-to-implement advice on how to market any book. 41 simple, do-it-yourself marketing tips explain not what you can do to market your book, but also explain the context and thinking behind each recommendation. The marketing techniques apply equally well to both ebooks and print books.

Why Does My Book Not Sell? Rayne Hall. Give the book the attention—and sales—it deserves.