Best books for writers

Reference books for writers

There are so many reference books for writers on craft, pitching, marketing and more, it’s hard to know which ones to choose. Find out my top recommendations.

Since starting to write fiction, I’ve found some gems of books to encourage me, teach me about the craft and show me how to pitch and market my book when the time comes. Take a peek at my bookshelves and discover my top books for writers.

(If you’re an editor, head over to my post on best books for editors and proofreaders)

Writing craft

On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King

Well worth the hype, this one. I know it features on just about every list of recommended books for writers, but there’s a reason for that. It’s gooooood.

Half biography, half manual on craft, it’s packed with insightful writing tips, bolstering advice on attitude and down-to-earth truths about what it’s really like to be an author.

On Writing by Stephen King on (UK)

On Writing by Stephen King on (US)

The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

This book should be on every writer’s bookshelf. Publishing editor extraordinaire Shawn Coyne takes you through structuring your novel, including how to work out what genre you’re writing in (and why this is so important), and why good structure will prevent readers from putting your book down without knowing why.

Plus, if you haven’t already heard it, ‘The Story Grid’ podcast is worth a listen. From episode 1 (a few years back), Shawn takes debut author, Tim Grahl, through writing his first novel – every second of blood, sweat and tears. Don’t we all know how that feels?

The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne on (UK)

The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne on (US)

A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves

A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves

This is something a bit different. It is structured over twelve months with a writing prompt for each day. The pages are crammed with advice on aspects of writing, including how to find time to write, where to find inspiration and what to do when the dreaded writer’s block strikes. Each piece of advice is short enough to read in a couple of minutes.

I’d love to be disciplined enough to work through every writing prompt, writing a short piece a day. In reality, I pick a random prompt now and again to write some flash fiction, but have definitely tightened up my writing since this book came into my life.

A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves on (US)

A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves on Amazon UK (not currently on UK

Story by Robert McKee

Story by Robert McKee

Another classic book on the craft of writing. If you have this book and The Story Grid (above), I would argue that you don’t need any other books on story structure. The first line of the intro reads, “Story is about principles, not rules.” What a fantastic quote to tell anyone who doesn’t believe in studying the art of writing.

If you need to brush up on what an inciting incident is, or the crisis, climax or resolution of a story, Robert McKee explains it all clearly, with examples along the way. He also explains different genres, character arcs and analyses ‘the scene’ in depth. Definitely a book for anyone serious about writing a bestseller.

Story by Robert McKee on (UK)

Story by Robert McKee on (US)

Getting published

Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook

I’d heard so many writers mention this publication and finally bought a copy this year. Why didn’t I do it sooner? It’s a treasure trove.

In short, it’s a compendium for authors, poets and screenwriters looking to get published. It’s jam-packed with articles on every aspect of the publishing process, including querying agents, law and copyright, tax, prizes and lots, lots more. For each section, there are extensive listings of contacts, including magazines and newspapers, agents and publishers. I’m finding it impossible to describe this outstanding publication in the small space available here, so it’s best to check it out for yourself.

Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2023 on (UK)
Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2023 on (US)
Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2024 on (UK)
Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2024 on (US)

Pitch Power: Discover What Makes Your Book Irresistible and How To Sell It by Kate Harrison

Pitch Power by Kate Harrison

I’m almost at the stage of submitting my manuscript to agents, so am halfway through this book. If, like me, you don’t know much about pitching to agents and publishers, you’ll find it really useful.

Kate Harrison also has some great ideas on how to write a compelling blurb and book description, and even how to make your book title more marketable. Definitely one to check out whether you’re going down the self-publishing or traditional route.

Pitch Power by Kate Harrison on Amazon UK

Pitch Power by Kate Harrison on

Marketing and business

Business for Authors by Joanna Penn

Business for Authors by Joanna Penn

I’ve been listening to Joanna Penn’s podcast for years, so when I heard she’d written a book that helps authors develop their business, I bought it immediately.

Joanna takes you through all the areas of business that you need to know as an author. These include rights, agents and publishers, sales and distribution (especially useful for self-published authors), financials, marketing, strategy and more. I love having Joanna’s business expertise to hand on my bookshelf.

Business for Authors by Joanna Penn on (UK)

Business for Authors by Joanna Penn on (US)

Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl

Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl

I found out about Tim Grahl via ‘The Story Grid’ podcast (mentioned above). He’s a book-marketing guru and has helped many authors get onto the top lists of bestsellers. I have the first edition, but I may buy the second (out now) as I’ve heard Tim has reworked it completely.

My copy is littered with tags, as almost every page contains hints and tips that I didn’t want to lose! It is full of gems about how to market your book, outreach and building a selling system to get your book in front of potential readers and convince them to buy it.

Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl on (UK)

Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl on (US)

Improve Your Author Website – A Comprehensive Guide by Debbie Emmitt

I just thought I’d slip this one in here. It’s my book packed with the latest author website advice to increase your book sales and attract new readers.

Learn how to make your author site professional and appealing to readers and agents, appear higher in search results, and accessible on multiple devices and platforms.

Improve Your Author Website by Debbie Emmitt on Amazon – Kindle, paperback or hardback 

Improve Your Author Website by Debbie Emmitt – PDF or EPUB

Over to you

How about you? What essential books for writers and authors can’t you do without?

Let me know in the comments!

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click on the link and finalise a purchase. This helps me to keep this website running. I only recommend products and services that I trust and am comfortable endorsing. Find out more.

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4 Responses

  1. HElen

    good list. I haven’t heard of most of these books — just On Writing by Stephen King. But I never thought to read it because Stephen King’s books aren’t really my cup of tea — I don’t like horror fiction. However, now after reading what you had to say about it I want to check it out.

    • Debbie Emmitt

      ‘On Writing’ is not your typical Stephen King book. Sure, he’s usually a horror writer, but this book is about his process, it’s not intended to scare you (although his path to becoming a successful writer is a bit scary at times!)

  2. Charlotte French

    Story Grid, Story, and On Writing are my favourites. My total pile is close to a meter high. There are a few more that are special to me Invisible Ink, The Anatomy of Story, and The Structure of Story by a new and rather unknown author Ross Hartmann. I Highly recommend it this last one. It’s thorough and methodical. A keeper.

    • Debbie Emmitt

      A meter high, wow! I haven’t heard of the last one you mentioned, I’ll be sure to seek it out.

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