Write Tip: 15 Top New Year’s Reads For Writers

As my Holiday gift to fellow writers, who have been so supportive of the tips offered on this blog, I’ve compiled a list and brief descriptions of 15 really top writing resources to help you move forward in your growth as a writer. Links to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble are included for those who want to purchase the books or just read reviews. With the exception of one series, they’re individual books, organized by category. All on my shelf and well worth your time and money. Thanks again for the support you’ve shown me and this blog in 2011!


On Writing by Stephen King — a go to book by a master storyteller. Part autobiography, part examination of craft and writing process. Widely recommended for all writers with good reason.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser — Yes, I know, the subtitle is about writing nonfiction. Don’t let that put you off. An amazing classic on how to write well which every writer of all genres and stripes should have on his or her shelf. Period.

Imaginative Writing: The Elements Of Craft by Janet Burroway — a standard textbook for MFA programs, very useful for any fiction writer. Really in depth examination of the elements of craft with exercises, tips and more.



Guerilla Marketing For Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, Michael Larsen and David L. Hancock — Great tool to learn marketing on a budget. Walks you through all kinds of promotional resources you didn’t even know you had as well as breaking down the ones the pros use and how to plan your PR campaign like a pro. Very useful tool with great resources in the appendices as well.

Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore — great marketing book on the psychology of successful marketing and pushing through to the next level. A standard in marketing.

Getting Known Before The Book Deal by Christina Katz — A new standard for how to build your platform and audience well before your book’s release. A must read for writers of all levels.



Screenplay by Syd Field — One of the all time most important books on story structure, often used at film schools, of great use to novelists as well. Learn how to follow the three act structure and develop your plot in a solid, powerful way.

Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass — written by a leading literary agent with years’ experience selling books and writing them. Agent to many big name authors. A really powerful book for any author on how to make your novel top notch.

Revising Fiction by David Madden — a great book full of tips on how to revise your novel to the minutest detail. Covers anything and everything with good organizational suggests for how to approach it and think through later drafts. Out of print but well worth tracking down used and easy to find.

Writer’s Digest Elements Of Fiction Writing series — a series of books by successful authors like Orson Scott Card, Monica Wood, Nancy Kress and more covering specific elements in each book: Plot, Description, Setting, etc. Very useful tools. Like a classroom in your bookcase.

The 10% Solution: Self-Editing For The Modern Writer by Ken Rand — life changing, hands down. A great, short, concise editing methodology which will improve your writing over night. A must have for writers. The one writing resources I seared in my brain and use daily.



The Writer’s Guide To Creating A Science Fiction Universe by George Ochoa and Jeffrey Osier — useful for any writer needing to learn worldbuilding. Although it’s specific to science fiction, the reasoning and tools apply to any genre. Very useful. Also out of print but easy to find used online.

Negotiating a Book Contract: A Guide For Authors, Agents and Lawyers by Mark L. Levine — Step by step guide to book contracts covers standard clauses, negotiation, and how to identify what you want and get it. A must read for anyone involved with book contracts by an author who also happens to be an attorney.

English Through The Ages by William Brohaugh — Another out of print gem which covers the origination of English words through history. Helps authenticate your language usage in writing novels set in particular periods, especially historical or fantasy ones. Easy to find used.

I Have This Nifty Idea…Now What Do I Do With It? by Mike Resnick — A collection of book proposals for best selling novels compiled and edited with commentary by Mike Resnick. If you hate writing outlines, proposals, synopses, etc., this is the book for you. How the pros did it. You can emulate it. Can be hard to find. Small press. But well worth the hunt.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎

4 5-star & 9 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.


Write Tip: 10 Resources For Educating Yourself About Book Contracts

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, thus, no legal advice is implied nor offered in the following post. What I offer instead are resources and ideas for how to inform yourself and prepare for understanding and negotiating contracts with better satisfaction and success.

You’ve written a book, run it through beta readers, then polished it until it sparkled. Then you queried, waited, now it’s out and someone’s interested. Congratulations. Soon you may have an actual book contract in your hands. But you don’t know anything about contracts. How do you find out what you need to know to make sure you get the best deal, to make sure you know what you’re signing? Here’s some resources to help:

1) Get Yourself An Intellectual Property Attorney–Agents are not attorneys. Neither are publishers. And it’s unethical for them to give you legal advice. Besides, they are in business to serve their interests first, not yours. So get someone whose job is to be on your side. That’s the IP Attorney. How do you find one? Author Laura Resnick offers a list on her site hereNovelists Inc offers a list for members. Author friends and acquaintances can recommend them. But don’t just roll dice and hire them. Know what to ask and vet them first. Make sure the one you hire is a good fit. You can get recommendations from friends, but you can also check them out. Here’s 10 Questions You Should Ask.

2) Learn About Copyright–It’s boring, yes, but it’s absolutely essentially. I post on how to register copyrights here but what you really need is to understand the law. One of the best books for you to check out, and there are others, is The Copyright Handbook from Nolo Press.  You can also read a lot directly from the Library Of Congress Copyright Office’s site at http://www.copyright.gov/. Novelists, Inc. has copyright info here.

3) Familiarize Yourself With Contracts–The SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) offers sample contracts on their site. For television and film contracts, Writers Guild Of America West has examples on their site here. Novelists, Inc. also has great stuff on their blog here.

4) Buy Negotiating a Book Contract: A Guide for Authors, Agents and Lawyers by Mark Levine. This book is written by an experienced IP Attorney and examines clauses in detail: what they mean, what they mean to you, why they matter, and how to get what’s best for you. It’s a thin book but rich with data and well written. Absolutely essential. I used it in negotiating my own first book contract to great success. There are other books out there but this one I know is helpful and accurate.

5) Visit The Business Rusch–Kristine Katherine Rusch is a very experienced author and editor who blogs regularly about the publishing business, copyright and contracts. She does not offer legal advice but she does help authors understand how things work and what they need to know. Very helpful, very extensive.

6) Visit http://www.thepassivevoice.com/–another informative blog on all things publishing, contract, and writing related. Very helpful information on negotiations, agents, contracts, and more.

7) Talk With Other Authors–As you can see, there are plenty of authors out there willing to offer advice, lists, etc. Find one you know, especially one who works with your genre because they’ll have experience with the publishers and agents you’ll be dealing with, and ask them who their IP attorney is and get their advice on negotiating. What are things you should look out for? How did they educate themselves? Which aspects of the contract which matter most in their opinion?

8 ) Take A Contract Law Class–My Copyright Law class was one of the best I ever took in college. Very helpful throughout my creative career in so many ways. There are lots of them available at universities and colleges all over the country. If you’re serious about a career as a creative, you can never be too informed. Being under informed is the only liability here.

9) Consider The Author’s Guild Contract Services–The Guild offers legal services to help authors review contracts and get advice on negotiating them. For a reasonable fee, you get unbiased help from experts knowledgeable about ethics, the law and business standard practices to help you ensure you get the best deal and understand what you got.

10) Start Now–Don’t wait until a contract’s on the table. You don’t want to feel rushed or nervous then, so start educating yourself now. It’s often boring reading, so spread it out over time and do the research. This way when the time comes, you’ll be prepared.

Getting published is a huge accomplishment and one to be proud of but nothing can spoil it more than a bad contract or negative negotiating experience. I hope these suggestions help ease the process for you by aiding your preparation. It’s much better to feel confident you know enough to do what’s right and protect yourself so instead of worrying about a bad deal, you can enjoy the satisfaction of having a deal in the first place. What are your tips for learning about book contracts? We’d love to here more. Feel free to post them below.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. His second novel, The Returning, sequel to The Worker Prince, is forthcoming in Summer 2012.

3 5-star & 6 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh$14.99 tpbhttp://bit.ly/qIJCkS