Back to School for You

by Steve Laube

Back to school message above open book graphic on white background with vignette

I’m of the generation that remembers the day after Labor Day being the first day of school. But no more. All through August kids of all ages have been headed back to the classroom. When our daughters were in Marching Band they had rehearsals on the field twice a day, starting two weeks before school began…which put their practices into the month of July…in Phoenix….where it was 114 degrees yesterday.

But while you may be past having to go to school you should still have a learning mindset. We all need to be open to new ideas and expand our understanding of the world around us. For writers, agents, and editors it may mean going to a writers conference or it could mean some self-study by reading something about this industry. Let me suggest a few books that could do the trick.

The Publishing Industry

9781451691894_custom-5501b860e04b087a58bd3c783af0df3ae2be438b-s6-c30Hot House: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art in America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar Straus & Giroux by Boris Kachka. While the subtitle is long it is descriptive. What you have here is the history of a publishing house whose roster of authors include such luminaries as Isaac Bashevis Singer, Flannery O’Connor, and Aleksandr Sozhenitsyn. Over the years their authors won 25 Nobel Prizes. The book exposes the inside story of what happened inside this major New York publishing firm. It includes such detail as the blow-by-blow events which surrounded Jonathan Franzen when he spurned Oprah’s interest in his novel The Corrections. At times profane (warning!) it provides depth to your own understanding of how the industry works.

The E-Book Revolution

6af6f689630e547568e853c5aab42479Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of Reading by Jason Merkoski. Written by one of the digital pioneers who invented the Kindle while working at Amazon, this book is designed to chip away at your preconceived notions. At times it may infuriate you but ultimately it will cause you to think. Intentionally the ebook edition of the book was available months before the paper edition was available. Let us know your thoughts on this after you’ve read it!

The Craft of Writing

to-show-and-to-tellThe obvious area to read is in the craft of writing. This Fall consider reading To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction by Phillip Lopate. Patirica Hampl’s endorsement says it so well I’ll let her words speak: “At last — a reliable guide to the signature genre of the age. Impossible now to imagine a nonfiction course that does not include To Show and To Tell in its syllabus. This is the rule book. But it’s much more than a ‘craft book’ for writers. It’s a delight in itself, a fascinating exploration for readers, for anyone wondering why personally voiced nonfiction is so popular. The range is impressive, and the voice here is immediate, fresh, witty, winningly honest. An indispensable book.”

Marketing Your Book

downloadYour First 1,000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book by Tim Grahl. This little book, only 140 pages with lots of white space, is perfect for your brainstorming. Simple, practical, down-to-earth it is guaranteed to give you at least one or two things you can start doing for you book today.


I think I just heard the bell ring. See you after class?



14 Responses to Back to School for You

  1. Avatar
    Amelia Rhodes August 19, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    Here in Michigan, the kids still don’t start school until the day after Labor Day! Thanks for this list. Just picked up “Your First 1000 Copies” for some reading on our before school vacation.

  2. Avatar
    MeghanCarver August 19, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    We homeschool during the summer when it’s just too hot to spend much time outside. I appreciate your suggestion to maintain a mentality of learning, Steve. Thanks for the book suggestions.

  3. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka August 19, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    Yes, my kids start back tomorrow. But many in our city started back on August 5th. So early!

    Thanks for the list of books. These all look like good books to read to maintain an accurate understanding of what’s happening in the world of publishing. I think I’m going to find and read, “Your First 1,000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge here, Steve!

  4. Avatar
    April W Gardner August 19, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    My kids started back July 1. (Georgia) It makes for a shorter summer, but means more writing time for me! Thanks for the list. Always on the hunt for my next craft book.

  5. Avatar
    Terry Whalin August 19, 2013 at 7:42 am #


    Thanks for the book list. I found several that I need to read in the coming weeks. It’s always valuable to have these recommendations from an industry professional.


  6. Avatar
    Patrick Craig August 19, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    What’s the best book on showing not telling for fiction writers?

    • Avatar
      Rachel Muller August 20, 2013 at 10:56 am #

      OOh, that’s a good question!

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube August 20, 2013 at 11:00 am #

      As J.D. mentioned below SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Browne and King is the best place to start learning about “show don’t tell.”

  7. Avatar
    Diane Ashley August 19, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Thanks, Steve. I am always amazed at the number and wide variety of books you read. When do you find time to sleep? I look forward to seeing you soon.

  8. Avatar
    Joseph Bentz August 19, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    Thank you for these book suggestions and for all the great information I get from your blog on a regular basis. I never miss a day.

  9. Avatar
    Ron Estrada August 19, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    As the kid who got excited over reading assignments, thanks for the suggestions! Think I’ll grab the marketing book now. And then off to ACFW next month!

  10. Avatar
    J.D Maloy August 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Love recommendations from respected people in the business, thank you, Mr. Laube! Last Dec I bought Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer and it’s chalk full of encouragement and inspiration. I’ve gifted it and continue to recommend it to many writing friends.

    I was recently reminded about eliminating filter words when writing and it spun the learning wheels so I’ll be checking out To Show and to Tell.

    Patrick, I found Self-Editing for fiction writers by Renni Browne and Dave King to be helpful.

    I have family who moved from CA to Gilbert, AZ and I constantly get texts about the blasted heat. It’s just not right!

  11. Avatar
    Julie August 20, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    Thanks for your recommendations! Can’t wait to try them out.

    I’m of the ‘people’ who start school after Labor Day, too!

  12. Avatar
    Rachel Muller August 20, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Yup, grew up with after-Labor-Day-school as well. I feel sorry kids nowadays.

    It’s always a good reminder to keep our minds active and absorb new information. I try to teach that to my children. For one, I keep them reading throughout the summer. I notice a considerable difference in their vocabulary and comprehension when they do.

    Thanks for the book references! They look like excellent sources for writer information.


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