Book Review: The Career Novelist

Every writer dreams of writing full-time. No annoying job to suck time from dreaming up characters. No boss to cut short the flow of words. No worries about paying the bills.

Yet, the reality for most published writers, is that they are forced to hang on to that day job far longer than they expected, and often must keep working indefinitely.

Is there anything writers can do to change this depressing news?

Donald Maas believes there is.

He wrote The Career Novelist for that express purpose, certain that knowledgeable writers will manage their careers more successfully.

Maas is a published fiction writer, and has worked as an editor at a publishing house. He has been a literary agent for over 30 years, and has written other books for writers, like Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, and most recently, The Fire in Fiction.

While there are hundreds of books teaching writers how to write, there are few that teach the business of writing. It has taken me years of reading agent and publisher blogs to cobble together a basic understanding of how this complex industry operates. Had I been aware of Maass' book, I could have saved myself a great deal of time and energy.

Time and energy that could have been spent writing.

Divided into twenty chapters, The Career Novelist explains it all: from pitching to agents (and the errors that might trip you up), to the variety of agents out there. I had no idea the vast differences between agents, and why one might be a better fit for me than another.

Maass includes three "strategy sessions", one on how to break into publishing, another on mid-career damage control, and even a session on managing success (may we all need that chapter someday!). Readers will learn about marketing, how publishing professionals think, and arcane publishing terms are explained. Though this is an older book, published in 1996, the information is still valid (except that most queries are sent electronically these days).

For writers who plan to have some longevity in the industry (and Maass notes that only about fifty percent go on to a second novel), you owe it to yourself to read this book through--at least once.

For more information straight from agents, check out the Agent Friday posts, where top agents clue writers in to the very latest in the business.

Do you have a favorite agent blog? Let us know in the comments.


  1. Thanks for finding that book, I'm going to have to add it to my wish list.

    I follow Nathan Bransford -


    Rachelle Gardner -

    Both are very informative. I've also submitted to both and been turned down by both - sigh

  2. You might discover it, like I did, at a used bookstore, since it's been out for awhile.

    Love Rachelle and Nathan. I read their blogs every day. They are some of the best out there. Keep at it--you'll hit on the agent that loves your stuff eventually!




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