A stack of titles about publishing written by women

For International Women’s Day: Books About Publishing

I just got out of an online seminar on running a small business that I was really looking forward to, but it turned out to be largely irrelevant to my weird little business. So let’s make lemonade out of these lemons by looking at my favorite books about writing and publishing by women.

The Business of Being a Writer, Jane Friedman

Friedman is my number-one go-to expert on all things publishing. She has worked in the industry in a number of capacities for years, and she shares her fact-based knowledge and hard-earned wisdom in a way that I find immensely useful. I’m a longtime subscriber to her paid newsletter, The Hot Sheet, but I’m also a fan of her book The Business of Being a Writer.

So You Want to Publish a Book? Anne Trubek

This no-nonsense book walks you through every single step of a book’s creation, including the cost, the production and printing process, and the not always straightforward steps to get the books into reader’s hands. Trubek ran the regionally focused Belt Publishing press for years before very recently selling it. This book is written in a clear, friendly way, but it leaves no room for romanticism.

Promote Your Book, Eleanor C. Whitney

The subtitle of this one is “Spread the Word, Find Your Readers, and Build a Literary Community,” which pretty much sums it up. As a substitle should. Whitney gives actionable advice beyond the usual “Be a good literary citizen” stuff.

Women at Work Vols. 1 and 2, The Paris Review

There interviews are usually less about the business of writing and more about the work. Sometimes the authors will mention their work as a professor or editor, which supplements their income as a writer, but not often. Nonetheless, these interviews span the likes of Dorothy Parker, Toni Morrisson, Joan Didion, Doris Lessing, and Lousie Erdrich. In looking at the tables on contents just now, I noticed there’s an interview with Marguerite Yourcenar, who I have developed a recent interest in. So I’ll be rereading that myself. (The editions I have were sold directly by The Paris Review; the edition sold via Bookshop.org is slightly different, I think, but probably still good.)

The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr

I have no interest in writing a memoir myself, but I have edited dozens of them over the years. I cannot recommend enough—and do recommend to clients all the time—Karr’s guide to writing your life’s story. It’s another no-nonsense title; she gives a list of ten very good reasons not to write a memoir that many memoirists would do well to consider (for example, if you can’t stand the thought of revising your manuscript). But she also offers excellent guidance for the intrepid souls who are ready to do the work of making a facet of their lives into literature.

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

I haven’t read this book in years and years, and yet when I become overwhelmed by a project, I still hear a voice in my mind saying gently, “Bird by bird, buddy.” The fact that the scene sticks with me and that I still use this as a mantra to get over that feeling of it all being just too much earns it a mention on this list.