Recommended Books for Self-Published Authors

Writing Books

First things first: know your craft. Develop your writing voice. Novelists, learn the ingredients that make up plot. Memoirists, learn fiction writing techniques to make your story compelling and universal. Here are some books to get you started.

Finding Your Writer’s Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction, by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall.

Mixes creative inspiration with practical advice about craft. This book guides you on accessing your natural voice, using voice as a springboard to characters and for discovering the form of your story, and includes a breakthrough approach to revision. My all-time favorite writing book.

Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course, by Jerry Cleaver.

Covers story craft in a simple formula, the creative process, self-editing, time management, and getting into print. Great book for those of us who write first drafts by the seat of our pants (pantsing).

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, by Lisa Cron.

Explains how the mind is wired for story. The author’s method of writing a novel is an alternative to pantsing and plotting.

Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need, by Blake Snyder.

Discusses the elements of a winning logline (what your story is about), and breaks down a screenplay into 15 “beats.” A great book for novelists, too.

Save the Cat! Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get Into…and Out Of, by Blake Snyder.

If you followed Snyder’s method and your screenplay or novel still doesn’t hang together, this book covers trouble spots and how to fix them.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need, by Jessica Brody.

Converts Snyder’s method of screenwriting into novel writing.

Writer’s Digest puts out many excellent books on writing.

Self-Publishing Books

Educate yourself on the nuts and bolts of self-publishing, from creation to marketing and beyond. These two books cover it all.

The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living, by Peter Bowerman.

From creating your book to marketing, building a cash-generating website to developing multiple income streams, getting your book into bookstores and maximizing ebook profits, this is the book to own if you’re pursuing self-publishing. Includes a timeline of what you need to do, and when.

IngramSpark Guide to Independent Publishing, by Brendan Clark.

Walks you through the book production process from start to finish, marketing your manuscript, getting the most out of your publishing budget, converting your physical book into digital e-book form, efficiently fulfill orders for your book and generating buzz beyond your local community of acquaintances.

Writer’s Platform Books

To sell your books, you need a platform. These two books cover the basics.

Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author, by Chuck Sambuchino.

Practical advice for increasing your visibility online, selling more books, and launching a successful writing career.

The Author Training Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Books That Sell, by Nina Amir.

A step-by-step guide to help you develop book ideas that sell. Follow the steps, and you’ll have a book proposal ready to submit to agents and publishers.

Productivity Books

Treat your creative output like a business. That means being able to do what’s required as a solopreneur with focus, effectiveness, and efficiency. These books offer tips to increase your productivity.

Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive When the Pressure’s on, by Sharon Melnick.

Her 50% rule will help you focus on what you can control, and let go of what is beyond your control.

The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype–and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More, by Michael Breus.

New evidence suggests that we work best if we follow our individual circadian rhythm. This book includes a short test to determine your type, and specific programs to make the best use of your particular rhythm in order to succeed. Especially helpful for writers: the best time to brainstorm or draft, and the best time to edit.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport.

Presents four rules for transforming your mind and habits to develop the skill of working deeply without distraction.

Have the Courage to Share Your Work

Alexandra Franzen is a beautiful soul who happens to be an outstanding writer. Her article “Even if you don’t feel ready” is an inspiring message to all creative types who spend endless hours revising, reimagining, redoing or reshaping their project, which is a sure sign they’re resisting the moment of sharing it with the world. Do yourself a favor and read this pep talk. You owe it to the rest of us. You owe it to your Muse. You owe it to yourself.

Here’s the link:

Even if you don’t feel ready.

How Introverts Can Network with Ease

Starting out as a freelance writer, I attended a networking event for entrepreneurs. What better way to scout for clients, right? 

The only problem: I’m an introvert.

Here’s how the evening played out:

I ran through the files in my brain searching for something meaningful to say. Nah, too boring, too stupid, too embarrassing. 

Then I piped up with some version of:

“Hi, I’m Diane. I’m a freelance copywriter. I write website content and marketing materials for solopreneurs. Here’s my card. And here’s another so you can give it to a friend.”

And off I went, in search of my next victim.

When I wasn’t blabbing about myself and foisting cards upon strangers, I stood tongue-tied with a fixed smile. I’m not a skillful conversationalist.

My sister, on the other hand, is a brilliant conversationalist. She has scads of friends nationally and abroad—that’s how good she is at conversing with strangers. I studied her technique, and it boiled down to this:

She asks questions.

That’s it! 75 – 80 % of her conversation is made up of questions.

“How’s that short story going? Did you finish it? No? What’s in the way? Have you thought about…?” and so on. 75 – 80 % of the time she’s finding out about the other person, and 20 – 25% of the time she shares stories or relays information.

I’m the reverse. I spend 75 – 80 % of the time, maybe more, talking about, or thinking about, me. I focus a measly 20%, maybe less, on the other person.

I thought, what if I flip it? What if, at my next networking event, I approach someone and say:

“Hi, I’m Diane. What business are you in?”

And the conversation goes something like this:

“I designed an app for home delivery of vegan meals.”

“No kidding! Do the meals arrive on the doorstep? How does that work? What kind of people use the app? Is it geared to millennials who work crazy-long hours in high tech? Or families? Or singles? How do you get the word out to people? How’s that working for you?” And so on.

Now, I’ve made a personal connection. I’m finding out what this person’s needs might be, and how I might serve him or her. 

Networking is about the other person, not me. The less I focus on myself, the more at ease I become. I never run out of things to say if I’m digging for information.

I can wind up the conversation with, “By the way, I’m a freelance copywriter. I think your app would make a terrific story. I’d love to help you get the word out. If you’re interested, shoot me an email.”

Later, I’ll jot down notes about the person and his or her business, and follow up with a warm email.

“Hey, had a great time chatting with you at the mixer. I had a couple of ideas you might be interested in.” Or, “Here’s a link to an article you might find useful. I’m on LinkedIn, if you’d like to connect.” 

I might not have an instant client, but I’ve started a relationship which might lead to a writing job, or referral, in the future.

Networking doesn’t need to be a sweat-inducing ordeal that sends your back into spasms as soon as you step into the room.

Instead, it can be viewed as a game. Find out what the other person wrestles with, and come up with a creative solution to help them out.

And do hand out two business cards at a time. Just in case the person knows someone who needs what you have to offer.