7 Books for the Graduating Actor's Bookshelf
A wide-ranging list of books to help build a positive and rewarding career after graduation.
By Abiola Ogunbiyi
Graduating from drama school is a time of great excitement and anticipation. The discipline and hard work you’ve invested in your training is ready to leave the college walls and greet the casting room (or whichever room you film your self-tapes in!)
As intense as training will have been, there’s no substitute for being in the industry itself. As a newly working actor, it’s vital to continue being a student of your craft and the business, even more so once you’ve left the structure of formal training behind.
Below is a compilation of books to help support the start of your journey into the acting business. Written by both working actors and industry experts, these seven books look at the issues actors face throughout their careers. They’ll give you honest and practical tips on taking your careers into your own hands and how to handle the more challenging aspects of your careers with a positive, level-headed mindset.
Knowledge is power, but it is also empowerment. Through their knowledge and experience, these authors have written books to give you guidance and advice to help put your best foot forward as a new professional actor. And they’re great graduation gift ideas too!
1. The Actor’s Career Bible: Auditioning, Networking, Survival, and Success by Rob Ostlere
Great for: Career tips from professionals in all areas of the industry.
Rob Ostlere interviewed over 70 actors, directors, producers, agents, casting directors and industry experts to create this detailed guide to help actors build clarity and direction in their own careers through learning about the industry from many different angles. The Actor’s Career Bible will help you build your definition of success and has chapters dedicated to essential career skills such as self-promotion, networking, and auditioning.
2. Adrian Lester and Lolita Chakrabarti: A Working Diary by Adrian Lester and Lolita Chakrabarti
Great for: First-hand experience of multiskilled actors with over 30 years of experience each.
Between them, actress and writer Lolita Chakrabarti, and actor, director, and writer Adrian Lester CBE have worked extensively in stage, screen, and multimedia, receiving wide praise and recognition for their work. In their working diary, these two artists (also husband and wife) give an open and transparent account of their professional lives over 16 months. A great book, especially if you see yourself writing and creating your own work in your future.
3. The Actor’s Business Plan: A Career Guide for the Acting Life by Jane Drake Brody
Great for: Treating your career like a business.
When you graduate, you become a self-employed actor. Even though you’re hired by theatres and production companies, you essentially are your own business. In this book, acting teacher, coach, and former casting director Jane Drake Brody uses clear tasks and methods to help you develop a practical business plan for your career so that you have action steps to take even when you’re auditioning for jobs.
There’s a U.S. focus to the book - useful if you’re legally allowed to work there - but there are many universal elements including advice on branding and marketing.
4. Acting: Cut the Crap, Cue the Truth (Living the Life and Doing the Job) by Natalie Burt
Great for: A fun, down-to-earth and honest insight into what an acting career demands.
Even though drama school training is jam-packed, there are inevitably some things it can’t prepare for us (unemployment, dodgy flatshares, etc). Actor, writer, and director Natalie Burt uses her first-hand experience to talk about those things with the playful realism we need to hear so we don’t bury ourselves in ice cream after a week of no recalls. This book is not about quick fixes, but instead offers advice on how to really be an actor, through all of the stickiness, and joy it brings.
5. Self-Management for Actors: Getting Down to (Show) Business by Bonnie Gillespie
Great for: Having a complete guide to being really on top of your career game.
Now in its fourth edition, this is a jam-packed guide that will remove the secrecy of the business and give you real ways to take charge of your own career. This book is slightly more U.S. focused (especially L.A.), but it explores so many important and transferable points, from what life is like on a TV set depending on your role, how to know your career tier, working on your career daily and the different day jobs available for actors. It’s also an interactive book, meaning there are additional resources and downloads available online.
6. You, the Career: A Holistic Guide to Acting, Life, and the Biz by Benjamin Mathes
Great for: Sustaining the love of why you do what you do.
Entering the industry can be overwhelming. Whether it’s being thrust with countless auditions (or not), it’s a huge jump from training to making a living as a professional actor. With lots of books about the business of acting, this book will help you create a connection between your career and your life, inspiring you to remember why you chose to become an actor.
7. Actor's Art and Craft: William Esper Teaches the Meisner Technique by Willian Esper, Damon Dimarco
Great for: Remembering the focus of being in class, and the discipline of the craft.
This original and entertaining book uses a fictional Meisner class to teach the well-known acting technique, but it’s cleverly peppered with advice about acting but also about your career and the industry. The book gives exercises to try but stays grounded to the idea of “living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”
Life after graduating requires all the curiosity, creativity, imagination, focus and discipline that training did. This book is a wonderful companion to keeping and developing those qualities throughout your career after graduation.
Don't forget if these books aren't in your budget, used copies can be found on Amazon at a reduced price. Spotlight members can get a six-month trial of Amazon Prime, which includes free delivery with the TOTUM Pro discount card. Read more about how to take advantage of the offer.
Abiola Ogunbiyi is an actress and screenwriter, whose performance credits include Mamma Mia!, The Book of Mormon, Alone In Berlin, Girls (Theatre); Jamestown, The Interview (Television), and A Boy Called Christmas (Film). Her short film Sexellence won Best International Film at the Portland Comedy Film Festival (2018), and Best Comedy Short at the Grand Budapest Film Festival (2019). In addition to writing and acting, Abiola runs the platform To Be A Better Artist, facilitating workshops to support wellbeing amongst creative professionals.
Headshot by Crista Leonard.