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sense
01-17-2012, 12:17 PM
my friend keeps pestering me about getting some advice from an experienced person in the field BEFORE I get too far along in writing my memoir. basically, he's worried I might be "doing it wrong." (this is solely based on his knowledge of my inexperience in writing, NOT based on anything I've written so far).

is it possible to submit a book proposal for a memoir by a first-time author? since I doubt any agent would read and give feedback just because, is it possible that an agent would consider representing you based on the proposal alone and X number of chapters (but not a full ms)?

Old Hack
01-17-2012, 01:50 PM
Memoirs are very difficult to sell if you're not well-known already. If you were involved in a notorious legal case, for example, or worked for a criminal or a celebrity, then you've got a good chance of selling your story. If you're writing a misery memoir then you're going to struggle because the market is already saturated so your writing will really need to stand out; if you're writing a memoir of your unexceptional life then with all due respect, you're unlikely to find an agent or publisher willing to take the book on.

If your story fits into one of the "easy to sell" categories I've discussed above then you might well be able to sell it on the basis of three chapters and a proposal. If it fits into one of the more difficult categories then you'll need to write it all and then try to find someone to take it on.

quicklime
01-17-2012, 06:11 PM
i think Hack is right.....finishing ANY book is no easy task. well, maybe that isn't correct, but it is a task that, statistically, a great many people who START a book never get around to. So unless you can offer a proposal so hot no agent would drop it ("My name is Renee McSweeny, and you can't see it in the assassination footage, but my head was in Kennedy's lap the day he was shot. I was his mistress, and we were engaged in fellatio that very moment." ) or you're famous ("My name is Mel Gibson, and I want to tell you about me, and how I was savaged by the press.) you're probably going to have to be able to offer more than just an assurance that you WILL finish it, at some point.

memoirs are a tough market if you aren't either famous or offering something WAY out there. Saying you aren't done, but "intend to be" only makes the sale harder because it makes the product more of an uncertainty.

IceCreamEmpress
01-17-2012, 10:01 PM
The usual practice in the US publishing world is to sell memoirs the same way as novels--on the basis of a finished manuscript.

As Old Hack says, if there's a newsworthy angle, it might be possible to sell a memoir on the basis of a proposal and three chapters. But the angle has to be pretty newsworthy on a national (or even international) level. If you're one of the Chilean miners who was trapped underground, yeah; if you are a survivor of a locally notorious case of clergy abuse, not so much.

sense
01-18-2012, 12:26 AM
thanks for the replies.

i'm not so much interested in an advance or sale at this point as I am in getting guidance or some mentorship by a professional as i continue writing this book. so i'm curious, would an agent consider representation based on a proposal and 3 chapters?

Ruth2
01-18-2012, 01:01 AM
thanks for the replies.

i'm not so much interested in an advance or sale at this point as I am in getting guidance or some mentorship by a professional as i continue writing this book. so i'm curious, would an agent consider representation based on a proposal and 3 chapters?

If you're high profile, maybe. If not, highly doubtful.

If it's mentorship and guidance you want, you might be able to find an organization that works with memoir writers, e.g. The National Association of Memoir Writers. http://www.namw.org/ I'm sure there are others as well.

IceCreamEmpress
01-18-2012, 01:42 AM
No, an agent will want to see a completed manuscript before offering you representation, unless your memoir deals with the kind of national/international headline-making events we discussed.

Siri Kirpal
01-18-2012, 04:02 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

You can ask for a mentor in the Beta Readers section of this site. But no, agents aren't writing mentors; they don't have the time. In the case of a high-profile person or situation, they'd probably suggest you use a ghostwriter, unless your writing is outstanding.

If you want a professional as a mentor, you can find a few online: Word into Print and Independent Editors are both reputable places to look, but be aware that using them will cost a bunch.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

kidcharlemagne
01-19-2012, 02:49 PM
The key word is platform. If you have a big enough platform then a proposal will get you an agent. For an exceptional story and no platform then what the other contributors have said here, I believe, applies: full manuscript.

quicklime
01-19-2012, 05:31 PM
thanks for the replies.

i'm not so much interested in an advance or sale at this point as I am in getting guidance or some mentorship by a professional as i continue writing this book. so i'm curious, would an agent consider representation based on a proposal and 3 chapters?


like i said, unless you have something insanely titillating (think "Running With Scissors"--were you given away by a mother with mental illness to a shrink who was himself crazy enough he was divining his future from his own shit? Or, were you Snooki, and you're about to tell us how you're actually a MENSA member, and you slept with Obama?) they are going to want to see a finished book--lots of people have ideas and even three chapters, but never manage to finish.

That said, you are also perhaps under a bit of a mis-impression. An agent will recommend some changes, if they take a book, but they take books that are either almost there and show a lot of promise, or books that are a ways off but show an OBSCENE amount of promise--their primary job is selling, not proofing or mentoring.

Mentoring comes other places, like the beta forum here, SYW, workshops, etc.

RLV
01-26-2012, 09:05 AM
Hello everyone,
Well I am a newbie to this whole thing. I just signed up after realizing I read so many of these discussions to help get some advise, I might as well sign up already!

Anyways, I've written a memoir too and it's complete. I have my query letter and synopsis, and basically I sent a query to the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency and just received a request for a complete proposal. I just wondered if anyone has sent a proposal to this agency before... I was wondering what they required in a proposal package since it doesn't appear to be on their website and the email wasn't specific.

Siri Kirpal
01-26-2012, 11:32 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Check the agency's website for details on what they want, but proposals usually include: An Overview (what this book is and why it was written), Author Bio, Comparitive Titles (what's the competition? and why is my book different?), Marketing (who is this book written for), Promotion (suggestions for selling the book), Table of Contents (just chapter numbers and titles), Expanded Outline (take the toc and write a bit about what's in each chapter), 1-3 sample chapters.

That's from memory. I hope I've got all the details, but that give you something to go on.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

RLV
01-27-2012, 08:28 AM
Siri, thanks for your help. I checked the website but they don't have any specifics listed regarding what to send, and in the writers market book I have, it's also not listed. But I think you're right as to the items that are typically in a proposal. I just have a hard time with some of it, like the marketing part of it, and the suggestions as to how I would sell the book, etc. It's discouraging because it makes me feel like "Ok, if I knew all this stuff I'd just self publish and not have an agent."

Old Hack
01-27-2012, 10:48 AM
Susan Page's book, How To Get Published And Make A Lot Of Money, has good instructions for writing a non-fiction proposal.

Siri Kirpal
01-28-2012, 02:47 AM
Siri, thanks for your help. I checked the website but they don't have any specifics listed regarding what to send, and in the writers market book I have, it's also not listed. But I think you're right as to the items that are typically in a proposal. I just have a hard time with some of it, like the marketing part of it, and the suggestions as to how I would sell the book, etc. It's discouraging because it makes me feel like "Ok, if I knew all this stuff I'd just self publish and not have an agent."

Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

This site has a self-promotion section; you could check it to get ideas. Basically, it amounts to: can you find someone to endorse the book? do you blog? or are you willing to blog? are you on facebook or willing? do you have friends who are willing to talk the book up on their blogs, etc? are you willing to hire a publicist? is there anyone or any group that would be willing to carry the book for sale on their site or in their store? Etc.

Marketing: What genre is your memoir? That right there tells you the audience. Are you blowing the whistle on a corporation? Are you telling an inspiring tale of how you survived x? Are you telling a true adventure story? Are you talking about yourself across the sweep of some important swath of history? Etc. Figure that out and then figure out who would want to read that type of book.

Hope that helps.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Bushrat
01-28-2012, 04:39 AM
I disagree with the above posts that you need to be famous to scoop an agent for a memoir. I found an agent (but no publisher yet) for my wilderness memoir and nobody knows me from Adam.

But I would agree that you'll probably have to write the whole thing first. Because memoirs can be structured quite differently from novels, I think an agent might want to see how you string your story together, apart from how well it's written and if the topic is marketable.
Also, if you're an unknown entity in the publishing world, showing up with a finished manuscript shows the agent (and publishers) that you can not only start a book, but finish it. Which a lot of people can't.

IceCreamEmpress
01-28-2012, 04:49 AM
I disagree with the above posts that you need to be famous to scoop an agent for a memoir. I found an agent (but no publisher yet) for my wilderness memoir and nobody knows me from Adam.

Nobody said that, I don't think. What they did say is that you have to have a completed manuscript unless your story is a newsworthy one.

Best of luck with your memoir!

RLV
01-28-2012, 07:27 AM
[QUOTE=Bushrat;6954318] I found an agent (but no publisher yet) for my wilderness memoir and nobody knows me from Adam.

Congrats on finding an agent! What did you have in your proposal package, if you don't me asking?

RLV

RLV
01-28-2012, 07:31 AM
[QUOTE=Siri Kirpal;6954061]Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Siri, thanks so much for the website and info you have given me. That is very helpful. It's funny because I find the proposal is more difficult somehow than completing the manuscript. Awe, oh well. Thanks again!

RLV

Bushrat
01-28-2012, 05:35 PM
Congrats on finding an agent! What did you have in your proposal package, if you don't me asking?

RLV

Thanks. I didn't use a proposal, I treated it the same as querying a novel and had my manuscript completed before sending out queries.

RLV
01-29-2012, 01:30 AM
Thanks. I didn't use a proposal, I treated it the same as querying a novel and had my manuscript completed before sending out queries.



I see. I have my book completed as well, but the agent said to send a complete proposal.... :-|

RLV

Giant Baby
01-29-2012, 03:23 AM
I see. I have my book completed as well, but the agent said to send a complete proposal.... :-|

RLV

Have you considered responding to the agent that the manuscript is complete, but you don't have a proposal as you've always understood memoir to be queried like fiction? You could just ask her whether she'd like you to send her the completed manuscript, or wait until you've written a polished proposal.

Memoir really is treated like fiction, generally. This shouldn't catch her by surprise.

Bushrat
01-29-2012, 04:38 AM
What Giant Baby says :)

RLV
01-29-2012, 10:39 AM
Hmm. No. I didn't think of that. I've been freaking out about this since she emailed me last week so I've been trying to put together some kind of "proposal package." I kinda feel awkward about the proposal, but was afraid to send the email back saying "I don't have this proposal package you speak of" :( I thought she would be upset over that? Or maybe think it was bad, or unprepared of me...


side note: how do I do the thing you guys do with quote? When I click the quote Icon it copies what people wrote, but it doesn't look as pretty as yours. Hehe. It's not in a cute purple box anyway...

CaoPaux
01-29-2012, 07:33 PM
side note: how do I do the thing you guys do with quote? When I click the quote Icon it copies what people wrote, but it doesn't look as pretty as yours. Hehe. It's not in a cute purple box anyway...That's the way to do it: The box doesn't show until you post. (And you can Preview your post to check how it looks.)

Terie
01-29-2012, 08:14 PM
For the memoir I co-ghostwrote, we queried with a completed manuscript and the subject signed with an agent. The agent then used a proposal to submit to editors. The proposal was, essentially, a 40-page version of the manuscript. That is, it included the key events of the story, with transitions to smooth over the parts that were excluded.

Hope that helps.

RLV
01-29-2012, 11:31 PM
Have you considered responding to the agent that the manuscript is complete, but you don't have a proposal as you've always understood memoir to be queried like fiction? You could just ask her whether she'd like you to send her the completed manuscript, or wait until you've written a polished proposal.

Memoir really is treated like fiction, generally. This shouldn't catch her by surprise.

Giant Baby... So I am going to try to do what you've suggested, and send the email today. Fingers Crossed! So nervous about the response, but it's probably best to be honest than just throw some stupid proposal together last minute. :-|Thanks so much to everyone for your advice.

JustinG
08-09-2012, 01:36 PM
What happened next? Your dilemma is similar to mine...

Meaganmm
08-10-2012, 05:34 AM
I'm querying agents for a manuscript right now, and while I don't have a "platform," other than my blog, I do have writing credentials, since I've been a newspaper reporter, and I think that helps. However, while that says I can write, my name's not going to sell any books, so I went the way everyone above says to go.
I sent a standard query letter and told them the manuscript was complete at 65,000 words.
I've had four agents read the full manuscript, and all of them loved it and all of them asked for revisions and a rewrite.
I have a friend who's working on a memoir and who's trying to sell it from a proposal, and watching her write the proposal is the most painful thing I've ever seen.
To write a proposal for memoir, you need a chapter by chapter breakdown and a synopsis. Of a book that you haven't written. Which means that you have to know what you're going to write, and how you're going to frame it, before you're written it.
It makes no sense. It's miserable to watch her try to write it, and I think in the end, she's going to have to write the whole manuscript anyway, because the proposal can't make sense unless there's a manuscript in place.
Anyway, in my case I do have a "Running With Scissors" type of bat-shit crazy story to tell, so there's an audience for it, but there are still a few agents who wrote nice letters saying the memoir market is too crowded.
So we'll see.
My advice? Write the book. See where it takes you. And sure, you'll need to rewrite it. Maybe three times. Maybe 17 times. But then it will be done, and you won't need to write a proposal!

Little Red Barn
08-10-2012, 06:13 AM
Hi, above. You'll need to learn to write a killer proposal for your memoir. Agents will ask for it. So will acquisition editors. It can be the do or die during your agent's submission process. It is most important when you make it up to the bean counters of a house. My memoir went through an auction, and two regular sales. Proposals were asked for.

Your memoir should be complete along with a proposal on standby when querying agents.

Hope this helps.

Meaganmm
08-10-2012, 08:33 AM
Hi, above. You'll need to learn to write a killer proposal for your memoir. Agents will ask for it. So will acquisition editors. It can be the do or die during your agent's submission process. It is most important when you make it up to the bean counters of a house. My memoir went through an auction, and two regular sales. Proposals were asked for.

Your memoir should be complete along with a proposal on standby when querying agents.

Hope this helps.

Well, that sucks! I was hoping to get away with not writing a proposal...
I really thought that having a complete manuscript was a good defense against ever having to write a proposal, dammit.
I guess I will start taking it more seriously and start on the process of it. It should be a lot less painful to write once I have the rewrites done; if the whole point is to see who's going to buy your book and how it will sell, then I guess it's worth doing, even if the process is ugly.
I appreciate the information -- I looked up your memoir, and I am impressed and thrilled for you! You have wonderful reviews on Amazon and all of them spoke highly of how beautifully you write -- now I have another book to add to my reading list!
Meagan

Terie
08-10-2012, 11:36 AM
Going to repost this.


For the memoir I co-ghostwrote, we queried with a completed manuscript and the subject signed with an agent. The agent then used a proposal to submit to editors. The proposal was, essentially, a 40-page version of the manuscript. That is, it included the key events of the story, with transitions to smooth over the parts that were excluded.

To expand in the context of Meaganmm's post, the proposal was quite literally a matter of taking the complete manuscript and chopping out parts until the main part of the story was what was left, then adding in transitions to over the holes left by the chopping out. Very little fresh writing was done.

I agree with Meagan that it would seem to be a heck of a lot easier to write the book first, then use it as the basis for the proposal. It would be for me, anyway. :)

JustinG
08-10-2012, 01:28 PM
Hi, this seems to be the right thread for this question... I, too, have been a bit thrown at the request for a full proposal for a memoir. I am confident I can knock out a fairly convincing case (platform issues nothwithstanding), but it's taking time. Can anyone tell me what kind of turnaround an agent would expect.

I received the request on Tuesday, and figure I should get back to them with a proposal by next Tuesday. However, I work full-time and it's a real push. Is 10 days too long?

Also, how do you protect yourself from the soul-crushing disappointment of constant rejection? Oh, hang on. I'm sure there's a thread on here somewhere about that. Just got another one and it's taken the wind out of my sails.