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  • Open Access
  • © 2021

Writing Manuals for the Masses

The Rise of the Literary Advice Industry from Quill to Keyboard

Palgrave Macmillan
  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access.

  • Maps the role of Anglo-American popular writing and advice culture by examining its origins in the mid-nineteenth century

  • Examines literary advice’s transformation in the twenty-first century in its multiple forms including manuals, How-To books, memoir, podcasts, YouTube, and more

  • Fills a gap in contemporary histories of creative writing by focusing on the literary advice industry in the context of commercial writing culture, popular amateur writing culture, and the self-help industry

Part of the book series: New Directions in Book History (NDBH)

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Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Table of contents (16 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xxii
  2. Introduction: Literary Advice from Quill to Keyboard

    • Anneleen Masschelein
    Pages 1-43Open Access
  3. Case Studies of Literary Advice

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 169-169
    2. “Writing by Prescription”: Creative Writing as Therapy and Personal Development

      • Leni Van Goidsenhoven, Anneleen Masschelein
      Pages 265-287Open Access

About this book

This open access collection of essays examines the literary advice industry since its emergence in Anglo-American literary culture in the mid-nineteenth century within the context of the professionalization of the literary field and the continued debate on creative writing as art and craft. Often dismissed as commercial and stereotypical by authors and specialists alike, literary advice has nonetheless remained a flourishing business, embodying the unquestioned values of a literary system, but also functioning as a sign of a literary system in transition. Exploring the rise of new online amateur writing cultures in the twenty-first century, this collection of essays considers how literary advice proliferates globally, leading to new forms and genres.


  • literary culture
  • publishing culture
  • literary advice manuals
  • creative writing advice
  • self-help books
  • popular literature
  • writing podcasts
  • reading communities
  • commercial writing culture
  • popular amateur writing culture
  • Open Access


“This exciting and comprehensive range of essays assesses the contribution of advice handbooks to prose writing, conceived variously as practice, creative self-expression, and mode of self-construction for literary or pop-culture marketplaces. In a field that tends to celebrate developing ‘authentic’ autobiographical expression, the contributors’ focus on not only describing but probing, and in some cases questioning, the advice in writing handbooks is a provocative intervention in life narrative studies. (Julia Watson, Professor Emerita, The Ohio State University, USA)

“A fascinating study of ‘how to write,’ a fundamental trend in literary culture that has longtime remained under the radar, bringing together key aspects of the meaning of literature in society, far beyond the individual needs or desires of all those eager to start writing and end up publishing. It combines careful historical reconstruction of literary advice and smart contextualization of the advice culture in its informal as most business oriented models, unearthing many aspects of the blurring of boundaries between professional and amateur, reader and writer, individual and community, workshop and market, that profoundly reshape our thinking on the institution of literature.” (Jan Baetens, Professor of Cultural Studies, University of Leuven, Belgium) 

Editors and Affiliations

  • University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

    Anneleen Masschelein, Dirk de Geest

About the editors

Anneleen Masschelein is Associate Professor in Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Leuven, Belgium. Her book, The Unconcept: The Freudian Uncanny in Late-Twentieth Century Theory (2011) is an intellectual history of the conceptualization of the uncanny.

Dirk de Geest is Professor in Dutch Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Leuven, Belgium. He has published widely in the domain of modern Dutch literature and of literary theory.

Bibliographic Information

Buying options

Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)