It’s great how with all this technology and the mighty internet around, good old literature is still the first place thespians look for reliable information. Reading some of the best books on acting business is what helps new actors start an acting career much quicker than it was before.
Books are the number one go-to resource for actors. Having said that, there are several different types of books that are useful for actors. Apart from the technique and business books, other literature can help actors stay more creative, others can be self-help books for motivation, then there are books that expand your imagination and many others.
I’ve previously listed my opinion on the six best acting technique books (I still stand by that list, by the way). Those books focused on how to hone your craft and become a great actor.
Here are a few of those other acting books lists:
- 5 Books Every Actor Must Own on Acting Techniques
- 10 Best Books on Creativity for Actors
- 10 Best Books to Expand Your Imagination
- 25 Most Important Plays Every Actor Should Read
Today, we’ll discuss and list books that focus specifically on the acting business. Everything you need to know about how to get an agent, how to market yourself, how to network as an actor and otherwise advance your career further in the entertainment industry.
In terms of acting craft and acting business, the importance of books varies. However, in general, actors should be reading constantly. Fiction, non-fiction, magazines, articles, studies, newspapers and anything in between. That is what expands your imagination; it’s what makes you a better actor.
Just remember that books cannot replace real acting training.
You can (and should) learn the craft itself from attending drama schools and acting classes. The only thing you can’t get from these classes is learn about the acting business doing the same thing. The system of show business can get very complicated, and the only way to approach it is by studying all the ins and outs of this industry.
“If you play the odds, there is no reason to ever attempt a career in show business. If you live your dreams, there’s no excuse not to.” – Bonnie Gillespie
Top 5 Best Books on Acting Business
The books below, particularly the first three books, are ideal resources for actors who are either:
- About to start their amazing acting journey, or
- Recently started pursuing acting but are confused, or
- Have been at it for a while but need a refresher on today’s rules
Even if you’re an old-school veteran of acting, I bet you will find something very useful in each one of these publications and then go: “Oh, I didn’t know that!” Then maybe that one little thing will save your career one day.
Acting is as much about the business and marketing as it is about the craft, regardless of whether we like to admit it or not. So study it diligently!
Self Management for Actors
by Bonnie Gillespie
Bonnie Gillespie has been at the forefront of helping actors trying to achieve their dreams for many years now. She’s a renown acting career consultant, and her work stretches across multiple mediums. Bonnie is writing columns for different acting websites and has an ongoing podcast “The Work” on iTunes. She’s also an accomplished author and a casting director. If anybody knows something about the business side of acting, it’s Bonnie.
This is the 4th updated edition of Self-Management for Actors: Getting Down to (Show) Business that’s out now. The book basically tells you how to become “your agent’s dream client.” After reading it, you’ll know everything there is about marketing yourself, building a brand around you, pitching that brand and making it successful. The newer edition also includes additional tips on how to move to bigger acting cities, start working and reach the red-carpet level of success.
“Along with practical and insightful show business advice, Gillespie also generously sprinkles in success strategies such as forming the right mindset, avoiding getting mired down in “mind taffy”, forming a “web of trust” with fellow professionals, and how to strategically create your brand and effective marketing approach.” – Dan Strakal
How to Be a Working Actor
by Mari Lyn Henry and Lynne Rogers
Mari Lyn Henry has been a successful casting director for over a decade; she then switched to career consulting and has been doing that for over 40 years now. Mari is also a talent agent, and has helped many actors to achieve success in film and TV. Mari’s pen pal Lynne Rogers was a successful TV, stage and commercial actor for decades, so she brings a very valuable perspective to the table. They both know everything there is about the entertainment business.
How to Be a Working Actor: The Insider’s Guide to Finding Jobs in Theater, Film & Television, also known to some as “The Bible of the Biz”, is currently in its 5th edition. The book has been teaching actors on the business of acting for over 25 years now, and the two women try to keep it up to date. The book that encompasses two women’s expertise provides in-depth advice on every little detail: headshots, resumes, clothes, auditioning, actor’s life, unions, etc. It’s a must-read survival guide for actors.
“If I were to label one book a ‘must read’ for anyone aspiring to a successful career in the acting business, it’s How To Be A Working Actor. A survival kit for veteran or neophyte, this brilliantly researched book is a treasure trove of useful information, tips on career management, and informed guidance for the professional actor.” – Darryl Hickman
An Agent Tells All
by Tony Martinez
Tony Martinez is a theatrical acting agent based in Los Angeles; and a good agent at that. After being in the industry as an acting agent for 15 years, Tony has gone through different agencies and worked with famous and talented actors. He finally ended up in KMR, a strong talent agency with good portfolio of actors. He’s seen it all, and heard it all. Tony Martinez knows exactly why some actors are successful, and why others aren’t, and he tells it all.
An Agent Tells All is arguably the most popular one of all these best books on acting business. Every working actor has it, or at least has read it. It’s a very truthful, uncensored, without any sugar coating look at the way things work in this business and everything on how to get an agent. With a little humor, author explains the hierarchy of the industry and then lays out a detailed plan of exactly what you should do if you want to become a working actor. Check out the reviews on Amazon.
“Martinez is not here just to dash out dreams, his ultimate objective is to provide the actor advice and specific tools to increase one’s chances of not only survival, but success as well. His advice is always practical (keep working, be prepared and get over yourself) and personal (he provides many fine anecdotes illustrating the “do’s” and “don’ts”).” – John Remington
Acting is Everything
by Judy Kerr
Judy Kerr is an accomplished actor, director and a popular acting coach. She’s been in the industry for over 25 years, and brings all her experience to teach others how to achieve their goals. Her private one-on-one coaching classes are well known in Hollywood, and she was also voted the best private acting coach. Judy worked with legends like Michael Richards, Raquel Welch, Bette Midler, Jason Alexander and others.
Judy’s bestselling book Acting Is Everything: An Actor’s Guidebook For A Successful Career In Los Angeles is in its 11th edition (wow!) And even though the title emphasizes Los Angeles, the book is great for people pursuing acting in any city. This lifetime guide touches upon planning your career and then following that path. Even the very minor questions that you might have will be answered here (e.g. “should I have a plastic surgery?” “should I play nude?”)
“This is the most comprehensive book on building an acting career that I have ever read. The information contained in this book, is, in and of itself, worth 100 times the cost. It is true, there are lots of books out there that do provide information, but the personal quality Judy gives her book is what really makes it.” – Dana Keller
How to Get Arrested
by Michael J. Wallach
With this last unexpected choice of a book, we have the whole package: advice from casting directors, acting coaches, actors, career consultants, directors, talent agents, and now managers.
Michael J. Wallach is a personal manager who’s been managing careers of different actors for more than 20 years. He is based in Los Angeles and frequently coaches performers, as well as frequents different workshops by invitation to teach budding actors that “making it in the movie business” is highly about learning the business side of it. Michael also has a 6-week course in UCLA called “The Business of Acting”. He’s a great person to listen to for career advice.
How to Get Arrested: A Motivational Story for Actors Breaking Into Hollywood is not your usual self-help book. It’s a story told about actors who came to make it in Hollywood. It’s motivational, and it’s very enlightening. Regardless of which market you’re targeting, this is an absolute must-read to witness both good and bad decisions on this career path. This book is very unique, interesting to read and is definitely worth having on your best books on acting business list. Despite this being a story, it’s full-packed with valuable tips.
“I’ve read a lot of acting books how to study this technique, that technique. When you get to Hollywood or New York [or London] what you need to know is “How to Get Arrested”… How to make it, survive, get your SAG card, an agent, a manager. This brilliant book that Michael Wallach has put together is an easy read while focusing on the steps of success to making it in show business.” – Don Isaacs