11 practical or unusual books for professional – and aspiring – writers

Writers really like to talk about what they do. Because of this, there’s a whole sub-genre of books about writing out there. The vast majority of them are self-help tomes dedicated to helping you find your artistic voice. And there’s a wide range of them: At one end of the self-help spectrum, there are New Agey books that promise to help you find healing in language. At the other, there are humorous, self-deprecating books that provide insights into the writer’s psyche and attempt to demystify writing craft. Anne Lamott’s classic "Bird by Bird" is one of the better of these.

And then there are practical writing manuals: These contain rules, industry standards, organizational techniques, survival tools, and other things novice writers don’t always know. Maybe you’re an English major trying to break into journalism, or an academic interested in writing for a broader audience. Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a novel and need some practical guidance on structure and story-telling. Maybe you’re a seasoned professional journalist looking to freelance or diversify your beat.

Here are some of the best of the practical books out there today – plus a few less practical ones for writers and readers that provide a creative, intellectual, or novel approach.

1. "The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully!," by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

I’m almost always reluctant to give anything calling itself an “essential guide” the time of day (See also: Anything calling itself a “Bible.”) But if you’ve never published a book, chances are you know almost nothing about how to proceed. Sure, you may be one of those romantic scribes who writes because you feel possessed to do so. New Agey books for writers often insist that real writers write because they “must”—that is, not because they must earn a living, but because a seemingly external force known as the “artistic temperament” or “soul of a writer” compels them to do it. I’ve always harbored doubts about the alleged ubiquity of the so-called writer’s soul and longed for practical advice about things like: What to include in a nonfiction book proposal or how to find an agent or how to pitch your novel.

Enter The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by industry veterans Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. It’s a thorough update of their earlier guide, "How to Put Your Passion into Print," and it’s got all those practical nuts and bolts you’ll need to make your book successful, whether you want to self-publish or work with a large publishing house or an academic press. Trust me on this one.

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