I’ve spent the last semester doing an independent study, creating articles that I’m pitching to magazines and hope to get published. Below are some of the books I’ve found helpful, and a short description of each of the books.
Books I’ve come back to again and again:
Get A Freelance Life, by Margit Feury Ragland, and endorsed by Mediabistro.com, with a forward by Media Bistro founder Laurel Touby.
This is probably one of my favorite books on freelancing. It discusses all the major questions a freelancer faces, and provides simple, understandable answers. The final section of the book is how to deal with the business end of being a freelancer – something many people forget IS part of being self-employed. It has all sorts of helpful lists, including a list of websites freelancers can use, a section on contracts, what to do, what NOT to do … it covers everything from how to write your first pitch to how to negotiate the best kind of contracts. I’ve read it cover to cover, and have pages highlighted, dog-eared, and have post-it tabs sticking out the top. I highly recommend this one.
Starting Your Career As a Freelance Writer, by Moira Anderson Allen
This book has a tone that is a little more formal. However, it is also a great source for information. It deals with some of the inner questions we writers ask ourselves, those things we are too embarrassed to ask others, and those technical questions we need to know but don’t want to ask. It breaks down types of articles, and gives tips on how to generate new ideas when you think you’re dry. It talks about how to find a unique slant. Again, we have how to write a query letter. This book has a much more detailed contracts section (detailed, in that it’s much longer) and even goes into doing your taxes. It’s a good book to pick up if your already writing freelance, and you want to expand or become better at it. It’s a little less about just starting out, but I found it helpful and informative (and I’m just starting out). Again, a good book.
The Renegade Writer, by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell
This was a book I was really excited to buy, but that disappointed me. It’s written by two successful women writers, but it’s a bit too chatty for my tastes. I still haven’t managed to finish it. The books about, as the title suggests, how to be different and stand out in ways that will help you succeed. It gives a lot of examples and tells the stories of many different people who have followed it and succeeded – but it works a little too hard to sell itself.
The Forest for the Trees, by Betsy Lerner
This book is from an editors point of view, and she discusses writing and writers. It’s much more a story style, without much how-to. I’m somewhere in the middle of this book – it’s not something you can’t put down, but it’s an easy and enjoyable read. I find it interesting because I’m trying to go into editing. Witty, and interesting, but not a must-have.
Woe is I, by Patricia T. O’Conner
The self-proclaimed “grammarphobe’s guide,” this book is the best grammar text book I have ever read. I highly recommend it, and I have insisted several of my friends buy it, and bought a copy for my brother who is a science/math person, starting college in the fall. It is a friendly and fun guide to grammar. I never thought grammar could be interesting until this book – I’m being repetitive but I hope it’s getting the point across. If you have any doubts look at the “contents” page. With chapters entitled, “Yours Truly: The Possessives and the Possessed,” “They Beg to Disagree: Putting Verbs in Their Place,” “Comma Sutra: The Joy of Punctuation,” and others, you can understand my enthusiasm. I had to buy this for a class, and ended up absolutely loving it.
Getting the Words Right, by Theodore A. Rees Cheney
I haven’t read this yet, but it’s the next thing on my reading list. Its 39 ways to improve your writing, and it looks to be chock full of interesting tips and tidbits. I’m looking forward to diving in!