I invested in 5 freelance writing related books, all of which I am finding are very useful and motivating. The most important book for a freelance writer, whether a beginner or a seasoned professional, is the Writer's Market 2010. I got the deluxe edition which includes online access to writersmarket.com for a year where there are even more listings for consumer magazines, trade magazines and also literary agents and book publishers. The price at Amazon.com was about $31. The book alone costs about $20. It's worth the money if you're serious about writing for magazines, which is the direction I'm heading in. Which leads me to my next book in order of importance: Writing For Magazines 2nd edition (2005) by Cheryl Sloan Wray. This book is a bit pricey, $40 new from Amazon, $35 new from other sellers on Amazon and $27 used from other sellers on Amazon, not including shipping and handling. Still, I'm finding that, though the book is not a big book and is a paperback, it is worth the money. Why? Because she takes you step by step through the process of not only doing the actual essay/article writing itself (research, outlines, stylistic approaches, grammar and punctuation, etc...), but also of understanding the business side of writing for magazines. This is the book I have been putting a chunk of my time into reading each day. If you do decide to buy this book, be sure to get the 2nd edition.
The next three books are geared most specifically towards the business side of freelance writing. They are not absolutely essential to have, but I have found them to be useful in understanding writing as a business venture, rather than as purely a creative venture. I'm going to list them according to my preference. The first one is called Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer: How to Win Top Writing Assignments by Jenna Glatzer (2004).
The goal of this book is guide the reader towards a full time career as a magazine writer; it is just as useful for someone like me who might work full time, but only earn part time wages, at least during the first couple of years of trying to enter the market. She really gives you an insider's view into the business, and also, she can be pretty funny too, which I appreciate. Right now, you can buy it new at Amazon for about $14, and, again, it's worth it, especially in conjunction with the two previous books.
The second book is similar to Ms. Glatzer's book and it's called Six Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide To Making More Money by Kelly James-Enger (2005). Obviously, this book is about full time freelancing. Ms. James-Enger started out as a lawyer, no mean feat in itself, and then quit her job to become a full-time freelance writer. She went from earning $17,000 her first year to earning more that $100,000 her sixth year. I've only gotten a third of the way through this book and it is good so far, though her style is serious and not as funny as Ms. Glatzer's style. Still, I'm am going to read it through and learn all I can from her very business like approach to her career. You can buy her book new on Amazon for about $11.
The last book I bought is called Writer Profits: "How I Got the Gig" Volume 1 : 15 Writers Tell How They Get Paying Gigs--and How YOU Can, Too", Edited by Susan M. Carter (2007). This book is a little uneven in its presentation, but still interesting because it gives you a view into different writers' approaches to writing. Some are full time workers, some part time and some do it for the love of it. Some write books, other write for magazines, some are technical writers, etc... There's a lot of practical advice given out from each writer and, not surprisingly, the styles vary from one to another. You can get it new from Amazon for $15 or new from other sellers on Amazon for just under $8.
Basically, what I'm getting out of these books is that earning money from writing is not an easy thing, you have to work at it the way you have to work at any job or career. But it is possible if you apply yourself and get very practical. You have to have a good attitude too. It is way too easy to get negative. Don't do that! I'm learning how to identify when I get negative and what I say to myself in those moods. Being negative is a waste of time, but it will happen, just don't let it take hold of you. Most of the authors of these books I'm reading say flat out, you WILL be rejected, over and over again. The key is not to stop trying. If one market doesn't respond to you, then try another. So have some faith in yourself, that's what I'm working on right now.