Writing: Grammar, Usage, and Style (Jean Eggenschwiler, M.A. and Emily Dotson Biggs). The first and foremost thing you must know as a writer is proper grammar and spelling. If your writing is mechanically correct, you don't stand a chance. I know that reading should be about the overall enjoyment of the story, but improper use of the English language mars even the best of prose. This quick guide is a great refresher on the basics that will tighten up your writing and keep the "grammar police" quiet.
The First Five Pages - A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile (Noah Lukeman). This is the best treasure I picked out of the Barnes & Noble discount bin ever. Written by a literary agent, Lukeman tells you what it takes to write a manuscript that hooks readers from the start and won't let them go until they finish the manuscript. No, it won't guarantee that you capture a publisher or agent, but it will greatly increase your chances of being read and getting your foot in the door. It's good, sound, solid advice that will improve your storytelling exponentially.
The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published (Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry). Skip the other "how to get published" guides and get this one, because it has all you need. They tell you This book is a treasure trove of information on the publishing process and even includes the field of e-publishing, which is growing (and you would be wise to get up on) and using social media. It's a comprehensive guide that gives you all of the information you need on the publishing process, publicity, marketing, and book sales. In fact, I credit this book with helping me break into e-publishing. It's that good.
The Author's Guide to Building an Online Platform - Leveraging the Internet to Sell More Books (Stephanie Chandler). And I credit this book with helping me to build my online presence for my writing. This short guide gives you great pointers for getting set up online to sell more books and finding opportunities to promote yourself. It's valuable advice, because more books are sold online than in stores, and the Internet is always open, so it can always be working for you.
Writer's Market (Robert Lee Brewer). This annual guide is a master list of all book publishers and tells you everything you need to know about them: what they publish, how to submit, where to find them, and their requirements and guidelines. Of course, you still need to check the websites, as this information can change (and publishers frequently open and close to submissions), but this is a great index. If you find this master guide too overwhelming, you can also buy shorter versions that are broken down by specific genres. For example, I write fiction, so I find the Novel & Short Story Market Guide most helpful. The guides are updated annually and they also have a companion website to keep up with updated throughout the year (if you have a subscription). But the book alone is very helpful and can save you hours of research in finding places to submit your work.
In addition to these books, I'd also suggest that you read a book on how to write in the area that you specialize in. For example, if you write novels, then find a guide on writing better novels. If you prefer short stories or poetry, look for a guide on writing better short stories or poetry. There are many out there and a good reference guide on how to structure your writing for the particular type that you prefer helps greatly in creating a great story and becoming a better writer.
So there you have it - my "must read list." I hope you've enjoyed this short series of blog entries on what I think are "must haves" for your library.
Take care all, and have a great week.