Reading List!

If I could give you homework, I would send all of you out to read the following--in addition, of course, to works in your genre. Where to get these books? At the risk of annoying those who would like to see the publishing industry continue, I will tell you a secret: I almost never buy books new. (Keep in mind that I go through around five books a week and, like most of us living in NYC on a publishing budget, have finite storage space--owning every book I read is, therefore, not ideal.) Granted, I have the advantage of a lot of free books and perusing publisher catalogs and getting myself in line for works early. But--if you add yourself to NYPL's hold list, or PaperBackSwap's Wish list, or hightail it to the Strand--you'll be just fine.

I love the New York Public Library--especially the Mid-Manhattan branch (40th and 5th). With, I don't even have to talk to a librarian. Ever. (No more guilt trips over owing five cents!) There are machines to scan and check out books, and drop boxes, too. Genius.

For those books you'd like to own, check out I positively love it. Simply list eight books you don't want anymore, and it will send you an email whenever anyone is interested in one of them. It will automatically make a label for you, which you print out and tape around the book. You can even print postage from your computer and--even better--avoid lines at the post office (given that my branch is the worst ever, this is a big deal) if it's over 13 oz. Then, when you want a book, use a point you got from sending yours to order a book yourself. Most of the books I've received have been in beautiful condition--and it's not just paperbacks.

And, for those books you can't find in the aforementioned places, check out The Strand's lower floor. I'm not sure how they do it--but, somehow, they manage to get most of the brand new books and sell them for half of the cover price. Seriously. Check it out. Plus, they have really cute, durable tote bags for $6.

Now for your homework:

Making the Perfect Pitch--this is a work edited by Katharine Sands, a wonderful agent who has interviewed publishing professionals on what they most like in a pitch/query letter. This is a great resource in terms of general tips, sample queries, agent opinions, and more.This is also, for those of you on a Bohemian Budget (really, that should be a blog), available at the New York Public Library (

Love is the Killer App--for those of you in New York City, land of networking (do note that even before the economic issues we're currently facing, only 28% of jobs were filled by someone without a personal connection), read this book. Yes, really, this one, with the silly heart on the cover and cheesy-sounding title. It's not so much for the tips (though I take two of his: always write notes on the back of business cards, so you remember who is who; always follow up with those you meet within 48 hours) it's the philosophy here that's so important. Really. This is the land where anything could happen at any moment. Know how to network. It's vital.

The Jeff Herman Guide--this would, in an ideal world, be in every writer's office. Yes, this is really the best guide to finding the right agent. I know there are many others. Do the others tell you personal tidbits about agents? Do they help you get a sense of them as a person as well as a professional? Even I didn't know my boss liked The Sopranos until I read this book. Seriously. And, if you must, get yourself a year or two back (much cheaper on Amazon) and then check the details online.