Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar, Day 20 – Contagious

Review and gift idea by Paul Carroll.

I love marketing books, which always seemed to shock people when I was nineteen and studying to be an English teacher. Contagious by Jonah Berger is probably my favourite, and certainly the one that I recommend most often.

Like all accessible books on business and marketing, Contagious is a book of stories. It tells of different marketing principles at work, and how they were successful in real life. Aside from learning about marketing, I got to enjoy reading about small businesses all over the world.

Why is a marketing book a good gift for a writer?

  • Marketing is storytelling, and good marketing books are good examples of great storytelling
  • Marketing is essential if a writer wants any sort of success
  • Marketing goes hand in hand with writing, even if it seems scary at first, and books like Contagious demystify the process

Why this book specifically?

The answer is simple: I found it engaging, and it has a neat summary at the back that serves as a go-to guide when I need a reminder of the contents.

It’s also not that big, and it’s already in paperback, which makes it affordable. And it would go well with Side Hustle, from earlier in the Advent Calendar. Just saying.

Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar, Day 15 – Side Hustle

Review and gift idea by Paul Carroll.

A bit of a departure from books explicitly on writing as gift recommendations, I present Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau.

I discovered Guillebeau’s work many moons ago, and have long been recommending him to people. One of his more recent ventures is Side Hustle, a guide on creating a small business to operate on the side of everything else in your life. As many authors find themselves seeking to publish professionally, I thought it only right that we as a collective prepare for the reality that maybe it isn’t so easy to just quit the day job.

Side Hustle provides a process for market research and implementation of a product – like a book – and how to build a second source of income alongside your day job or other responsibilities. I know one of our members approves of the idea of a side hustle already, and on her enthusiasm I suggest Side Hustle as the ideal gift for the writer in your life that’s seeking to publish on the side – especially those who will be self-publishing. As well as the standard business explanation and exploration, it’s a good way to show someone you believe in them, and to show them that they can get started without needing to go full-time immediately. 

Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar – Day 9, On Writing

Review and gift idea presented by Róisín Tuohy

For nigh on forty years, Stephen King has been bashing out powerful stories and iconic characters, not to mention terrifying the hell out of people.

On writing is a different kind of book. Written in 2000, as King made a slow recovery from a horrific road accident, it’s a thoughtful reflection on the part words and stories have played in his own life.

King reminisces on the events that made him a writer, a not always easy childhood, an early adulthood that was filled with professional rejection, until he struck gold with a story his wife fished out of the bin (it was, of course, Carrie).

King dispenses advice that makes it all seem so easy, but even for us lesser souls there are pearls of invaluable wisdom.

If you’re a seat-of-your-pants kind of writer, you’ll love his advice on splurging your first draft onto the page and fixing later. “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open,” he says. If it’s good enough for the Master of Horror, it’s good enough for the rest of us.

Reading this book is like chatting with an old friend. Pop it into a stocking for the writer in your life. 

Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar – Day 7, Bird by bird

Review and gift recommended by Róisín Tuohy

Bird by bird by Anne Lamott is the kind of book you give a writer in dire need of a pep talk… or possibly a psychotherapist. 

Writing isn’t easy and Lamott feels your pain. Crammed with practical advice and exercises, as well as stories from the author’s own life, some hilarious, some harrowing, some both, it’s an insightful look at what it means to be compelled to write. 

This book is for anyone who is tiptoeing on the diving board of writing. Maybe you’ve got an idea nagging away at you, but you’re afraid it’s embarrassing, or just not very good. Maybe you’re afraid of what your mother will think. Lamott encourages you to jump into the pool, dive deep and find new worlds. It won’t be easy, and what’s great about this book is that the author recognises it won’t be easy. She also recognises that it’s important, and you should carve out time for writing, if it’s important to you. 

The title comes from a story Lamott tells about her brother struggling with a school project on the birds of North America. “bird by bird buddy, just take it bird by bird, “Lamott’s father tells him, and so…bird by bird, word by word.

Cupán Fae’s 2019 Advent Calendar – Day 5, How Not to Write a Novel

How not to write a novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman is one of my most thumbed books. I don’t say that lightly. It’s got a big crease down the spine and more than a few loose pages.

Most advice books tell you what to do. This one, as the name suggests, tells you the opposite. Shabby spelling, clichéd plot devices, downright offensive characterisation… it’s all here. It’s rip-roaringly funny, and I often get the urge to reread it.

Of course, you, intelligent writer (or the intelligent writer friend you’re buying for) know not to fall into flat description or overblown hyperbole.  However, the authors are in fact editors, and have come across all this stuff during the course of their work. While the examples are comically exaggerated, any would-be author will cringe at one or two (in my case, overstuffing a manuscript with a cast of thousands). The final section deals with getting published and usefully highlights some common pitfalls in traditional publishing.

Broken up into easy-to-read sections, it’s a perfect for dipping in and out of. Plus, there’s something oddly inspiring in looking at just how bad it could be and doing it anyway. 

Gift idea and review presented by Róisín Tuohy.