we recommend

We are constantly tracking down new sites and books. This section is updated every month so Bookmark us now.


We have selected these sites either for their content or for their useful links.

Ask Oxford
Linked to Oxford University Press, this site is a brilliant – free! – resource for writers and editors. Once logged on to the site, click on the ‘Better Writing’ section and take your pick. The two main sub-sections are the ‘Plain English’ and the ‘One Step Ahead’ sections. Plain English lists simple rules for improving your written English, and –best of all – does it by giving examples of good and bad writing. In the Orwellian tradition. The ‘One Step Ahead’ section is linked to the series of books OUP publishes, for example Editing and Revising Text, Spelling, Punctuation and Publicity, Newsletters and Press Releases. At £6.99 a title worth an investment. If you enjoy texting the section ‘Email, SMS and online chat’ is for you.

Johnathon Clifford’s Vanity Publishing Info
Johnathon Clifford is the UK’s leading expert on vanity publishing – and a tireless campaigner to have the law changed. From 2004 his advice on vanity publishing will be included in the Writers’ and Artists Yearbook. His site gives clear, unambiguous advice both on all aspects of vanity publishing – how to spot vanity publishers, examples of their typical misleading promises, and the names of known offenders – as well as free advice for authors seeking a mainstream publisher or wanting to self-publish. If you have any concerns about a publishing contract you have been offered, do get in touch with Johnathon.


Looking for an English-language agent or publisher? Try this free (no cost, no advertising, no membership, no pop-ups), up-to-date (as of March 2003) online directory of almost 2,000 of the top literary agents, editors and publishers of adult trade books in the US, UK and Canada, including contact information, e-mail addresses, occasional candid comments and close to 500 websites.

And have an uncharitable gloat at the posting of replies from publishers and agents who ask for their entries to be deleted!

As a member of the IPG I am no doubt partisan – but having trawled through numerous publishing sites, can say that this is a rare example of an evolving site that is clear, friendly and has the needs of its members in mind.

Although the site states that most of the information is directed at publishers (who, for the purposes of this entry I am assuming to be familiar with the site), there are several resources for authors.

The ‘For Authors’ section not only gives general information about publishing and advances & royalties, but offers to submit proposal summaries (100-words max) free of charge to IPG member companies under the ‘manuscripts offered section’. (If you plan to take up this service, remember that you only have one hit, so make it count!)

Another resource for authors is the ‘List of Members’ section, which gives listings of all IPG publishing members – with many names that are not covered in the mainstream guides (ie TW&AY; and TWH). Each entry includes full contact details including email addresses. (Another tip – always ask to see a company’s catalogue before making any approaches.)

Feedback on the site is actively welcomed – so make your voice heard!

Although aimed at would-be freelance proofreaders and copyeditors, this site has the most addictive proofreading test (via the buttons on the left-hand panel) that would floor most editors and authors. Try it and see for yourself!

A nicely designed site with its own online bookshop, and Trevor Horwood, a long-established freelance, is refreshingly upfront about his commercial motives (his book is called Freelance Proofreading and Copyediting: a guide) as well as the joys and pitfalls of his profession.

With the shoutline ‘Writers’ Community Website’ this is a professional and lively site for writers, which repays in-depth exploring. We particularly liked the ‘Tips’ section (eg Tips on Presentation and Layout, Tips on Style, Tips on Vanity and Self-Publishing); the journalism section – which has up-to-date articles from publications around the world, and the ‘Genre’ section (from science fiction to humour).

Established in 1995, this is the UK’s first literary magazine to be published exclusively on the web. Updated monthly by contributors from literary and publishing backgrounds, it has a wealth of book reviews, features and links. Like printed magazines, the writing varies according to the standard of the individual contributor. Apart from quirky touches such as ‘OAQs’ (‘O’ standing for ‘occasionally’) we liked the way the magazine balanced interviews with established authors (eg Iain Banks) with new younger writers. Impressive number of links.

Founded in 1995, the NAWG (National Association of Writers’ Groups) aims to ‘bring cohesion and fellowship to isolated writers’ groups and individuals’. Approximately 3,000 individual members at the last count. We particularly liked the fact that this is one of the few sites to offer opportunities to young writers. Check out the free competitions, the quarterly newsletter ‘LINK’ and the annual Festival. This is also the place to find out the dos and donts of setting up a Writers’ Group.

This site offers a Directory of more than 1,200 Writers’ Groups – and an email facility to check out your nearest local group. Also includes details of writing holidays, courses and competitions. Use this site to download an ebook version of The 2002 Directory of Writers’ Circles (available for £5) or buy the A4 hard copy version by sending a cheque for £8 (inc p&p;) payable to Diana Hayden, (contact details: 39 Lincoln Way, Harlington, Beds LU5 6NG, telephone: 01525 873197; email: [email protected]).

Publishers’ sites are not always as good as they should be but Bloomsbury’s is an exception. If you haven’t been phased by The Economist’s style quiz, try one of Bloomsbury’s literary ones (in the section confusingly also called ‘Magazine’). The site includes recommendations for summer reading, as well as all the sections one would expect – competitions, links, reading groups… Their ‘Research Centre’ is restricted to Bloomsbury’s books, so can lead to variable results (I typed in ‘press release’ and was given ‘nuclear fission’ and ‘stars’ in reply!). If you are trying to finish your manuscript, whatever you do don’t hook into the addictive Writers’ Noticeboard (in the ‘Writers’ Area’).

First, depress yourself with the Economist’s style quiz. Then – depending on your score – dip into the site. The introduction is an elaboration of Orwell’s six basic rules (see Author Tips). Then there are sections of all the trickier parts of punctuation, spelling (did you know it was ‘balk’, not ‘baulk’ and ‘blowzy’ not ‘blowsy’?), grammar, as well as some helpful ‘dos and donts’. This is the site to learn what to avoid (‘very’, ‘there are’ ‘important’, ‘as to’ to name but a few…). An unashamedly ‘nanny knows best’ tone, but the good thing is that once you have digested these rules you can start to break them…

The Bookseller is regarded as the Bible of the publishing trade and its recently revamped site provides a mixture of daily news and comment, together with features, author interviews, and ongoing lively internet discussion. Use the Links section to home in on the A-Z of publishers, which then take you direct to the publishers’ own websites (save time and order your catalogues from here). Other sections which might be of interest are ‘Bookshelf’ for its title search, ‘News Online’ for its columnists, and ‘Interactive’ for the opportunity to take part in internet debates on a range of publishing issues – ‘Is the e-book dead?’; ‘Should self-published authors be given more recognition?’ and so on. You can even add your own issue for discussion.

The Booktrust site (‘bringing people and books together’) gives a wide range of information on all aspects of reading – prizes, events, publishers and listings. Check out the following three topics in their information section (home page, top right): Factsheets (‘Getting Published’, ‘Locating Copyright Holders’ and ‘Grants and Awards’), Links to Other Organisations, and Prizes and Awards. We suggest skipping the section on publishers, though, as more detailed information is included in The Writer’s Handbook and the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.

The PA aims to provide a ‘focal point for all book, journal and electronic publishing in the UK’. Some parts of this site will be closed to non-members, but do check out the ‘Getting Published’ article (also contained on the Booktrust site) for its helpful overview of publishing and writing, its contact details and comprehensive reading list.

The Society exists to ‘protect the rights and further the interests of authors’. When you are offered a contract, you will be eligible to join the Society and benefit from its free contract-vetting service. Until then, check out the FAQs (eg on publishers, agents and copyright), forthcoming events and grants.

This site represents the UK’s two main monthly writing magazines, Writers’ News and Writing Magazine. It is not of intrinsic interest in itself but used as a showcase for the magazines it represents. Order a trial copy of both magazines and see what you think.

The publishing industry’s Mail to the Bookseller’s Times, this site’s aim is to give a gossipy fix on ‘all the hot news of the UK book trade direct’. Catch up on headlines through the news section, and, as with the Bookseller site, link up to publishers’ websites direct. The magazine section accessed through LINKS is worth checking out, as is the free email service ‘PN Direct’.

Ignore the ‘Koi Wonder’ image on the home page and the fact that this is linked to the US science fiction writer’s association site. If you are confused by the differences between commercial, vanity, subsidy and self-publishing you will find clear explanations here, as you will find advice on screening dodgy literary agents and ‘book doctors’.

The site names and shames companies in both the US and UK, and is actively seeking new case studies. The links are also useful.

We are trying to find a similar site in the UK but to date have not been able to. All recommendations welcome…



As the list has grown we thought it might

be helpful to split titles into categories.

Inevitably there will be some blurring of categories.

New Books





New Books

Click on the cover to buy any of these books from Amazon.


Clark’s Publishing Agreements: A Book
of Precedents (Sixth Edition)

Lynette Owen

Butterworths Tolley, hardback, £70.85, 0406939160

The publication of this new edition is a publishing event in itself.
Densely packed with the latest impeccably researched information
on publishing contracts, this booktrade Bible is considered an invaluable
reference tool both for insiders in the publishing industry and
authors who want to understand their contracts for themselves. The
book includes 22 ‘precedents’ – ie sample contracts
– and 10 supporting appendices, across book and journal publishing,
and both the general and educational sectors.

As well as standard author-publisher contracts, it includes publishing
precedents for every conceivable type of right, first and second
serial rights, co-editions, translation rights, electronic rights,
packagers’ contracts, contributor’s contracts ….It
is accompanied by a CD-Rom which gives the text of the precedents.

Selling Rights (4th edition)

Lynette Owen

Routledge, hardback, £40, 0-415-23508-1

A companion book to Clark’s Publishing Agreements and also
by Lynette Owen is this one-stop reference work dealing with all
aspects of selling rights and co-editions throughout the world.
Although primarily designed as a ‘practical guide for those
working in the book industry’ it is also used by agents, lawyers
and authors.

In addition to putting rights selling in context with topics such
as copyright (an excellent chapter which should be required reading
for any author, agent or rights professional), which party should
control rights, when or not to sell rights, and the practicalities
of the rights selling process – book fairs and sales trips,
the importance of tracking – the book includes information on every
type of right. As well as all the standard rights – US, translation,
bookclub, paperback, reprint, serial and digest – the book
includes chapters on less well-known topics, such as merchandising
rights, electronic publishing and multimedia rights, dramatisation
and documentary rights, reprographic and electronic reproduction
rights, single-voice readings & recordings and video recording
rights. The author notes that model contracts are not included in
this book, as contracts are covered extensively in Clark’s
Publishing Agreements.

Publicity, Newsletters and Press Releases

Alison Baverstock

Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99, 0-19-860384-3

Part of OUP’s One Step Ahead series of titles which looks
at ‘how to get a message across effectively’, this book,
by one of publishing’s best-known writers on marketing topics,
is aimed at helping pr practitioners get the fundamentals of written
communication right ‘whatever your budget’– whether
in the form of a press release, newsletter or whatever. Its focus
is on the so-called free publicity, though it also deals with wider
issues: developing a media strategy, following up, directing communications
to the needs of the audiences.

The book gives helpful advice on the importance on the visual appeal
of written communications, and is itself clearly and attractively
laid out, with the text broken up with bullet points, quotes, case
studies and ‘dos and donts’. (We particularly liked
Paula Johnson’s quote: ‘Journalists are lazy; at least
work on the basis that they are.’) The short reference section
includes useful cribsheets such as ‘Ten final tips for copywriters’
and ‘Where to start when you have no inspiration’ .
A good bookshelf staple for people with limited time.

Other relevant titles in OUP’s One Step Ahead series include:
Organizing and Participating in Meetings, Editing and
Revising Text and Writing for the Internet.