Top 10 Books on Writing and Publishing

The best artist always looks to improve their craft, whether they are just starting out or have many years of experience. And for those of us who self-publish, we not only have to continually improve our craft, we also have to stay ahead of the game on how to publish and market our work. The good news is that there’s lots of advice out there. The bad news is that there’s lots of advice out there. Finding out what works for you can be difficult. I’ve read many books over the past few years, some were incredibly helpful, others less so.

The problem is that writing is a very individual task. Advice that works for one person will be useless for another. However, despite that I thought I’d share the books that have helped me the most, both with my writing and to help publish and market my books. I hope you find them as useful as I have.



You will notice I’ve not recommended On Writing by Stephen King. This isn’t because it isn’t useful (it is), but because everybody recommends it so if you haven’t read it by now, it’s unlikely you ever will!

Emotion ThesaurusEmotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman

This is an excellent book that helps a writer go from telling to showing. It lists a series of emotions and then lists examples of how it manifests physically, internally, the mental responses it provokes, cues to long-term exposure to the emotion and cues that somebody is suppression the emotion.

I found this incredibly useful when starting out and also after having written for a while and catching myself using the same phrasings on multiple occasions.

To buy The Emotion Thesaurus from click here

To buy The Emotion Thesaurus from click here



Self-editing for fiction writersSelf-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

This is a great, how-to guide on the steps to go through to edit your own work, whether to get it into shape before passing it on to an editor, or to go on to publish. It helped provided much needed structure when editing my first book and I still follow its principles today.

To buy Self-Editing for Fiction Writers from click here

To buy Self-Editing for Fiction Writers from click here




2kto10k2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron

Want to speed up your productivity? This book gives no-nonsense, concise and practical advice on how to improve your daily word count, with the added bonus of also going through the whole writing process to boot. I read it in an afternoon and it was probably the best afternoon’s read I’ve ever had.

To buy 2,000 to 10,000 from click here

To buy 2,000 to 10,000 from click here




How not to write a novelHow not to write a novel by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark

This is a very funny guide to the many mistakes a writer can make when writing a novel. The book is split into sections on plot, character, style, perspective and voice, world building and selling your novel, with excellent made-up examples to demonstrate the points made. While reading this book can be occasionally painful (as in, “my God I do that”) it is always helpful and never patronising.

To buy How not to write a novel from click here

To buy How not to write a novel from click here




bird by birdBird by Bird by Anne Lamott

While this book gives good advice, its real strength lies in the very successful Lamont’s openness about her insecurities and fears about her own writing (even now), and the struggles she underwent before becoming successful. By the end you’ll be reassured that the doubts you have about your writing abilities are completely natural.

To buy Bird by Bird from click here

To buy Bird by Bird from click here





Digital2Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran

In this newly revised book, Gaughran rakes you through the nuts and bolts of how to self-publish with clear instruction that anybody could follow. It then moves on to how to market your book, and ends with a series of stories from self-published authors who started with nothing and went on to become a success. Then, if that wasn’t enough, come a series of appendices including checklists leading up to and post-publishing, how to set up mailing lists, advice on how to create paperback books and specific support for authors of short stories. If you are serious about self-publishing, you should own this book.

To buy Let’s Get Digital from click here

To buy Let’s Get Digital from click here



Lets get visibleLet’s Get Visible by David Gaughran

The follow up to Let’s Get Digital, in this book Gaughran provides clear, concise advice about how to give your book the best chance to be seen through knowledge of Amazon’s search and ranking systems. I used this book extensively when setting up my novels on Amazon and it helped me both understand how Amazon rankings worked as well as made sure I avoided any pitfalls that could have had my books disappear into the black hole of oblivion.

To buy Let’s Get Visible from click here

To buy Let’s Get Visible from click here




cover-write-publish-repeat-finalWrite, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant

This book was an eye-opener. The good news is that it provides a great guide on the best (but not guaranteed) way to build a self-publishing career. The bad news is that there are no short cuts and no magic beans. It’s all down to working hard, treating writing as a job and producing lots of high quality content.

To buy Write, Publish, Repeat from click here

To buy Write, Publish, Repeat from click here




10 step plan10 Step Plan to Promote Your Book: Online Book Marketing on Any Budget by Scott Hughes

This book is a quick and easy guide to book promotion. The steps are clearly described and achievable – although step 1 is by far the hardest one of all. The only step I would query is around guest blogs, only because from my experience and the feedback of many other authors, it doesn’t deliver the results that other activities do for the same amount of work. However, this is just one small gripe. There is a little bit of self- (or should I say website) promotion in the book but I have no problem with that considering it was free. Overall, a good simple guide, especially useful for those starting on the self-publishing path.

To buy 10 Step Plan to Promote Your Book from click here

To buy 10 Step Plan to Promote Your Book from click here



your first 1000 copiesYour first 1000 copies by Tim Grahl

This book is all about marketing your book and gives a step-by-step guide to establishing a connection system which will help you sell your first 1000 books. The steps are straightforward but as with many other books I’ve read, a lot of it is down to hard work. However, for the serious self-publisher, this book is a must.

To buy Your first 1000 copies from click here

To buy Your first 1000 copies from click here




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16 thoughts on “Top 10 Books on Writing and Publishing

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Dylan – I found ‘Self-Editing for Fiction Writers’ and ‘How Not to Write a Novel’ two of the most helpful books I’ve read, and several others on your list have been very useful too. Great recommendations.

    • Thanks, Jools. Self-editing really is useful, especially when starting out, as editing is such a different activity from creating a first draft and arguably a more important part of the process. It gives good, practice advice on what to do and what to look out for when editing. How not to write a novel helps point out all the major errors and cliches many of us fall into when starting out. Great stuff.

  2. I’m not really a ‘how to…’ book reader because generally they are, as you say, not quite me. I didn’t get on with Stephen King if I’m honest. So, here’s the thing, having read one of my books which would you recommend need! And if that’s too much of a bitch of a question, which are our top three for wow impact in you? Oh, PS, good post as ever!

    • Despite having read all of these, I’m with you on “how to …” books, at least in the “this is the only way to do it” type. I tend to read them and use those bits that chime with me. Some of these books are great when starting out and there are others I wished I’d read having got myself into a mess.
      The books I’d recommend to you would be “How Not To Write A Novel,” not because of your writing but because I think you’d find it amusing, and “Let’s Get Visible,” because it’s really helps explain how to set your books up on Amazon to give them the best chance of being found.

    • I definitely recommend you read “10 Step Plan to Promote Your Book: Online Book Marketing on Any Budget,” if only to see your own advice on social media engagement in print! Some of these are aimed more at self-publishers but I think you’d enjoy “Bird by Bird” very much as it covers more than just writing and is a great read.

      • Oh yes, I’d forgotten I gave him that blurb. He contacted me some time ago. I just looked it up in his book. I see he referred to my first book as self-published though. I guess I better contact him to correct that, just for full disclosure.

  3. I like both of David Goughrans books, I would say they are a must for the Indie author. I havent read any of the others, although Read. Write. Repeat. Comes up quite a lot, as does The Emotion Thesaurus. Time to invest further, I think. Thanks for the recommendations!

    • I’m with you on this, Sheron. What I like about it is the way it gets you to think through what type of reactions and behaviour could be on display. While it gives lots of options, for me it’s this thought process that’s the book’s most important lesson.

  4. I review for Awesome Indies and Browne/King is recommend as a guideline for criteria. I think it’s ok, not perfect, not bad, maybe the best thing about it is the exercises in there that make us think. It’s a bit OTT on show not tell, and not passive but some of it is good.

    A lot of new authors would be well advised to read it though.

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