Techniques of the Selling Writer provides solid instruction for people who want to write and sell fiction, not just to talk and study about it. It gives the background, insights, and specific procedures needed by all beginning writers. Here one can learn how to group words into copy that moves, movement into scenes, and scenes into stories; how to develop characters, how to revise and polish, and finally, how to sell the product. No one can teach talent, but the practical skills of the professional writer's craft can certainly be taught. The correct and imaginative use of these kills can shorten any beginner's apprenticeship by years. This is the book for writers who want to turn rejection slips into cashable checks.
From interviews it seems that both Rowling and Meyer felt an overwhelming desire to write their worlds, and I assume that they weren't referencing "Techniques of the Selling Writer", so maybe they were just lucky to get everything right in a most natural way.
For not so talented writers, Swains "How To" book explains techniques for plot, character, emotion and pacing in order to retain the reader and avoid the worst mistakes, but it's still inevitably of greater interest to a budding novelist rather than the general book buyer.
Swain says that writing is one of the hardest ways to earn a living, which isn't a surprise, and interestingly that the inspiration of the writer's created world gives its own reward and helps in carrying a work through to completion.
The book was published in 1965, which makes for a staggering amount of miscellany that's out of date, from the author's casual sexism to "a scientist says that a machine to play unbeatable chess would have to be 'slightly larger than the universe.'" Uh. Yeah. He had quaint little complaints about distraction in the pre-internet world. Those things aside, I think this book has the potential to do more for my writing than any other how-to-write book I've read, but it wouldn't be right for everyone.