"The Writers' and Artist's Yearbook" (W&AY), published by A&C Black, has a long-standing reputation as a 'must-have' for any writer looking to get into publication. While a number of similar books now exist - including "The Writer's Handbook" (TWH), published by Macmillan, and "Writer's Market" (WM), published by David & Charles Ltd - W&AY remains the original font of knowledge, and for me, the premier choice.
All of these books contain roughly the same extensive listings of publishers, agents, print media, producers etc, and in truth there is little to choose between them. Indeed the competition is gradually catching up, and it is notable that TWH has undergone a major facelift for this year. Of course a lot will come down to personal preference regarding the layout of the different books, and so if you can get the chance to compare them before you buy, all the better.
What makes the W&AY stand out is the wealth of advice it contains (nearly 200 pages' worth) from professional writers, publishers, agents and producers. In separate articles, famous authors such as Joanna Trollope, Terry Pratchett, Bernard Cornwell and J.K. Rowling address various aspects of the writing process and discuss a wide variety of genres. Many other highly informative pieces cover diverse issues such as self-publishing, marketing your book, writing for TV, radio and theatre, the electronic world of websites and e-publishing, and financial aspects such as tax. This makes the W&AY more than simply a listings book - it is, in effect, an introduction to the entire world of writing. Much overlooked is of course the fact that this is a yearbook for artists too. Correspondingly there are sections for the budding illustrator and photographer in the W&AY which are not to be found in the other guides.
There is much that is new for 2009, too. Although a couple of articles have been dropped, 7 new ones have been added, as well as a fresh foreword by Kate Mosse (author of "Labyrinth" and "Sepulchre", among other works). These new articles cover a range of topics, including: mind, body and spirit writing; e-books; and books published from blogs. There are also new pieces from Neil Gaiman, celebrated poet Benjamin Zephaniah, and Radio 4's "The Archers" scriptwriter Mary Cutler. Is it worth upgrading to the 2009 edition, then? For the articles alone - fascinating though they are - probably not. On the other hand, the advantage of having fully up-to-date listings counts for a great deal, especially if you are already looking for an agent or publisher. And at the price it is currently being offered by Amazon, it is surely a worthwhile investment.
All in all, this is an excellent and comprehensive guide. Definitely recommended for the aspiring writer or artist.