If you're in any way serious about writing and live in the British Isles, there are two books you need to buy every year - "Writers' and Artists' Yearbook" and "The Writer's Handbook". Why? and what do I mean by 'serious about writing'? People start writing for a variety of reasons - fun, love, therapy. It's a progressive illness. At some stage, you decide you'd like to improve your skills ... or come to the conclusion that other people might benefit from hearing your words! You join a writers' group, take classes, or start sending your poems, short stories, manuscripts, or articles to publishers. It's before this stage you have to get serious. If you want to improve your writing and have at least the ambition to get published, then I'd suggest you learn a little about marketing before you start sending out material on spec. If you were to compare the two, "Writers' and Artists' Yearbook" is probably the better value. Both contain page after page of addresses - UK newspapers and magazines, publishers, agents, competitions, etc., etc., etc., complete with pen portraits of these. Both books offer a number of articles on the subject of writing and publication. The "Yearbook" is slightly better - it provides a broader range of information. "The Handbook", however, scores in its listings information. When it comes to listings of publications and publishers, the two books do not entirely overlap - they have a number of different listings, they offer a different perspective, and it's worth having both on your bookshelf - and if you want to break in to American markets, you should also consider "Writer's Market". In some respects, you may find the listings in "The Handbook" more informative, and editor Barry Turner offers some excellent analyses of the types of material favoured by various editors and publishers. Well laid out, comprehensive, easily comprehensible, "The Handbook" has been going for years and provides a trustworthy package for beginner and professional alike. The material is concise, easily digested, and in the last nine years I've failed to find a mistake in any of the copies I've bought. For an annual publication, its information is accurate, timely, and accessible. (The same is true of its rival.) If you're serious about writing, it will become a good friend, to be cherished and handled with due care ... though it will inevitably end up a bit dog-eared and threadbare, like a beloved teddybear. If you're serious enough to believe that you'd like to push your writing to the ultimate conclusion and try to earn money (if not a living) from it, then you will need both books, and you should get into the annual habit of buying them.
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