The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman has been a great help to me. I'm nearly done, and I can't wait to get more of his books. My library has two more--one about the art of punctuation, which intrigues me, and one about building plot.
The First Five Pages has 19 chapters covering the first 19 things that agents will look at when they read your book. (For the record, Lukeman is an agent himself.) Probably the most beneficial chapter to me was "Subtlety." I never really thought about subtlety in writing, but he stresses its importance here, and it makes so much sense. He talks about not giving too much away, not being afraid to leave some things unresolved, and not beating the reader over the head with certain facts. I've realized there are places where I do this in my longer manuscripts. In fact, just today I've gone back to my "Dead Gods" manuscript I'm rewriting, and am only up to about 6000 words rewritten, and deleted over a 1000 of those words.
The goal of the whole book is concision, making your book as tight and readable as possible. It's a huge help. If I were teaching a class on how to sell a book (which I wouldn't be, because I haven't done it, but for the sake of argument), this would be required reading.
WHAT I'M WORKING ON RIGHT NOW:
As I said, I worked on "The Dead Gods" a little this morning, and I've also been editing my two short stories, "One Man's Retirement" and "The Hand That Inks." They're both just about ready to submit.
3 hours ago