Although I have published articles in journals, I consider myself a writer but not an author. Once my name graces the cover of a book you can buy on Amazon.com, I'll accept the designation "author" to describe myself.
In spite of the fact that I'm not an author, I've had the opportunity to meet and learn from a few bestselling authors. I am also constantly reading books about writing and self-publishing, so I've built something of a reputation as a "guy who knows something about writing and publishing" locally. I've been asked several times recently to share a list of recommended resources. This page is that list.
For Authors Who Want to Self-Publish
Whether you want to write a technical book, a recipe collection, or a novel, I recommend the following resources:
- Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (APE) by Guy Kawasaki: This book is a veritable gold mine. Inside it, you'll find advice about writing your book, choosing a cover, formatting the electronic text, marketing the book, and practically everything else you need to know to self-publish. What I learned about self-publishing over a few years from several authors is nothing compared to what's in this book.
- Computer Software: In Guy Kawasaki's book, he recommends two main tools. The first is Microsoft Word (even for Macintosh users). That's because Word is ubiquitous and accepted by any publisher of consequence. Next, he recommends Adobe InDesign. I have yet to use that because, quite frankly, I think it's incredibly expensive – even in the online subscription version. But I'm sure it's a best of breed product. A product I've used with much success to create first drafts is Literature and Latte's Scrivener. It includes built-in index card layouts, the ability to store your research and character sketches with your story, etc. It's much cheaper than either Word or InDesign, and its output can be loaded into Microsoft Word easily.
I also recommend following the following blog, as its author is a very successful self-publisher and he does a great job of sharing what he knows and learns with his readers:
- A Newbie's Guide to Self-Publishing: This blog, by thriller author Joe Konrath, is an excellent resource. Joe talks about his self-publishing experiments, his revenues (something few authors do), his marketing efforts, and more. I keep up with this blog daily.
For Non-Fiction Authors
One of the projects I'm working on is a technical book. My book is attempting to teach something that it took my several years to learn to do well. That means it's filled with explanations about how things work, why you take the steps you do, and so on. I found this book really helpful in learning how to explain things well.
As I identify others, I'll add them here.
For Fiction Authors
If your publishing dream is to be a novelist, we have something in common. If you have yet to write a novel, you may wonder just how to do it. You probably have a long list of questions. How do you create lifelike, entertaining characters? How do you develop a plot that uses the characters to their fullest potential? How do you make the dialogue come to life? How do you edit the story to make it as exciting and tight as possible? And finally, how do you know when you're finished?
I've found answers to these questions in the following books:
- Plotting: A Novelist's Workout Guide by Aaron Allston: Remember earlier when I talked about having met and learned from some successful authors? Aaron is one of them. This book will teach you the basics of writing a scene, developing a cast of characters, and plotting out a story. It's the closest you'll probably ever get to standing over an author's shoulder and watching him work. (And yes, you'll find my name inside that book as an advance reader.) If I had to recommend one book to launch a wannabe author down the right path, this is it.
- 21 Days To A Novel by Michael A. Stackpole: Mike Stackpole is another very successful author who's taught me a lot. If you're in a hurry to start writing, this book will get you there quickly. It contains a 21-day walk-through for brainstorming and plotting a novel. It's not meant to be a detailed treatise on fiction writing, but a sort of "quick start guide" for a new author.
- Story Engineering by Larry Brooks: Larry Brooks teaches some very successful writing seminars in Chicago. His book talks about how to create and develop a story that will be well-crafted and entertaining.
- Immediate Fiction – A Complete Writing Course by Jerry Cleaver: Cleaver's book condenses the development of a scene and a plot into a fairly simple formula. Don't confuse the word "formula" with "formulaic". It's not about that at all. It's showing you the elements you should try to include in every scene, and why.
- The Newbie's Guide to Publishing by J.A. Konrath: This $2.99 book offers advice on characterization, plotting, finding an agent, looking like a pro, mistakes newbies make, marketing, writing scams not to fall for, deciding whether to self publish, negotiating contracts, writing press releases, etc. If it's not covered in Guy Kawasaki's book, it's probably in here.
- Fiction Writer's Workshop by Josip Novakovich: If you're looking for exercises to challenge you and help you improve your fiction writing, this is the book to get.
- Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon: This book discusses how art (and fiction writing is an art) borrows from everything that came before it, and how the challenge for an artist is to know what to steal and how to build on what you've stolen so that is more than a simple copy or rip-off. It also talks about fueling your creative fire, and much more. I'll warn you, though, this book will motivate you to start creating. Make sure you're ready.
I recommend participating in National Novel Writing Month. This is a project (on the honor system) that challenges you (and thousands of others) to write 50,000 words (a small novel's worth) in the month of November. Each day, you post your progress on the site. If you've written 50,000 words by the end of the month, you're a winner. Winners get some prizes, mostly discounts on products they might want, such as writing software. But there is a great community here and a lot of support to help you keep writing.