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Blonde1
07-08-2008, 11:09 PM
Hey, everyone. I'm very confused as to how to find an agent. I researched it and I'm not quite sure which way to go. I'm almost finished with my biography and it has over 82,000 words with around 72 pages at this point. It's about my life growing up in the Florida foster care system. I was removed from my parents and three sisters and brother back in the 60's and I pretty much lived in about 12 separate foster homes before I was adopted at eight years old. I was sexually, physically and verbally abused and I became a little hell to deal with.I requested all of my documents from Florida and Va. I used those documents, as well as, my memories to write the manuscript. The title will be "A Child's Requiem." I hope that is a good one. I wish to "open the doors" of the foster care system and hopefully help others who were or are in the same situation.

escritora
07-09-2008, 12:09 AM
Blonde1,

Since you researched how to find an agent and are confused, can you provide specific questions?

In addition, it sounds as though you have either written a memoir or autobiography.

underthecity
07-09-2008, 12:16 AM
Blonde1,

Welcome to AW, and I hope we can see your book through to publication.

Several points:

1. If the book is about yourself, it is an autobiography. Your book might also be considered a memoir.

2. Your book sounds like it has an interesting angle to it, which will make it stand out from a typical memoir. Here's the problem, though. Memoirs/biographies can be a very tough sell. Unless you are famous, used to be famous, or have an incredible story to tell about yourself, there's a chance it might never be published.

3. In order for your memoir proposal to be read by an agent or publisher, it must have something unique about it. Have you ever seen a book like yours on any shelf, published by a commercial publisher (outfits like Authorhouse, Firstbooks, and <groan> Publishamerica are not commercial publishers)? As I said in Point 2, it A Child's Requiem sounds like it has a unique premise, but its particular slant might have to expose the problems in the foster care system. (Perhaps you heard of the Marcus Fiesel situation in Cincinnati from last year? That exposed a HUGE problem in the foster care system. Read more about it here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Fiesel) and here (http://www.wcpo.com/content/specials/2007/marcus/default.aspx).

That is not to say your story is not unique. It might have to be shaped into the kind of story a publisher would be interested in taking on.

I also think "opening the doors of the foster care system" is a noble effort, but the information has to be presented the right way.

4. If your story has 82,000 words, it should have a heck of a lot more pages than just 72, more like over 300. Is your manuscript in proper format, Times New Roman 10 and double spaced? It needs to be.

5. I strongly recommend you ask for feedback in AW's Share Your Work forum, and hang out in the various forums and start learning about how publising works.

6. With all that said, visit agentquery (http://www.agentquery.com) for information about agents.

Good luck, and keep posting!

allen

Blonde1
07-09-2008, 12:38 AM
Woops! I actually did mean autobiography. I believe I may have an angle. We, my sisters, brother and I were left in many dangerous situations prior to our removal. While I was in fostercare some very bad things happened to me and I acted out in some rather bad ways. While the system was working hard to place me, they lied about my history and background, as well as, deleting many of the abuses that were written in my files by my social worker. Therefore, when I was finally adopted, my new parents did not know I was ever abused. They believed they were getting a normal, healthy little girl. So, when I acted out or did some terrible things, they did not understand, nor did they know what to do. The main focus of the agency was to simply place me as quickly as possible.

I have since then put myself through college and have become a teacher for "at risk youth", many of whom are in fostercare. Ironic, huh?

escritora
07-09-2008, 12:42 AM
Therefore, when I was finally adopted, my new parents did not know I was ever abused. They believed they were getting a normal, healthy little girl.

Wow. That's incredible. Sounds like your autobiography is interesting.

Blonde1
07-09-2008, 01:12 AM
Thank you,escritora. I hope so. The questions I have: When I query an agent, should I explain my manuscript in detail or just give a brief synopsis? Do I brag about the manuscript or just explain why I believe it should sell? Should I send my manuscript to many various agents or to just one?

Thanks for your help, by the way!

underthecity
07-09-2008, 01:20 AM
You'll have to write a query letter. There's information in the Share Your Work forum under the Query Letter Critique forum on how to write a good one.

Plus, you'll have to have a proposal ready.

allen

escritora
07-09-2008, 02:30 AM
When I query an agent, should I explain my manuscript in detail or just give a brief synopsis? Do I brag about the manuscript or just explain why I believe it should sell?

You will need a query letter. As suggested in the previous post, go to the Share Your Work forum. Take a look at query letters that AW members have written and the feedback they received. This should be a good starting point for you.


Should I send my manuscript to many various agents or to just one?


The norm is that query letters are sent to more than one agent.

I'm not in agreement that you will need a proposal. Though you are writing nonfiction, you should follow fiction submission guidelines.

When you search for agents, their submission guidelines will dictate what they want included with the query letter.

underthecity
07-09-2008, 03:12 AM
Yeah, I don't think she'll need a proposal either, now that I think about it again. Well, the other stuff still applies.

I would also suggest she finish it and polish it before even considering querying, though.

allen

Blonde1
07-09-2008, 04:07 AM
Thanks, guys. You have been a great help! I will get this started tomorrow. I have my summers off so I can really give it a good go! I am so very glad that I happened on this site today!

melaniehoo
07-09-2008, 04:14 AM
I'm working on my memoir and I've learned through research that it's the one non-fiction that is treated as fiction, in terms of how you approach an agent. That means standard query letter, synopsis, etc., and no need for a proposal.

PatrickMoran2008
07-09-2008, 05:51 AM
I cant really help with your questions here, but let me assure you should the book get published someday I'll be among the first in line to buy and read it :)

kimmer
07-09-2008, 08:21 AM
Blonde1, Welcome!

I appreciate your story and I look forward to publication. I am aware of the issues you raise about the foster care system because of my work with youth.

In additon to all of the good advice, which I agree with, here's a little more:

Whether you pitch according to fiction or nonfiction guidelines, I think you need a solid pitch. Look at books like "A Girl Named Zippy" or "Glass Castles," which are memoirs, and read the book jacket. If you had to describe in one paragraph or less what your book is about - and how it is DIFFERENT than other childhood stories - what would it be?

In the forums we have talked about the elevator pitch: if you had thirty seconds to describe to a potential agent, publisher, or TV news anchor the gist of your story what would it be? What would hook them? I truly mean no offense but generalities about abuse aren't going to catch people, I'm sorry to say, because people have built up an armor (or apathy) about many of those issues.

By the way - congrats on finishing college. I know statistically you have achieved the nearly impossible! Another angle might be how you defied the odds and why.

aka eraser
07-09-2008, 10:15 AM
If you're not a recognized name, memoirs can be a tough sell. It sounds to me like you have a real story to tell and that you might just have the chops to tell it.

Spend some time here on AW. Study different forums. Read stickied threads. Learn how publishing works.

If you can marry the knowledge to be gained here with the ability to tell a compelling story - I think publication is a matter of "when" not "if."

Good luck though. Can't hurt to have that going for you. ;)

Blonde1
07-09-2008, 04:15 PM
Thank you, PatrickMoran. I will research this site very thoroughly. I have gained quite a bit of knowledge since I found this site!

jerrywaxler
07-10-2008, 01:21 AM
Blonde1,

I just reading an excellent memoir about a girl in the foster system, Ashley Rhodes-Courter. I highly recommend it. She has become a spokes-person and activist for the foster system, and perhaps she would look to your book and work as synergistic with hers, and help you find a home for it.

Her book is called Three Little Words. At first glance, I would imagine that her book might seem like "competition" since it has some of the same elements as yours. But you are a unique person with your own unique story, and if you tell in your own voice the way it happened to you, it will add to the literature on this important subject.

Best wishes,
Jerry Waxler

ritinrider
07-10-2008, 05:46 PM
Blonde1,

...Three Little Words. At first glance, I would imagine that her book might seem like "competition" since it has some of the same elements as yours. But you are a unique person with your own unique story, and if you tell in your own voice the way it happened to you, it will add to the literature on this important subject.

Best wishes,
Jerry Waxler

From a non-fiction book stand point editors or agents want to know you the author are aware of the books already published which could be considered "competition". In fact, if she wasn't doing a memoir and needed the proposal, she'd need a section on possible completion available, and how her book is different.

I think looking at the competition out there will help her in several ways. Although for some reason I can't seem to articulate how it will be helpful. Maybe someone else can help us out, or say I'm out of my mind (an opinion held my many, btw.)

Blonde1
07-10-2008, 09:23 PM
Help! I'm unable to go to the Share Your Work Forum because it keeps asking for a password. I type my password in for this site and it will not accept it. What am I doing wrong?

Thanks, in advance :)

escritora
07-10-2008, 09:31 PM
The SYW password is vista

Blonde1
07-10-2008, 10:46 PM
Thank you Escritora! I posted a new thread with my "First Query Letter" Take a read and tell me what you think, please. I value everyone's opinion. :)