Book Writing and Publishing Bibliography


Over the years, many people have asked me for advice on writing and publishing. I deliberately did not read any writing books until I had written about five books, because I wanted to learn through doing and not be too influenced by others' ideas. But after writing 19 books, I can tell you that it can definitely save you time, sweat and tears to read the best writing and publishing books out there. I have read most of them and here is my set of select recommendations with comments. -Bill O'Hanlon

Bradbury, Ray.
Zen in the Art of Writing. This is a collection of essays about connecting with your own passion and voice in your writing. Bradbury has his own unique way of writing. He is a deviant who is comfortable with his deviance and will help you become comfortable with your own. He also gave my favorite piece of advice to a young writer who asked him how he could get in the mood to write, since he often didn't feel inspired. Bradbury replied, "Sit down and write, son. It'll take care of all those moods you are having."

Cameron, Julia.
The Right to Write. (LA: Audio Renaissance, 1998)This is a nice tape if you are having trouble writing or finding your "voice." Julia Cameron will empower you to feel you have something important and unique to say.

Goldberg, Natalie.
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. (Boston: Shambala, 1986). This is the book to read if you are constricted in your writing process or are avoiding sitting down and writing. Since I was already writing when I read this, I didn't get much out of it. Plus I listened to one of her other books (Wild Mind) on tape and her whiny voice drove me crazy, so I lost a bit of respect for her. But most everyone else who reads it finds it liberating and encouraging.

Herman, Jeff.
Insider's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers and Literary Agents (Rockland, CA: Prima/St. Martin's Press, 2001). I use this book to research publishers for trade books and check out agents. It is fairly accurate, complete and up-to-date. You will only want this one if you are going the popular book route.

Herman, Jeff and Deborah Adams.
Write the Perfect Book Proposal (NY: Wiley and Sons, 1993). If you are going to do a popular ("trade") book, you will need an agent and a proposal to sell the book. This little book has ten examples of good proposals that sold for you to use as a model. There are other books about proposal writing, but this one would be all you need, really.

Keyes, Ralph.
The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear. (NY: Owl/Henry Holt, 1995). This book will show you not only how to face fear (of failure, of success, of not being good or original enough), but to actively use fear to fuel the writing process.

Lamott, Anne.
Bird by Bird (NY: Anchor, 1994). The stand-up comedian/Erma Bombeck of the writing book authors. You'll laugh and learn at the same time. Her self-deprecation got a bit old for me by the end but I enjoyed a lot of it.

Masello, Robert.
Writer Tells All: Insider Secrets to Getting Your Book Published. (NY: Owl/Henry Holt, 2001). This, like the next book, was written by an author who tells you what goes on in the world of modern publishing and agenting. It would have saved me a lot of time and mistakes to have read this a few years ago. He has a wiseass voice and was easy to read while imparting good information.

Page, Susan.
The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book (NY: Broadway Books, 1997). Boy, do I wish I had had this book when I started to write trade books. It explains and demystifies the process of writing, getting an agent, dealing with publishers, and helping your book to sell. By an author who has gone through the process several times and coached others through the sales and publishing process.

Rubie, Peter.
The Everything Get Published Book (Holbrook, MA: Adams Media, 2000). Despite the strange title (it is part of a series like the For Dummies books), this has some good information from an agent about getting an agent and getting published. It has a list of agents as well, with contact information.

Strunk, William and E.B. White.
The Elements of Style (NY: Macmillan, 1979). This is the classic grammar and style book. Easy to read, with some essential lessons for the writer.

Ueland, Brenda.
If You Want to Write (St. Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 1938/1987). Brenda Ueland is a clear, compassionate writer who will be your writing mentor from afar. This book was written in 1938 and still stands as a classic in encouraging and clarifying your writing.

Zinsser, William.
On Writing Well. (NY: Harper and Row, 1985). Most new writers I read write in a very obtuse and complicated way. This fellow will show you how to write clearly.

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