I have been a literary agent for a whole month now. I’m still waiting for my anniversary letter and gift from the Steve Laube Agency. I’m sure it’s on the way.
I would say it has been a whirlwind so far, but that would be a cliché. And clichés are old hat. But I already feel blessed by the interactions I’ve had with clients, potential clients, editors, fellow agents, and others. And what is more fun than reading, editing, negotiating, and strategizing? I ask you.
In that short time, I have had multiple conversations or email exchanges in which I recommended a book to someone to avoid the necessity of writing a book myself to explain things. Why “reinvent the wheel” when others have already provided detailed instructions?
So here is a list of the books I have recommended (each of them more than once) in my first month as a literary agent. I have urged the reading and rereading of these books in writers’ conferences and coaching relationships for years (with one exception, because it’s brand new), but have done so again in exchanges with others about the writing and publishing world. Here they are:
If you hope to sell a book in today’s competitive market, you need to read and follow the insights and information in this book by the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers.
I tell conference attendees that Zinsser is indispensable for any writer of nonfiction. It is such a standard in the industry, in fact, that writers and editors call it, simply, “Zinsser.”
This slim volume has also become a standard, and is similarly referred to as “Strunk and White.” It has been around for fifty-eight years and is referred to and recommended by every writing instructor I know.
This reference work answers every question an author could have about style (“Do I italicize movie titles?” “Does punctuation always go inside quote marks?” “Do I capitalize ‘of’ and ‘on’ in a book title?” and more). Even if you don’t own a copy of the current edition (I do, even with a new edition due out in September), your local library probably does.
James Scott Bell is a master of writing (he’s so good I kind of hate his guts) and this book is my favorite book on plot. If you are writing (or intend to write) popular fiction, you need this book.
Writers of fiction must master point-of-view. Period. This new book by a New York Times bestselling novelist covers all the bases and will help a novelist write stories in which readers will become immersed (full disclosure: this is a new release from Christian Writers Institute, scheduled for publication before I became the executive editor of the institute).
There you have it. Just six books. To buy all six today would cost you less than $100. But devouring them as soon as possible would pay rich and lasting dividends.