Best Books on Writing

How to write a book proposal

How to Write a Book Proposal, 5th Edition

If you’re writing a nonfiction book (not a novel), this guide is a must-have. It’s been the go-to manual for writing book proposals since the early 1980s. Exceptionally thorough.

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman

The First Five Pages

This isn’t really a guide to getting published, but it will explain why your manuscript is getting passed over by agents and editors. It lays out how any industry insider can tell if your writing is publishable within the first five pages.

Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer's Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book by Courtney Maum

Before and After the Book Deal

Writers love this book for the funny and real voice of its author, Courtney Maum. But it’s not just her expertise in the book; she spoke to countless authors to help you understand what it’s really like to traditionally publish your first book.

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

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

A comprehensive guide by industry insiders. One of the best on the market.

Your First Page Selgin

Your First Page

Those countless manuscripts that editors reject daily? They’re all being rejected for the same reason: for having failed—somehow, at some level—to successfully bond with their readers. That bond begins on the very first page, and this is the best guide I’ve seen to the importance and effect of story openings.

The Byline Bible by Susan Shapiro

The Byline Bible

Many nonfiction writers ask me how they can build their platform. One way is to start writing and publishing articles, essays, and op-eds. But that’s a specialized skill set that no one is born with. You have to learn how to write and pitch in a way that’s not a waste of your time. This guide will show you how.

Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole

Writing Irresistible Kidlit

Children’s writers can benefit greatly from reading at least one book that’s geared for the special craft and business concerns of writing for a younger audience. Everything from picture books to middle-grade to young adult is covered in this nuts-and-bolts guide by former literary agent and editor Mary Kole.

Law and Authors: a Legal Handbook for Writers by Jacqueline D. Lipton

Law and Authors

Most writers I know are not yearning to learn about the legal side of the writing life. But knowing a few of the basic principles of copyright, permissions, and contracts can help you sleep at night—and stay out of unnecessary trouble. This guide is a friendly, accessible and dare I say entertaining read on what you need to know to start.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art

Writing and publishing is primarily a psychological battle, and this guide tells you everything you need to know about that fight. I’ve been recommending this book since it was first published.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

Writing the Breakout Novel

Agent Donald Maass explains the powerful elements that can make a novel stand out from the rest and become a bestseller. He’s written many craft books, all of them excellent. This one is his first, but you could choose any to begin.

The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick

The Situation and The Story

If you’re writing a memoir or personal essay, this powerful guide is sure to improve your understanding of salable and compelling personal stories. It’s a classic in the field.

The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

The Forest for the Trees

An editor’s advice to authors—a fabulous read, written with empathy and insight.

The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley

3 A.M. Epiphany

One of my favorite prompt books of all time—excellent to use on your own, and also useful as part of a writing class.

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

Plot & Structure

My favorite book on plotting if you’re writing commercial fiction.

The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood

The Pocket Muse

A gorgeous inspiration book.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

Show Your Work

If it’s possible for a creativity book and business book to be all wrapped up in a single title, this is it.

The Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing by Nicholas Erik

The Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing

This is for self-publishing authors, primarily fiction writers. Much of it is available for free at the author’s site.

Let's Get Digital Fourth Edition by David Gaughran

Let’s Get Digital

A comprehensive guide by a trusted author in the indie space.

Your First 1000 Copies 2nd Edition by Tim Grahl

Your First 1000 Copies

Written by a proven marketer of both traditionally published and self-published titles.

The 10 Commandments of Author Branding by Shayla Raquel

The 10 Commandments of Author Branding

Writers are often uncomfortable thinking about themselves as a brand. This guide discusses how to build a career and market books in a way that’s authentic and aligns with your values—even if you don’t fully buy into being a “brand.”