There are as many writers' guides out there as there are would-be writers. Of course you'll need an updated dictionary and thesaurus, but when it comes to selecting the rest of the reference books for your personal collection, you can pick and choose among titles that suit your personal goals best.
Some of the books in the following list overlap in content, while others are unique. All have a proven record of helping magazine writers land more work, and you should at least browse through them once even if you don't buy a copy to take home.
The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual includes entries on everything from Dr Pepper (no period) to metric conversions. While this book is primarily used for newspaper instead of magazine writing, it is a valuable reference to have at your fingertips. In addition to its many style entries, it also includes sections on punctuation, capitalization, and more.
Get a Freelance Life
Published in the spring of 2006, this book is branded as a companion to the popular writers' website Mediabistro.com. It includes information about the magazine-writing lifestyle along with examples of resumes and query letters. A glossary of publishing jargon may be especially helpful to beginning writers.
How to Write Irresistible Query Letters
Author Lisa Collier Cool is a longtime magazine writer as well as the former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She uses her personal experience and connections to offer professional, practical advice for hooking editors with tantalizing leads and strong story ideas.
National Writers Union Freelance Writers' Guide
This book includes solid, down-to-details information about how business is conducted between editors and writers in fields including magazine writing, technical writing, electronic publishing, corporate writing, and more. It is a good resource to have on hand for dealing with contractual disputes and paycheck problems.
A lawyer-turned-freelance-writer put together this book, which includes worksheets and templates that can help you determine a strong strategy for starting or enhancing your magazine-writing business. Plenty of real-life examples are included so that you can learn from the successes of writers who have gone before you.
The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing
Written by members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, this book includes chapters on everything from finding experts to protecting yourself through copyright law. Each chapter ends with an e-mail or website address where you can contact the writer with questions — a generous resource, and one to take advantage of.
The Best of the Magazine Markets for Writers
The 2006 edition of this book includes nearly 1,700 listings of places where you might be able to sell magazine articles, ranging from consumer and special-interest titles to trade and regional publications. Articles are included throughout the book on general topics as well.
The Chicago Manual of Style
Subtitled “the essential guide for writers, editors, and publishers,” this book is now in its fifteenth edition. It is primarily concerned with style, grammar, and usage as they pertain to book publishing, but many magazine editors rely on this title to make daily decisions about usage distinctions such as “different than” versus “different from.”
The Elements of Style
This longtime college-course staple is now in its fourth edition, having been used by grammar and English teachers since it was first published in 1957. It continues to be a favorite among professional magazine writers as well, perhaps because it's compact: about one-fifth the length of most other grammar and style guidebooks.
The Renegade Writer
After you finish reading reference books that all tell you how to land writing jobs the same way, you can pick up this “totally unconventional guide to freelance writing success” and consider the authors' advice for trying new approaches. Both authors are professional writers themselves, and the book includes examples of successes they found by breaking with conventional wisdom.
Words into Type
First published in 1974, this style and usage guide is now in its third edition. It is marketed as being less cumbersome than the Chicago Manual of Style, but has a similar purpose: to help you make the best word choices, avoid usage mistakes, and in general file cleaner articles to your editors.
Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing
More than 100,000 copies of this book have been sold, and it's now in its second edition. It includes original content as well as articles taken from the magazine Writer's Digest and has a strong focus on the magazine market (as compared with other reference books that discuss magazine writing as well as book publishing and screenwriting).
The 2006 edition of this annually updated book was nearly 1,200 pages long — offering page after page of listings that tell you what magazines want your work, how much they typically pay, and whom you need to query to land an assignment. There are also sections on book publishers, writing contests, and awards.