A resource with some excellent articles (others less so), a few informative and inspiring author interviews, and of course, a copious list of places to submit one's work, including agencies, lit. magazines, and contests, and a listing of various conventions/workshops. A worthwhile investment for authors looking to get serious about the business aspect of writing.
The book is broken up into five (relatively) logical sections: Finding Work, Craft and Technique, Fiction Genres, Managing Work, and Resources which includes Markets. (I would have flipped the order of the first three sections since Finding Work pairs better with Managing Work.)
FINDING WORK features two articles: "Don't Take No for an Answer: Dealing with Rejection" by Tania Casselle, which is essentially an inspirational piece on perseverance sprinkled with authors' anecdotes about rejection numbers climbing into the high double-digits before landing that lucky break; and "The Editor Relationship" by Leigh Hamrick, which offers some great (although borderline stalkerish) advice for ingratiating yourself with the editors most likely to read, enjoy, and accept your work.
The next section, CRAFT AND TECHNIQUE, contains seven articles:
* "Developing Your Prose Style: Form Following Function" by Jack Smith: This article doesn't offer any concrete tips for developing your prose style; instead, it tells you that some literary editors prefer dense, rich prose, while others prefer spare, lean prose, while others have no preference, and then ends with some generic ambiguous advice: form should follow function and you should read and study good fiction.
* "Avoiding Cliches: Recognizing Them and Getting Beyond Them" by Jack Smith: A notch above the prior article, but still light on the how-to; however there is wisdom to be gleaned if one has a healthy dose of patience and an aptitude for gold-panning to sift the nuggets from the stones. Basically, it's page after page of cliche is bad, but not necessarily if you inject something unexpected.
* "Keep a Journal: What's It Worth?" by Jack Smith: Consisting mainly of authors opining about the merits of journaling, this article almost redeems the prior two. It's inspiring enough for those fearful of journaling and provides some excellent advice for keeping said journaling in perspective.
* "Writing Authentic Dialogue: Handling Dialect and Jargon--and Getting Outside Your Own Language Background" by Jack Smith: Advice which amounts to be careful using various ethnic or socioeconomic dialects so you don't offend people, and train your ear by visiting the region of the people whose dialect you wish to incorporate and eavesdrop (or watch a movie if you're budget conscious).
Each of Jack Smith's articles feel more rhetorical than instructive; there's nothing inherently wrong with that, except at times it read like a parade of authors hawking their wares and pimping their laurels rather than conveying solid ideas or offering practical advice.
* "Understanding Three-Act Structure" by Jeff Gerke: A quick read that made me look at the classical 3-act structure (and plot) in a warmer, more approachable light. Equal parts entertaining, informative, and surprisingly inspiring.
* "Crafting Short Stories: Letting Plot Guide Your Narrative" by John Dufresne: A succinct and captivating lesson through demonstration. To start, Dufresne gives us two characters, then leads us by example through the crafting of a story built on plot, and showing that good plot is an extension of well-crafted characters. My only complaint is that the section "Exercises: 4 Ways to Make Each Word Count" inserted a quarter of the way through seemed misplaced and broke the flow early on, but the article ultimately recovered.
* "Is Your Book a Movie? A Crash Course in Book-to-Screen Adaptation" by John Robert Marlow: Enlightening article which breaks down what is expected of a screenplay and the qualities a book must have to lure a Hollywood fat cat's eye. However, I was a bit put-off by the subtle sales tactic employed for Marlow's own services. There's no problem saying, "Hey, I'm for hire and here are my qualifications," but instead, Marlow says when hiring a screenwriter, one should go for someone who's won legitimate contests/fellowships, and rather than list two or three legitimate contests/fellowships, he lists only one...one in which he placed top 10, twice.
The third section, FICTION GENRES, is composed of various author interviews including: Denise Hildreth Jones, Cat Linder, Tina Donahue, Jennifer Blake, Catherine Asaro, Julia Quinn, Laura Kinsale, Lisa Gardner, Michael Swanwick, and Kevin J. Anderson.
I appreciate such interviews, especially when an author is candid with his/her answers. The questions asked were a mix of typical (Why did you want to be an author? Where do you get inspiration? Etc.) and atypical (asked of Lisa Garnder: How do you create realistic duality of character?), and I appreciate that the authors weren't all asked stock questions. My favorite interviews from this section include Julia Quinn, Lisa Gardner, Laura Kinsale, and Kevin J. Anderson, but I did gain some insights from all of them.
The fourth section, MANAGING WORK, is a bit more proactive, sporting a worksheet and calendars:
* "Become a Snatcher of Time...: And Maybe You'll Hit 700 Books, Too" by James Scott Bell: I enjoyed Bell's book on plot and structure, but I'm not a fan of this article which was tepid; however the tip and worksheet for snatching pockets of time during the week were sound.
* "Agents: Building a Breakout Career" by Donald Maass: A spongy article with dubious editing, but sprinkled throughout are many tidbits of wisdom about what to look for in and ask of a potential agent, plus how to feed and care for your agent once you've found him.
* "Self-Publishing Strategies: Publishing Through a PoD Print Service Provider" by April L. Hamilton: Dry, and could have used another swipe with the editing wand, but informative mini crash course in print on demand publishing. Though it gives you the gist of self-publishing (and some great glossary terms) it only grazes the surface. If you're serious about self-publishing, grab a copy of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and read the blogs of authors going that route and sharing their progress (J. A. Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, Zoe Winters, etc.)
* "Practical Tips for the Nighttime Novelist" by Joseph Bates: A charming, sometimes comical list of tips to help you plow through your writing whether night or day. Some tips are commonplace--choose the most suitable workplace for your needs--while others irreverent--"Be ritualistic and superstitious. If you realize that your best writing days come when you've eaten chicken, then by all means: Eat chicken. Every day." His conversational style made it a pleasure to read and it's the one article I want to print out and tape to my wall.
The section finishes up with Writing Calendars spanning the tail end of 2011 straight through December 2012. Each of the calendars comes with a goal suggestion (send out one query letter per day) or general advice (remember to save your work while writing). If these calenders are to be adhered to, though, then we're already a month behind because August 2011 has us building a blog. Not to worry, we could probably double up in October since we're only tweeting. And below the calendar are lines for plotting our own goals. A nicer touch would have been including contest/conference/submission deadlines directly on the dates (similar to A Working Writer's Daily Planner), but maybe next year.
The Resources section has a rundown of various imprints of major publishing houses, a special note for Canadians using this reference, and a helpful glossary of printing and publishing terms. But all of that is unlikely the reason you'd want this book: it's the Markets. And this book has a bunch, including literary agents, literary magazines, online markets, book publishers, contests, and conferences.
The listings each provide some basic information (whether they accept new authors, agent submissions only, pay cash, genres accepted, etc.) and basic contact information to facilitate your research online or elsewhere. For the most part, the listings are well put together, but a few could have been edited for clarity. In fact, a common thread throughout the book was the editing--when dealing with a book primarily about writing, I expect top-notch editing and the foibles were many and varied throughout.
That said, I'm pleased with my investment and see myself getting much use from it over the next year, possibly longer.
I hope this review was helpful to you, and if you have any questions about the book, leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer.