OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
These are some of the books I love and recommend for authors. I know there are gazillion more, but these have been the most useful to me on my own writing journey.
Books on Writing and Creativity
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King. Insights about writing that will make you feel better about where you are. Even the uber-mega-stars have a difficult time! Includes timeless advice on ‘butt in chair.'
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamott. Includes life-changing opinions on first drafts and how bad they really are meant to be.
The Successful Novelist: A lifetime of lessons about writing and publishing – David Morrell. From the creator of Rambo, this book has some great comments on fame and money, as well as what really matters as a writer and in life. Here's my interview with David Morrell about the book and his writing life.
Writing Down The Bones: Freeing the writer within – Natalie Goldberg. I love Natalie's vulnerability and this book continues to help me when I feel like self-censoring.
STORY: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting – Robert McKee. Incredible for authors as well as screenwriters as the principles of storytelling are universal. I've learned so much from this book, and more from seeing him live. It's also worth getting on audiobook as McKee is an incredible performer.
Story Engineering: Mastering the six core competencies of successful writing – Larry Brooks. This was the book that helped me write my first novel. Once the concept of ‘scene' dropped for me, I was able to structure a story. Here's my interview with Larry Brooks on the topic.
The War of Art: Break through the blocks and win your creative battles – Steven Pressfield. Will make you feel better about the struggles of being an artist and will give you hope that you can make it through to a finished product. Here's my interview with Steven Pressfield.
Turning Pro: Tap your inner power and create your life's work – Steven Pressfield. Probably the book I re-read the most. I have it in ebook, print and audio format and revisit every new year. If you want to be a professional writer, this book will kick your ass!
The Pursuit of Perfection and how it harms writers – Kristine Kathryn Rusch. If you struggle to write, finish a project or with doubt in general, this book will help. Something for every writer.
Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys To Creativity – Hugh McLeod. If you think it's crazy to consider making money from something you love, look at how Hugh has transitioned from cartoons on the back of business cards to a huge online business. But first, you need to tap into your creativity …
Let's Get Digital: How to self-publish and why you should – David Gaughran. The most comprehensive book on self-publishing. David is a campaigner for indie rights, so this book is completely transparent with no hidden agenda.
Write. Publish. Repeat. The No-Luck Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success – Johnny B. Truant & Sean Platt. A comprehensive look at the business model of high-output fiction writers. Includes how to write fast, publish quickly and get your book to customers. They also have a video course on Udemy that goes through the aspects of the book. Here's my interview with Sean Platt and separately with Johnny B Truant.
Choosing a Self Publishing Service – The Alliance of Independent Authors. Written by authors, for authors with no bias towards any service, this goes through how you can evaluate premium self-publishing companies and how to do it yourself.
Self-Publishers Legal Handbook – Helen Sedwick. Contains information on using images as an indie, what to watch out for in contracts with self-publishing services, working with collaborators and much more.
How to Market a Book – Joanna Penn. Yes, this is my book (!) but I wrote it because I couldn't find one single book that offered everything for authors in one. I've been studying marketing for years now and this is everything I have learned along the way. Updated Oct 2014.
Platform: Get noticed in a noisy world. A step-by-step guide for anyone with something to say or sell – Michael Hyatt. This is for any small business and does a great job of going through all the aspects of reaching an audience through a platform.
Let's Get Visible: How to get noticed and sell more books – David Gaughran. Focuses specifically on aspects of book selling online regarding Amazon algorithms, categories and optimizing your sales page.
Discoverability: Help readers find you in today's world of publishing – Kristine Kathryn Rusch. With 30 years of experience in publishing and now a mentor for indie authors, Kris brings immense experience with all kinds of marketing to this book. Insights on what really works online and off.
1001 ways to market your books – John Kremer. A fascinating resource with tons of offline marketing tips as well as online ones to help you get your book noticed.
Business for Authors: How to be an author entrepreneur – Joanna Penn. Yes, it's my book again! But after 13 years as a consultant, I bring my business head to the creative world and share how you can make a living as a writer.
Make Art, Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on fueling your creative career – Elizabeth Hyde Stevens. Jim Henson was a puppeteer and a multi-millionaire and this book explores how he ‘played' with both art and money, becoming incredibly successful in both.
The Success Principles: How to get from where you are to where you want to be – Jack Canfield. The book that changed my life and helped me to escape the day job and become an entrepreneur. Lesson 1: Take responsibility for 100% of everything in your life. You are where you are because of your choices. From the day I read that page, I started to make different choices.
The Compound Effect – Darren Hardy. Writing a few hundred words a day doesn't seem like much. Saving a few hundred dollars a month doesn't seem like much. Drinking water instead of soda doesn't seem like much. But all these little things make a huge difference over time. This book will help you see the magic of compounding – and I have seen this in my own life. In 2007, I had no books, no website, no online audience, no podcast, no twitter – just a day job I hated. Little steps every day since then have changed my life.
The Four Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich – Tim Ferriss. Helped me with the inspiration and education to leave my day job for the entrepreneurial life. It was the impetus to start this site and realistically consider a lifestyle change. Tim also has a brilliant podcast with some of the most interesting guests around.
$100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau: Reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love and create a new future. A more recent take on lifestyle design, opting out of traditional employment and how you can start an entrepreneurial venture for less than $100 – with LOTS of inspiring examples.
The Icarus Deception – Seth Godin. Art isn't a result. It's a journey. Pick yourself and fly closer to the sun. I want everyone who has self-doubt about the creative process to read this book. It's super inspiring – you can read some of my highlights from the book here.
Choose Yourself – James Altucher. A manifesto to ignore the middlemen and choose yourself in this age of opportunity. The corporate ‘work' world is broken, the education system is a bubble waiting to burst – you need to take control of your life.
Manage your day-to-day. Build your routine, find your focus and sharpen your creative mind. From 99U. Creatives need time to play and dream, but also to knuckle down and sort out a production routine, a workspace and schedule. This has lots of small chapters on all things productivity related.
Just writing this list down has made me want to start reading them all over again!