How Many How-to-Books Are on Your Bookshelf?

How many how-t0-books do you have on your bookshelf? Until I went looking for a misplaced stylebook this week, I had no inkling of just how many “how-to-do-its” I own. Some are old friends that I’ve relied on many times, especially Bob Bly’s books. His Secrets of a Freelance Writer and The Copywriter’s Handbook have guided me through many a writing-related quandary.

But there are many others. The 30-Minute Writer by Connie Emerson is a neat little paperback I’ve owned since 1993. It offers some great insights into writing and selling short pieces — essays, mini-profiles, opinion pieces, humor and more. Lots of practical advice within its pages.

Richard Balkin’s How to Understand & Negotiate a Book Contract or Magazine Agreement is another much-consulted book. Can’t remember when I bought this book, but I can recall that I’ve learned a lot about contracts by reading it.

How to Write Irresistible Query Letters by Lisa Collier Cool is a classic on the subject of queries. I think it appeared in hardback earlier, but I bought it in 1990 when it came out in paperback. A very helpful book, in my opinion.

Then there are three how-to books that I acquired but never followed through on the advice they offered. Not yet, at least. At one time I knew I just had to have How to Write Romances by Phillis Taylor Pianka because I’ve always wanted to write a romantic suspense novel, and her book would certainly help me do that. That was in 1988, I think, but somehow I never found time to start writing the novel. Perhaps next year, I tell myself, with a sigh.

How to Write with a Collaborator by Hal Zina Bennett with Michael Larsen gives good practical advice about writing in tandem. The title reminds me how much I enjoyed reading The Renegade Writer by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell. I bought the Bennett/Larsen book when a writer friend and I were considering joining forces to produce publications for organizations. Instead, a permanent corporate writing job turned up that she just couldn’t turn down.

I’m actually in the process of writing a non-fiction book proposal, so I’m glad that I already have Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal on my bookshelf. It’s also a paperback that came out in 1990, proving once again that I’m seriously behind the times.

Then last week when I was at Barnes & Noble, I picked up The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall. I keep it beside a special and very comfortable chair I go to whenever I have spare time for reading. So far, I’ve read only 20 pages. At this rate, it will be months before this book finds its place on my bookshelf.

Now I’m wondering about the books on your bookshelf. Are there many how-to books? Would I like them? Would I find them helpful? Will you share notes on some of them here? Your comments would be most welcome. And if you’d like to write a guest post about the books on your bookshelf, please go to and let me know.
Please leave a comment.
©2007 by Laverne Daley
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4 Comments on “How Many How-to-Books Are on Your Bookshelf?”

  1. chocmoon says:

    I don’t have many how-to books at all. Perhaps that means I’m arrogant ; ) I do have “What Color Is Your Parachute,” a career-changing book.

    I also read Jenna Glatzer’s how-to freelancing book, but I checked it out from the library.

    Perhaps I need to read the how-to write query letter book you mentioned. ( ps – I still haven’t heard from the query I sent to Memphis Woman. Hmm.)

  2. ldaley says:

    No how-to books? I don’t see that as arrogance at all. I think I have so many because of my lack of confidence. They are a kind of security blanket for me, giving me the kind of support I need to be able to send my work out at all. I’ve always been insecure about that.

    When did you send the query to Memphis Woman?

  3. chocmoon says:

    Idaley, I sent the query to MW on 10-1. Maybe I should follow up. It’s for the Living Green section.

  4. October 1–nearly 3 weeks. Maybe wait till 4 weeks?
    Please e-mail me ( so we can talk more about MW? Thanks. LD.

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