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thecollector50
01-13-2007, 04:55 AM
So, my question is - are memoirs saleable? Are publishers crying out for material of this nature? Am I wasting my time, even though this is a hobby more than a business. HELP!

Pamster
01-13-2007, 05:05 AM
Hi Debbie,

There is a "Life Story Writing" forum here:

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=42

And I think there is more of a market for good Memoirs now then there was ten years ago, but then that is my opinion and subjective based on what I have seen since I have written my own and am trying to find an agent to represent it. Have you written it yet? Or just thinking of starting? :)

Welcoime to the board Debbie! :)

jdkiggins
01-13-2007, 05:21 AM
Hi Debbie,
I'll port this over to the Life Story Writing for you. Welcome to the forums.

johnrobison
01-13-2007, 05:38 AM
It is my impression that memoirs are a decent sized and growing segment of mainstream publishing. Last year, 168 fiction and 110 non-fiction hardcovers made the bestseller list (according to PW, 1/8/07) There were a good number of memoirs in there. There were also 52 trade paperback bestsellers, some of which are memoirs.

This past year, I wrote a memoir about growing up with Asperger's syndrome, and I am now finding considerable interest from publishers. So my experience tells me, if you have a memoir that is timely and interesting, there is a market for it.

johnrobison
01-13-2007, 06:11 AM
I want to agree with you, but the more I read, "do people really want to know the hellish life of a person sentenced to a life of depression/bipolar?" I do have some humorous moments to share, and have some different angles to go with, but the health issue here could be a major turnoff. Just because I pulled myself up by the bootstraps, would anyone else care.

Debbie

Well, I would not describe my Asperger's as causing a "hellish life" but there are many who would agree it makes life harder.

The thing is, there are many books that deal clinically with all sorts of conditions. For the most part, they are extremely dry and hard reading. 99% of them will never be read for entertainment.

If you can write a memoir that is fun to read, easy to read, and yet sets out the ways life may be different for someone with a given condition, there is probably a market for that.

Pamster
01-21-2007, 01:20 AM
Not all stories have a happy opening, tell it like it was and convey the emotions you need to and write your heart out, that's my advice. :)

Welcome to you John Robinson. Welcome to the AW Cooler! I often wonder what living with Asperger's Syndrome is like, I have an online friend who is also into writing fan fiction and that is kind of how we met. It's nice to meet another adult with Asperger's who is into writing. :) :welcome:

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2007, 05:18 AM
Nothing on earth is tougher to sell than a memoir from a person who isn't famous.

johnrobison
01-21-2007, 07:40 AM
Thanks for the welcome, Pamster. I hope to make a transition from a regular job in the automobile business to a creative career in writing and photography over the next few years.

And to you, James Ritchie, I can say this: I am not famous. But I did begin my writing career last March by writing a memoir about life with Aspergers. And it was saleable-enough-looking that a good agent took it on, and I believe we will have more positive news of it soon.

From everything I have seen, if you have an interesting story to tell, and you tell it in a compelling fashion, there is a market for writing from previously unknown authors.

IrishScribbler
01-22-2007, 06:02 AM
I want to agree with you, but the more I read, "do people really want to know the hellish life of a person sentenced to a life of depression/bipolar?" I do have some humorous moments to share, and have some different angles to go with, but the health issue here could be a major turnoff. Just because I pulled myself up by the bootstraps, would anyone else care.

Debbie

I say yes. In Novel Writing, there's a thread that's been talking about Joseph Campbell's work. (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=52487) I think memoirs serve to create a connectivity between people. (C. Jung dealt with this in his psychology theories.) Part of the reason (the main reason) I'm writing the novel I am is to make it available to people like me.

johnrobison
02-01-2007, 05:00 PM
In my last post I said I would have news of my memoir about Asperger's. The news is that the Crown imprint of Random House will be publishing my story in the spring of 2008. I would have waited to announce this but it's already on the news services and it will appear in PW next week, so there it is.

So for those of you who wonder if memoir is marketable - several editors told me it is a big category today, but those same editors also said you need something new and fresh. "Bad childhood" and "drug and liquor addiction" were cited several times as being overdone.

There was tremendous interest in my story, and I've never written a book before. I will also comment on the speed question - something that is often raised here. My agent called publishers during the week of January 15 to ascertain their interest in the manuscript. On January 22, we sent manuscripts out for review. By the end of the week we knew which publishers wanted the book, and we set up ten interviews. My wife and I drove to New York Sunday night. We had dinner with our agent Sunday and commenced publisher meetings first thing Monday.

It was an exhausting few days of meetings, with the publishers showing us what they would do with the book, and what else they had done. Everyone wanted to talk about how I wrote it, and what it meant. It was very clear to me that the people I met (editors, publishers, marketers, publicity staff) had read the book in depth and were deeply moved by it.

The suggestion that publishers or editors do not read books they buy - something I have seen posted here - was clearly wrong in my case. They had read it and loved it.

I'm sure some of you wonder what made them love it. Here are some comments I heard,

"It's a beautiful work of art . . ." We heard this more than once. The editors talked about the voice, and how it sounded true and clear. Several people said the book read as if I were there, telling the story. "I would think anyone could write a story the way they'd tell it to you," I said. One editor laughed and said, "if you believe that, I have a huge slush pile you can sift through to find one . . "

"It's a story of inspiration and hope . . " Editors said the book made them feel good. That's rare, they said.

"It's a loving portrait . . " I had worried that my book does not contain any sex or shocking events. Apparently that's OK. When I raised that issue I was told my book could appeal to any reader. True feelings meant more than graphic description.

"When I read your words I can see my autistic nephew as a grownup . . " I was most moved by comments like that, because I was that nephew as a child. That really meant a lot to me.

"Your book will give hope to families everywhere . . ." That too was very moving, and it was indeed a goal of my book. The unanimous impression was that I accomplished that. I wanted to tell a story that would let a person with Asperger's see that there can be a good and happy life as an adult.

By Tuesday afternoon it was apparent that they all wanted the book. We decided to go with the team that loved it best, and that was a very hard thing to decide, given the reception we received at all the houses we visited.

As I move through the process I will keep all of you up to date on how it works - editing, developing the marketing, etc. At this moment, we are waiting as the contracts are written and I get placed in the publisher's work schedule. We'll be going back to work in 2-3 weeks, they tell me.

Meanwhile, my next step is to get a web site up. I hope to do that next week.

I will try and distill all the things I heard for you soon. This is a great community and although I am not a prolific poster I will contribute what I can. Meeting all those publishers and having my book received as it was was surely one of the finest moments of my life.

helga
02-01-2007, 07:46 PM
Congratulations!!!!!!!!

Please keep us posted. By the way, what is the title of your book? Or you think it will change in the process?

Your story proves that memoires are saleable. It's great. It gives us all hope!

johnrobison
02-01-2007, 08:39 PM
My book is called Look Me In The Eye, and it's stories of my life with Asperger's

As to the title changing . . . the first editor to read the story suggested adopting that title. The original name and the current name were both chapter names in my original manuscript.

The first editor also suggested cutting the first two chapters and rewriting the beginning, which got the book off to a better start.

I brought the publishers a complete work, not a draft or proposal. The book will of course need editing for publication but it was basically all there when I began showing it to them.

Hidden Helper
02-12-2007, 04:52 AM
John,
Congrats! What great news! With so many kids now diagnosed with various forms of autism, it's a topic that will touch a great many potential readers.

I know I'll buy a copy when it's out. Keep us posted!

Congrats again!
Lauren

johnrobison
02-12-2007, 07:04 AM
Lauren, it has amazed me how much interest there is in this topic. There is so much interest that Crown has actually moved the book onto a fast track, to get it into stores this September. There is a feeling that autism and Asperger's is a big issue in our culture, and my book is for a variety of reasons unlike any of the ones written to date.

I am scrambling to get all the other pieces in place. My editor will be sending the book back to me tomorrow, to begin the final round of editing.

It's moving faster than I ever imagined. The book was announced in the Post today, and they are holding the fall catalog to fit my book into it. I should start appearing in Crown and Random House's author index any day now.

Hillgate
02-12-2007, 06:23 PM
Fantastic - I'll recommend your book when it comes out. My cousin's eldest son (my second cousin) has Asperger's and it's very different to what I think a lot of people imagine. That is why, if your book brings out a new take, a new view and a powerful personal one at that, it will be living proof that one's life story needn't just be saleable just because you're a 'celebrity.'

Well done you.

johnrobison
02-12-2007, 11:46 PM
That is why, if your book brings out a new take, a new view and a powerful personal one at that, it will be living proof that one's life story needn't just be saleable just because you're a 'celebrity.'



I would like to address that comment - my book being saleable even though I am not a celebrity.

While there is no denying the appeal of a major sports figure's life story, or the behind-the-scenes story of a rock star, those are not the only sorts of memoir that one can sell.

One of the appealing things about my book is that my accomplishments are all "normal." That is, I did things many kids dream of doing, and some actually do.

I joined dropped out of school and joined a band, and within a few years I was on the road with KISS. Most kids that get into music don't make it into the big time, but some do, and my story is one anyone can identify with.

Later on, I became an engineer with a toy company, which is again a fun job, and of course hundreds of thousands of young people grow up to be engineers, so again that's an "anyone" sort of story.

And finally, I quit to start a small business, which is again a common dream.

A large part of the appeal of my book is the very attainability of the goals.

One of the things you hear about in selling non-fiction is your "platform" or, "why are you qualified to write this story?" In my case, I grew up with Asperger's and the story is my own experience, which I am certainly qualified to write. With memoir, you'll need something compelling in your story if you are not famous, but there are countless possibilities.

Lavinia
02-14-2007, 09:50 AM
First of all- Debbie, you are wise to look at it from the "So this happened to me. Why would anyone care?" angle.

Though not all stories end with the proverbial happy ending, they do end with some sort of finality, some lesson learned, some change in character. It sounds like you just need to put words to that.

The memoir I am working on is a good example of that. While it would have been wonderful if my father could have been reunited with the parents of his buddy who died in his arms during WWII, it didn't happen. And now it's too late. So, now we look for a peace we can come to without the picture book ending, without the Hollywood, everyone lives peacefully ever after.

You are not wasting your time. Have you thought of writing an essay about some aspect of your life? This could help you to encapsule a part of it. And if you then take it to magazine publishers and get it published, you can put in the bio that you are currently working on a book by the title of XYZ. Depending on where it is published, it is possible to get some pretty good exposure that way. Good luck with it and don't be discouraged. You may well need to rewrite the whole thing. Sometimes we get so close to it, that it's hard to see it at all. You may just need to take a break from it to write something entirely diffferent.

John- Congratulations! I've read some of your other posts. I was a special education teacher. I've met many children with Autism and Aspergers. The best book (Can't remember for sure if it was There's a Boy in Here or not) I ever read was by a mother and son. The mother wrote about an incident and then the son wrote about it from his understanding and point of view. It was fascinating and changed the way I worked with the little guys I was teaching. Reading is powerful and reading that particular book made me ask myself of a non-verbal child "What is he thinking? What is he trying to communicate?" Through that, he made tremendous progress as we worked to create a communication system for him. Your book will have that same impact. Someone (lots of someones) will read it and it will change their life and the life of their child, their student, their sibling.

Anyway- I will definitely buy your book. There is a lot of publicity on Autism right now. It was all over the news just last week, the number children being diagnosed on the rise and all. That works well for your book. Also, I love the title. Eye contact is taken for granted in typically developing children. But with many children with special needs, and especially those within the Autism/Aspergers spectrum it is not a natural thing. Thus phrases like, "Look me in the eye." become a way to teach eye contact. Anyway- so excited for you. Congrats!

Sorry I went on and on. I had to resign from my job due to two back surgeries. I miss it so much. It's so hard to be in a position like that, in which you give and receive so much and then suddenly it's gone. I think I'm still grieving for it.

Lavinia

brutus
02-14-2007, 08:02 PM
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mamie77
02-14-2007, 09:29 PM
Hi all and a pleasant afternoon,

I have a story to tell but I don't want it to hurt others, even those who hurt me, but I want to know if I can use a pseudonym (is that correct?).
Also, would my story be interesting. Some of you have had some pretty horrific lives. My story is a little different, a little strange maybe, but perhaps that will sell. If you all don't mind I'll give you a little spin on my memoir. Things couldn't certainly be worse in life but here goes. I was about 4 when I was dropped off by my mother in a parking lot, picked up by my father (after she called him to tell him I was there), moved in with dad and stepmom. During that time frame I endured physical pain by my stepmother, (including having to put my mouth on my urine soaked bed), made to sleep in the yard, made to kneel in the yard when I was older, in front of all the neighbors (with my thumb in my mouth...I guess to get me to quit...I never did until I was 19), watched as my pedophile father raped my stepsister over the years, was raped by my stepgrandfather then told I should never bring it up again, I was raped by a Catholic Theology/Psychology teacher...yes...I know, beaten with the belt, pulled out of bed in the middle of the night because a dish wasn't cleaned properly, made to stay up all night long doing all the dishes in the whole house (probably why I suffer from severe insomnia), finally, got the heck out of there to marry my first husband, had a baby boy, had severe depression and post traumatic stress along with severe post partum depression, ending up leaving my son as I didn't want to hurt him, so I left, married again, had a baby girl, life seemed okay until he left me for someone younger, then married a third time. Things were okay. I finally had my dad arrested for rape (he tried to rape my nephew) and then suffered more after his death (he became a homeless man and was hit by a truck driver), if that wasn't bad enough, I lost my brother a month before my real mother (we finally got back together when I was much older and had somewhat of a relationship, although it was probably more unhealthy than anything else...I just wanted my mother..so did my brother...but he never got her to say she wanted him), he died of an accidental overdose of methadone and sleeping pills in her house a month before she succummed to brain cancer. Once I got over that hump in my life I took a call from my first husband about my son. He was arrested for raping his little brother and he himself was only 17 at the time. We talk but it is a little upsetting knowing that he is this way..still we talk...he is on the sexual offenders list and has 20 years probation...he can't go anywhere. The guilt I had because I left him those many years ago with his father have somewhat diminished, my life seems to be getting a little better but there is always that thought in the back of my mind that something else in the darkness lurks to take the happiness away.

So, I hope I didn't bore you with this but what do you think. Quite a long synopsis and I'm sure I could do much better but I think it would be a good memoir, I just wouldn't want to hurt my stepmother or my half brothers and half sister and stepsister. Could I use a pseudonym?

Thanks for your time...Take care and God Bless..

MaryBeth

johnrobison
02-14-2007, 11:15 PM
Well, MaryBeth, that's quite a story.

I cannot imagine how you could write the story with your own name and expect to make the other players anonyomous. Perhaps you'd consider writing the book under a pen name?

If you did that and changed the names of the other people I think that would work in terms of protecting the other people.

I would also suggest you think about what's new or different in that story. Horrific as it sounds, there have been a number of books about similar situations. What sets yours apart? That's an answer you'll need to discover to have a publishable story. Publishers are looking for something new or fresh. The events in human life don't change - stories like yours have played out since time immemorial - but our interpretation of them continues to evolve. So where is the lesson or the message in all that? I don't know, but that's an important thing to figure out.

mamie77
02-15-2007, 12:26 AM
Thank you JohnRobinson,
You've got me thinking...and that is a good thing! Well, hmmm...new...fresh...I can tell you the thing that I've learned
through my many experiences is forgiveness. I don't think society
today embraces that line of thinking very much, although I may
be surprised. I don't see much of it though. Forgiveness is a difficult
thing to master and although I wouldn't say I've mastered it...I'd
say I've come pretty close to it. I figure, who am I not to. I've caused pain in others lives, perhaps not pain like I've had, but pain is pain and
we all are capable of great harm to those we love or those we don't love, either way there could be a message like such that I could use. I appreciate your encouragement and your advice. If it's one thing I love..it is advice and constructive criticism. I've learned a lot just listening. I thank you very much.

johnrobison
02-15-2007, 12:54 AM
OK, so think about how you arrived at forgiveness. Is there a lesson or message there?

Did it lead to something else?

Why don't you think society embraces that?

Just some more ideas for you to ponder

mamie77
02-15-2007, 08:29 PM
Thank you JohnRobinson,
You've got my wheels turning now! I love this forum and all the helpful people on it. It really helps to have your input...I'm writing it in my notebook. I will let you know what I have when I finish some of the first chapter. I'm actually working on 3 manuscripts at once. This one, the memoir, is really just for me but my fear is that a publisher would like it and so that is why I wouldn't want to hurt anyone so I might just use a different pen name. Thanks again!

rejectME
03-27-2007, 10:27 PM
Yikes, this is my first trip back to the water cooler in well over a year. I'd finnished the most recent draft of my novel and it's sat for a while as I've been searching for ambition to write and a voice. I don't know why it just ended, but it did.

Regardless, I like this topic as I was recently in Lake Tahoe and while skiing, decided to hike off-trail (but in-bounds) to the top of a peak that wasn't lift-served. Being my third attempt of the week, I recall the anxiety and fear that had kept me from completing the climb and sought to overcome it, which I did.

So when I got home to Maine, I started work on a forward/prologue centered around this event and how all the emotions involved (and indeed the mountain itself) were like a metaphor for overcoming adversity.

That said, I had thought about writing a memoir about overcoming anxiety, depression, and alcoholosim at an early age, but was really turned off in the past year by the people who have used the medium to lie and sell fiction as truth. Obviously I'm talking about James Frey for the most part, but there are others.

I want to continue, but I have this feeling that those three topics are probably the most widely written about. My hope would be to help guys and girls in their 20s and 30s who may be in a tough spot with one of these, or like myself, all three. I wouldn't write a tell-all because I don't see the point. I would talk about some things I haven't shared with folks before and I'm worried that could get me in trouble with my employer.

I also don't think I would want to try and make it a peice of literature. That's not to say I wouldn't use metaphors or tell stories, but one fo the biggest things that has bothered me about memoirs about my topic has been I sometimes have difficulty understand what the writer is trying to convey as they get close to the lien that seperates fiction and non-fiction.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

Also, what is a typical word count for a book-length memoir? If I recall, it is less than fiction.

Thanks all,

Jerry

Jamesaritchie
03-28-2007, 12:21 AM
One of the reason memoirs from non-famous people are so hard to sell is simple. . .at any given time, about a billion people are writing them. They flood the slush piles, and flood agent's offices, on a daily basis.

It's possible to sell any type of book, if it was a story that touches enough readers, and if it's written well enough to stand out, and if it's better than anything else a publisher sees that could take its place, but strictly as a numbers game, nothing is tougher to sell than a memoir from a person who isn't famous.

rejectME
03-28-2007, 05:40 AM
One of the reason memoirs from non-famous people are so hard to sell is simple. . .at any given time, about a billion people are writing them. They flood the slush piles, and flood agent's offices, on a daily basis.

It's possible to sell any type of book, if it was a story that touches enough readers, and if it's written well enough to stand out, and if it's better than anything else a publisher sees that could take its place, but strictly as a numbers game, nothing is tougher to sell than a memoir from a person who isn't famous.

I think that evryone reading this forum understands the above statement to be true. I really don't think the original topic of the thread had to do with getting the memoir read by an agent or editor. I think the person was interested in whether a memoir would see to the public, not as an unfinnished mss. As is the case with every type of writing, some people write memoirs for the sake of writing a memoir, which is sort of like generic posts for the sake of posting...

mum23
05-15-2007, 07:35 PM
Nothing on earth is tougher to sell than a memoir from a person who isn't famous.

Why is this? Most famous people dont even write their memoir themselves, they get someone else to do it so I suppose they have it easy. We have to get it down on paper, try and get it to an agent and then hopefully get it published and when it does will make a far better read than "being Jorden"

Sakamonda
05-15-2007, 08:51 PM
These days in NYC publishing, marketing executives have more sway than editors. And marketing executives recognize that there is usually more money to be made in mediocre ghost-written celebrity "memoirs" than well-written memoirs by "nobodies." If you are a "nobody", your memoir has to be something really, really, really special (and also have some kind of marketing "hook" such as a hot topic in the news or something) in order to land a major book deal. Good---even great---writing is not enough. Unless, of course, you're already famous.

johnrobison
05-16-2007, 06:45 AM
Sakamonda, there was a story in yesterday’s NY Times on what it takes to make a bestseller.

If I may, I’d like to expand upon your remark:

And marketing executives recognize that there is usually more money to be made in mediocre ghost-written celebrity "memoirs" than well-written memoirs by "nobodies." If you are a "nobody", your memoir has to be something really, really, really special (and also have some kind of marketing "hook" such as a hot topic in the news or something) in order to land a major book deal. Good---even great---writing is not enough. Unless, of course, you're already famous.

If you want to sell a memoir to a big publisher, you need to recognize this reality: The big houses need to publish books that find a wide readership in order to survive. Big houses like Random and Penguin can put millions of copies of your book on shelves. How do they get that capability? By selling millions of copies of other books, and investing the money in capacity.

A publisher like that is going to have to see a big market to buy your book. That’s not a triumph of marketing over editorial, it’s economic reality. So, you have to ask yourself: Does my book speak to a significant fraction of the country, or does it only appeal to collectors of 1950s Lionel Train sets? If the former, you belong with Random. If the latter, you belong with Greenberg’s other model train books.

Most of the 200,000 titles published every year in America speak to a limited and defined audience. For that reason, most belong at the specialist houses that have them. It’s no shame to write a book about drug addiction and have it published by a house that specializes in recovery literature. Nor is there anything unusual about writing a Christian work and have it published by a religious press.

But what if you do have a story for everyone? What if you have the answer to global warming? You do not need to be famous to speak to a broad audience. I’m not famous, but I wrote a book about getting by, being a misfit, growing up, and becoming a success. Most people can identify with that struggle. That’s why all the publishers were so quick to embrace it – the editors saw themselves in my story.

In other cases, like when you find the answer to global warming, you’re going to need the academic or technical qualifications to convince your publisher that you’re the real deal. But you don’t have to be famous. Just exceptional.

The only thing “being famous” gets you is a potential audience for your story. Plenty of stories, like mine, come with their own audience.

And plenty of stories that don’t speak to the whole country find great homes at the smaller publishing houses, where lower print runs make economic sense.

Susan B
05-16-2007, 08:55 AM
Well said, John. And I liked what you said about the important role of the small/speciality publishing houses--and university presses, I'd add. Realistically, it is where many of us probably fit, and no shame at all about that.

But how wonderful when you end up telling a story that speaks to so many, and you get the attention of a "big" house!

Looking forward to reading your book.

Susan

scottVee
05-16-2007, 10:41 AM
Good points, all. Sadly, putting a familiar face like Larry King on a book will sell more copies than anything we ordinary folks can muster.

Also, we may think our story speaks to a large audience -- but can we ever know?

The misfit-to-success story is a popular theme, but even there, most of the books can be expected to fizzle. It must become a lifelong crusade to try and paint a spot of fame to go along with it.

I also love the small press community, but a while back some reality sank in: I'm afraid that they're not changing the world. I'm struggling to see the logic in putting a book's worth of effort into a project to settle for an arrangement that's unlikely to sell 1,000 (or even 100) copies. Like the lottery, you can't bank on the long shot.

There's a philosophy that suggests that if your throw enough marketing dollars at something, it doesn't even have to be good to sell. But it seems that the middle ground is easier to live with: the few runaway publishing successes from non-famous faces are just statistical flukes, unforeseeable at every stage until they achieve momentum.

An interesting discussion. Lots of variables.

mum23
05-16-2007, 01:15 PM
So should I be thinking not to take the non-fiction route and go for fiction based on my memoirs? I was advised to try a different spin on my work as it is a subject that is everyday life, stepfamilies. I know Joanna Trollope wrote " Other peoples children" based on real stepmums and their situation. What I want to do is place myself as a "character" and involve actual diary entries and letters. If non fiction is the way to go using my memoir as the basis, then perhaps I should focus on this route. Either way mu story will be heard if I was ever to be successful and have my work published.

johnrobison
05-16-2007, 02:52 PM
So should I be thinking not to take the non-fiction route and go for fiction based on my memoirs? I was advised to try a different spin on my work as it is a subject that is everyday life, stepfamilies. I know Joanna Trollope wrote " Other peoples children" based on real stepmums and their situation. What I want to do is place myself as a "character" and involve actual diary entries and letters. If non fiction is the way to go using my memoir as the basis, then perhaps I should focus on this route. Either way mu story will be heard if I was ever to be successful and have my work published.

I can't advise you which way to go with your work, first because I have not read it, and second because I am not in touch with the market the way professional editors are.

I agree that stepmoms is a big group to speak to, but thousands of other writers have set their sights on that same target. So you really have to have something fresh to sell that story.

In the end, it's the writing that's key.

johnrobison
05-16-2007, 03:09 PM
Good points, all. Sadly, putting a familiar face like Larry King on a book will sell more copies than anything we ordinary folks can muster.

Also, we may think our story speaks to a large audience -- but can we ever know?

The misfit-to-success story is a popular theme, but even there, most of the books can be expected to fizzle. It must become a lifelong crusade to try and paint a spot of fame to go along with it.

I also love the small press community, but a while back some reality sank in: I'm afraid that they're not changing the world. I'm struggling to see the logic in putting a book's worth of effort into a project to settle for an arrangement that's unlikely to sell 1,000 (or even 100) copies. Like the lottery, you can't bank on the long shot.

There's a philosophy that suggests that if your throw enough marketing dollars at something, it doesn't even have to be good to sell. But it seems that the middle ground is easier to live with: the few runaway publishing successes from non-famous faces are just statistical flukes, unforeseeable at every stage until they achieve momentum.

An interesting discussion. Lots of variables.

Most books with famous people on the covers are written by not-famous writers. Want to find your fortune writing about Larry King? Go for it! I agree - getting access to write the book may be tough, but every year some writers pitch those books to celebrities and win.

Do you know if your story speaks to a large audience? You should, at least in a general sense. Are you writing a history of the Merlin aircraft engine, or the results of a groundbreaking study on divorce?

I agree that the mistfit to success story is a common theme. In my case, the discussion of how Asperger's affected my life makes for a unique story. In addition, the discussion of how I'm the same and how I'm different touches most any reader. That's an example of setting something apart, though I did not have that idea in mind when I set out to write a book. I was just writing my story.

The idea that small presses do not change the world is simply wrong. If a book sells a few thousand copies it can have a huge effect if the ideas it expresses are read by people in a position to change things. In my town, small press books are widely read by the college faculty, and I would venture to say that faculty in college towns like mine have a large influence in shaping the thoughts of the newest generations. Between Amherst College, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Hampshire, and the University of Massachusetts, countless future media, business, and government leaders have passed through this town. Most of them listened to their professors at least some of the time, and many of the professors get ideas from books.

If you don't live in a college town, a visit to a store like Beyond Words in Amherst might be enlightening. The books on the tables in front are most all small press, specialized stuff. Very different from a book store in a "working city."

I wonder about the marketing dollars to sales thing too. But at day's end, that story of Merlin aircraft engines just isn't going to sell millions. You have to start with something that has the capacity to speak to millions. Marketing can help that happen. And once more, it's economic reality. Publishers can't spend much to market a book that's expected to sell 10,000 copies because the per-book costs are driven too high.

Susan B
05-16-2007, 05:22 PM
Interesting discussion.

I think there is also the important question of why someone has written a particular book. Do you already have an identity as a writer, and hope to produce something marketable? (Makes sense to really want a major publisher, in that case.)

But especially for a first book, the process may have been different. Do you simply have a need to tell your story? To remember someone important to you? If it's written more out of passion, or it just evolves out of your life circumstances, then the concerns about having a wide audience or a major success may be less for the writer.

I'm coming to accept the strong likelihood that my book will not find a home at a "big" publisher. It's about an improbable midlife passion (think one of those instruments that are the stuff of bad jokes :-), getting to know a somewhat unusual ethnic subculture, and remembering a friend and mentor who was important to me and many other people. His death really strengthened my committment to writing a book.

Much as I believe it involves universal themes, the world doesn't necessarily agree!

So if it mostly reaches people in my little music world, or perhaps the larger world (but still small in absolute terms) of folk musicians? Say if it got a good review in "Dirty Linen," the respected folk magazine? (Where my band's first CD also got a nice mention.) Or if it is seen as mostly a "regional" book? Well, that would be okay with me.

On the other hand, If I don't find even a small press, or a university press--well that will be disappointing.

But I am already planning my next book, doing research. So I'm ready to press on with writing, even if this particular book doesn't see the light of day.


Susan

johnrobison
05-16-2007, 06:49 PM
Susan, I had no idea at all that I'd written a book for the masses. I just wrote my stories, in response to prods and jabs from my brother and my family. I always told them stories. For me, the only real change in my book was writing them down. And that proved to be a huge undertaking, as well as a voyage of self discovery.

It was only once I'd written it that my agent said, wow, and passed it around to editors who spent quite a lot of time telling me about books and markets and what touches people and what does not.

I did not have a plan at all when I started writing.

However, now that my book was embraced with such enthusiasm, I have decided to try and share some of the knowledge I've gained for the benefit of others.

I don't know that my book would have been any different if I'd known then what I know now, though. I think I'd still have written the same story.

I'll offer one final thought . . . in many cases it's the writing that defines the market for a book. Look at Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Pirsig. That's a fully mainstream book, because of the writing. A story of you, life, and a zither could speak to millions, or it could find a readership that was limited to certain country music fans. It all depends upon what you write, and how you say it.

rubarbb
05-16-2007, 07:03 PM
Johnrobison, just started reading this thread and would like to ask you a few questions...but I must leave soon for most of the day. Will read the whole thread tonight and get in touch with you if you dont mind. I have written a memoir that I believe can help people....Anyway will talk to you later :)

Sakamonda
05-16-2007, 10:59 PM
John's points are well-taken, but I cannot emphasize the importance of having a "media platform" enough when it comes into breaking into the big houses. Though he doesn't toot this horn very much, John is Augusten Burroughs' (a famous, bestselling author) brother, and John appears as a character in Burroughs' bestselling books. So that definitely would have made an impact on big houses' sales-and-marketing departments alone. It's certainly a qualification I and most others on this board can't even hope to compete with at the big houses. Too often, having that kind of an "in" is what is needed at the big houses, because of the marketing realities needed to sell millions of books. A marketing "hook" that you have for no other reason than being connected to a celebrity or an already bestselling author will almost always elevate the big houses' interest in you. Many, many gifted authors with beautifully written, appealing books will be shot down by NYC marketing departments for no other reason than not having a celebrity "connection." It's happened to me, it's happened to my agents' other clients, and countless other authors, all the time.

However, there are many, many respected smaller and medium-sized publishers who are more willing to take chances on lesser-known and non-celebrity authors. They pay smaller advances and do smaller print runs and less marketing, but that doesn't make them any less respectable. Some of these houses, like Sourcebooks and Bloomsbury and MacAdam/Cage, are highly respected, nationally recognized, and get very good national/international distribution for their titles. Some of these smaller houses do sometimes even field major bestsellers. These smaller houses just don't have the billions of marketing dollars behind them that the big houses do, so their bestselling titles often become bestsellers on word-of-mouth alone, rather than big marketing budgets.

Mum, I'd strongly advise you against writing fiction. Fiction, frankly, is an infinitely more difficult sell these days than nonfiction. If you can't sell your nonfiction, then in all likelihood you'll _never_ sell your fiction. And from what I can see from your posts here, you need to do a lot of serious work (likely years of it) developing your writing craft before you're ready to play in the big pond of publishers, large or small. I'm not trying to discourage you or say that you don't have a good story to tell----you just need to spend some time in the woodshed working hard on how to tell a good story in a well-crafted manner that people will actually have the patience to read. Right now, I don't think you're there yet. Try taking some classes at your local community college and joining a writing group.

veinglory
05-16-2007, 11:02 PM
I thin saleable memiors by 'nobodies' are ones that touch on themes of wider interest. I would never seek out a memoir to read, but the last book I read was a memoir. It was about someone from this local area who was raised with black foster siblings and so had a lot of insight in the region, race, religion etc that I found interesting. p.s. the book is called "Jesusland" and is excellent.

Susan B
05-17-2007, 02:54 AM
A story of you, life, and a zither could speak to millions, or it could find a readership that was limited to certain country music fans. It all depends upon what you write, and how you say it.

Darn, you guessed!

(Actually, not quite my book--but pretty close.)

Yes, I agree. How you tell the story makes the difference. People may initially pick up a book if the subject grabs their interest, but if it's poorly written, readers won't get past the first couple pages.

Interesting, John, that your writing process was something like mine, not starting out with the intention of writing a book.

Re: Sakamonda's point--Yes, I have heard the same thing about the growing importance of platform from my agent. Actually, I've seen the letters from editors myself. Mostly positive--but ultimately a no, because of a concern the subject itself won't draw a broad enough audience. A few houses have said that memoirs in general have become a harder sell for them.

So I believe it's become much more of a challenge for others in the same position. But not impossible. And I do believe that truly dazzling writing (rather than merely strong writing) can get someone past the reservations of publishers.


Susan

johnrobison
05-17-2007, 06:43 AM
Well, since several of you are talking of rejection because or platform or lack of fame, I guess I have to concede your point.

So what do you do?

Build a platform with a blog? Make yourself known? It's possible, folks. You say I had an advantage because my brother is well known, but he started from zero with no advantage at all. Both of us are high school dropouts. We're just driven and determined.

You have to believe in yourself and your story and work to make your dreams real. That's what I have done all my life.

pollykahl
05-17-2007, 07:08 AM
"You have to believe in yourself and your story and work to make your dreams real. That's what I have done all my life."

Exactly! As the song goes in the Rocky Horror Picture Show:

Don't dream it. Be it.

Sakamonda
05-17-2007, 05:43 PM
John, you and your brother's stories are certainly inspiring. But they're also one-in-a-billion shots that aren't realistic for most of us.

And your brother didn't exactly start from zero as far as his publishing career was concerned. He was very, very successful in NYC's advertising world (which is intimately intertwined with the NYC publishing world in many ways) before he landed his first deal, and those connections would certainly have helped him land that first deal. (I totally appreciate that Augusten started from zero in advertising, though.) But the successful NYC advertising career certainly boosted his writing career.

Those of us who are not from NYC (and especially us "bland", country-bumpkin Midwesterners) find that we are already discriminated against as writers in NYC's publishing world just by virtue of not being from the East Coast and/or Manhattan. The bias may not be intentional, but it's certainly there, and it's powerful. I've been contending with that East Coast bias since graduate school. In many ways, we Midwesterners represent the voice of mainstream America, and yet, we are treated like second-class citizens by the media. (Ironically, Southern writers often benefit in NYC from their regional origins, thanks in part to the strong Southern literary tradition and a romanticized ideal of Southern life.)

And John, given your very unusual career that's been tied to celebrity in some ways from the get-go (i.e., designing guitars for KISS when you were a teenager, etc) certainly gives you an edge on the "media platform" competition.

Re: building my own platform: I've been actively blogging for years, and my blod does have a following (and I am also a playwright whose plays have been seen around the U.S., Canada, and Europe), but even those accomplishments don't cut it with the NYC pubs when it comes to platform. They want somebody who is a household name, or has direct connections to a household name. Somebody who's already appearing on television, who's already famous. I'm well-known in theater circles nationally/internationally and in writing circles regionally, but I'm not "famous" by NYC publisher standards, I'm not from New York, and I'm a "bland" Midwesterner, so I've got plenty of strikes against me in the platform department.

The thing is, I KNOW my book is good enough, I KNOW my book will appeal to millions of people. It's just I don't get a fair chance at proving it to publishers just because of things that are completely beyond my control.

veinglory
05-17-2007, 06:26 PM
Not to harp on a theme but Jesusland is set in the Midwest and still selling very well because it is a good story. Maybe check out who published it?

pollykahl
05-17-2007, 06:39 PM
"I've been actively blogging for years, and my blod does have a following (and I am also a playwright whose plays have been seen around the U.S., Canada, and Europe)"
Sakamonda, how about linking to your blog from here so that those reading your posts can see examples of your writing? Also, do you have a personal web page which features your resume and your other professional information? Is Sakamonda your professional name? If people read your posts here and Google the name Sakamonda, what will they find? Having all of these things may not get you a contract, but they can be stepping stones that help get your name around, help you make contacts, and make your name more recognizable.

Sakamonda
05-17-2007, 06:57 PM
Good points, Polly. I've been reluctant to use my real name here due to harrassment I've received in the past, but maybe it's time to re-evaluate that.

And veinglory, JESUS LAND is published by Counterpoint.

veinglory
05-17-2007, 06:59 PM
I bought it from a large display at the front of my local Borders. So they are a small press that seems to be doing more than many large ones.

pollykahl
05-17-2007, 07:19 PM
Great job Jill Elaine Hughes! You have immediately given yourself a name, face, and much more credibilty! We have to take ourselves seriously if we expect to be taken seriously. Now you are showing us, not just telling us. Best of luck with everything!

janetbellinger
05-17-2007, 10:27 PM
I still think it's more a matter of how it is written rather than the subject matter. A good story can come from the most trivial situation - look at Alice Munro's short stories. It is her understanding of human nature and life's turning points which drives her writing and makes her books successful. It isn't about writing for a market niche. A really well written novel will sell no matter what it is about. I'm not saying this from any personal agenda or arrogance. I haven't yet come up with a winner myself. It's just observation.


Sakamonda, there was a story in yesterday’s NY Times on what it takes to make a bestseller.

If I may, I’d like to expand upon your remark:

And marketing executives recognize that there is usually more money to be made in mediocre ghost-written celebrity "memoirs" than well-written memoirs by "nobodies." If you are a "nobody", your memoir has to be something really, really, really special (and also have some kind of marketing "hook" such as a hot topic in the news or something) in order to land a major book deal. Good---even great---writing is not enough. Unless, of course, you're already famous.

If you want to sell a memoir to a big publisher, you need to recognize this reality: The big houses need to publish books that find a wide readership in order to survive. Big houses like Random and Penguin can put millions of copies of your book on shelves. How do they get that capability? By selling millions of copies of other books, and investing the money in capacity.

A publisher like that is going to have to see a big market to buy your book. That’s not a triumph of marketing over editorial, it’s economic reality. So, you have to ask yourself: Does my book speak to a significant fraction of the country, or does it only appeal to collectors of 1950s Lionel Train sets? If the former, you belong with Random. If the latter, you belong with Greenberg’s other model train books.

Most of the 200,000 titles published every year in America speak to a limited and defined audience. For that reason, most belong at the specialist houses that have them. It’s no shame to write a book about drug addiction and have it published by a house that specializes in recovery literature. Nor is there anything unusual about writing a Christian work and have it published by a religious press.

But what if you do have a story for everyone? What if you have the answer to global warming? You do not need to be famous to speak to a broad audience. I’m not famous, but I wrote a book about getting by, being a misfit, growing up, and becoming a success. Most people can identify with that struggle. That’s why all the publishers were so quick to embrace it – the editors saw themselves in my story.

In other cases, like when you find the answer to global warming, you’re going to need the academic or technical qualifications to convince your publisher that you’re the real deal. But you don’t have to be famous. Just exceptional.

The only thing “being famous” gets you is a potential audience for your story. Plenty of stories, like mine, come with their own audience.

And plenty of stories that don’t speak to the whole country find great homes at the smaller publishing houses, where lower print runs make economic sense.

Sakamonda
05-17-2007, 10:55 PM
You use Alice Munro's short stories as an example as what will sell in today's market. You're comparing apples and oranges. Alice Munro, a Canadian (and the Canadian publishing world is completely different than the American one, natch) came to fame in the eary 1970s, when the publishing market was _completely_ different than it is today. In the early 70s, fiction outsold nonfiction. Now the opposite is true. The rules that were in place then are just not in place now.

There is now little to no market for short stories. Short story collections are now rarely, if ever, published---and when they are, they're usually by authors that are already well-known. Most literary agents won't even consider looking at them, because there is no money to be made.

To get in the door of the big houses, celebrity-with-a-media platform trumps unknown-writer-of-dazzling-fiction every single time. Ask any literary agent working in NYC today; they'll tell you the same.

johnrobison
05-18-2007, 12:45 AM
I can't really argue with what you say. My brother and I are both exceptions to the rule. But, here we are.

You said my brother had a big advantage working in advertising . . . how? He did not know a single literary agent. He bought a writer's guide and started sending letters. One was answered. How is that different from what you can do?

Perhaps being in NY makes a difference but my brother never met his agent or publisher in person until his first book was sold. How does that differ from your situation, in the midwest?

And my career gives me an edge because I made it so. I wasn't born this way.

While I agree it's hard to climb to the top, it IS possible. But all the negative talk in the world won't get you there. I agree life is unfair, but I've been where you are now, and I still did ok, by dogged persistence.

I have no idea if you can attain the same success, but you'll never know unless you keep trying.

Sakamonda
05-18-2007, 12:53 AM
Thanks John. It's just that I've been fighting this battle for going on five years, four of it with an agent who is just as dogged and jaded as me. It's hard not to get jaded when you've been fighting for as long and as hard against near-impossible odds, especially when you know your writing is good enough.

rubarbb
05-18-2007, 05:38 AM
John, congratulations are in order. Not only on the book, but for living with Asperger's syndrome. I knew very little about it until I Googled it.
I am also a first time writer, but iI have much faith in my writing. I wrote a memoir that is special to me, but it can be related to by many. "In The End We All Win" (a caregivers story) is about my being a caregiver to my mother when she was a hospice patient(about five months). It has my life intwined with many stories she told over the years. It's moving and poignant . I truly believe this is a story for the masses.
So I have a question. Will you be willing to share your agents name with me? It may seem cheeky of me, but I guess that's my style. :D No, I believe many could benefit from this story. I wrote what I knew about, because I lived it, just as did you.
Hope to hear from you soon. Remember, if you don't ask, you don't know. Thanks for your time.

johnrobison
05-18-2007, 05:55 AM
John, congratulations are in order. Not only on the book, but for living with Asperger's syndrome. I knew very little about it until I Googled it.
I am also a first time writer, but iI have much faith in my writing. I wrote a memoir that is special to me, but it can be related to by many. "In The End We All Win" (a caregivers story) is about my being a caregiver to my mother when she was a hospice patient(about five months). It has my life intwined with many stories she told over the years. It's moving and poignant . I truly believe this is a story for the masses.
So I have a question. Will you be willing to share your agents name with me? It may seem cheeky of me, but I guess that's my style. :D No, I believe many could benefit from this story. I wrote what I knew about, because I lived it, just as did you.
Hope to hear from you soon. Remember, if you don't ask, you don't know. Thanks for your time.

My agent is Christopher Schelling, and his info is on my web site under media. My agency, Ralph Vicinanza, does not take "walk-in" clients as a rule. They are a small agency, and unless a current writer retires, there is not much space for new ones.

He took me on because he already represents my brother. He took him on 9 years ago, when he was just starting with the firm and seeking to build a base of authors.

Your best bet is to pick a promising young agent, and hope you grow together. For example, Nathan Bransford is taking new clients now, but if he's successful, he will be full in a few years. That's how it is with many good agents.

Best of luck to you.

pollykahl
05-18-2007, 06:06 AM
"It's just that I've been fighting this battle for going on five years, four of it with an agent who is just as dogged and jaded as me. "

Jill, may I respectfully suggest that you might want to find another agent? Four years of "fighting" w/o reaping any positive results does sound discouraging, and working with someone you describe as jaded sounds kind of like a setup for failure to me. Maybe your agent is a terrific person, maybe smart as a whip, maybe has had great success with other clients, yada yada yada, but it might be time for you to try a fresh start with someone whose positive energy you can radiate in, and who can provide you with renewed optimism.

In my work as a counselor I found I had to refer anyone whose prognosis I could not be positive about. Unless I had hope in their progress or recovery, I could not work with them. I was sure that my feelings of hopelessness would not only prevent me from treating them as effectively as I wanted to, but that they might absorb some of that hopelessness from me. Therefore there were certain client populations I simply could not work with, for example geriatrics or the severely mentally retarded, because I knew that no matter what I did, they would never improve or get better. I did not take this personally. We each have our strengths. Business is business, and I was glad to discover something about myself that would help me provide better services. Fortunately I discovered this very early in my career and therefore when those rare clients presented themselves I was able to refer them to other counselors who were better suited to assist them.

It may seem like an unlikely analogy, but I have found this in all of my personal and professional relationships as well. There must be hope.

Put the opposite way, without hope there is nothing.

(except depression of course, and that's no fun!)

My wish for you: a kick-ass agent who gives you rainbows and fireworks.

rubarbb
05-18-2007, 06:32 AM
John, thanks for the info. Guess I'll look for a young, "hungry" agent. Will check out Nathan Bransford. Thanks again for your help and info and great success with your book. :D

Sakamonda
05-18-2007, 05:40 PM
I'm sticking with my agent for now. He works extremely hard for me, and believes in my work no matter how many rejections we get. Most agents would have dropped me a long time ago after four years of rejections on multiple projects, but my agent doggedly believes my work will eventually sell, and sell big---it's just a question of finding the right editor at the right time. But he is also very realistic and frank about managing my expectations. I will wait until I have a couple of deals inked and "in the can" before I move on to the William Morrises and ICMs of the world. Otherwise, I'd just be starting from zero again.

Susan B
05-18-2007, 06:52 PM
Not to harp on a theme but Jesusland is set in the Midwest and still selling very well because it is a good story. Maybe check out who published it?

Keep meaning to read that. It's set in the midwest--but the writer lives in the SF Bay Area. Have heard a little about it, because someone in my writing group knows her. I don't recall the details, but know that she also had an unhill climb to get published-and the book has been very well received.

Hey, Sakamonda--I don't think Chicago is bland at all! Wonderful city,thriving arts and music scene. Still think of it as home, even after 10 years in CA!

(Of course, I was born in the exciting city of Cleveland :-)

Susan

Prevostprincess
05-20-2007, 12:40 AM
Hi all,

Very interesting thread. I just wanted to add that based on my experience as a "nobody" living in the Midwest (OK, so Colorado may consider itself part of the "West," but obviously no one here has consulted a map, lately) trying to get an agent for my memoir and then trying to get it published, I would agree that it seems the quality of the writing can be inversely proportional to the celebrity/platform of the writer.

I went through a lot of rejection before finally getting an agent, then a top publisher. I was told the same things as some of you about loving the book, the writing, but the agents/publishers thinking that they couldn't sell it due to platform issues, even though they felt it was both hilarious and inspirational and would appeal to a lot of people. Several editors at major houses wanted to buy it, but were shot down by their marketing/sales departments due to lack of platform. (One even wanted to know what famous authors I could get to write blurbs. Since a) I didn't know any famous authors and b) I only had a proposal with 2 sample chapters, the answer was "none" and it was bye-bye for that house.)

What I believe ultimately sold the book (this is what my agent tells me, anyway), is the "voice." (Well, OK. A lot of luck, too - i.e. hitting on my agent after 114 tries, then her hitting on the right editor after multiple rejections.) I haven't seen "voice" mentioned in this thread, but I do think it is particularly important with memoir, as more than with any other genre, you're selling yourself.

Finally, best of luck. I understand how heartbreaking it is to KNOW your book is good enough, if only someone will take a chance. I particularly admire those of you, (like Susan B. and Sakamonda) who aren't giving up. I actually had and resigned myself to the fact that this just wasn't going to happen to me and started looking for other (nonwriting) creative outlets in my life. Fortunately, I already had an agent, so it didn't really matter what I thought.

Sakamonda
05-20-2007, 05:27 PM
Marketing departments overriding editors, as Prevostprincess and I have stated repeatedly, is typical for most unknown authors.

I think John Robison's experience with editors and marketing departments when it came to selling his memoir is a one-in-a-billion shot, and was certainly tied to his brother's success and the fact Augusten Burroughs was writing a foreword to the book. My and others' experience (i., marketing telling us our book isn't saleable) is much more typical. Unfair, total load of crap with no basis in literary merit----but unfortunately the way it is.

Susan B
05-20-2007, 06:53 PM
Marketing departments overriding editors, as Prevostprincess and I have stated repeatedly, is typical for most unknown authors.

I think John Robison's experience with editors and marketing departments when it came to selling his memoir is a one-in-a-billion shot, and was certainly tied to his brother's success and the fact Augusten Burroughs was writing a foreword to the book. My and others' experience (i., marketing telling us our book isn't saleable) is much more typical. Unfair, total load of crap with no basis in literary merit----but unfortunately the way it is.

Well, I think it's hard to say definitively why a particular book gets published. And I think we can be pretty sure John's book has a unique voice and addresses a subject, Asperger's Syndrome, where there is growing interest and relatively little written. (I know I'm looking forward to reading it.)

There is probably some equation, though it keeps changing. Some combination of platform+subject+quality of writing+phases of the moon!

Being stronger in one area can balance being less strong in another. Like dazzling writing can compensate for a subject that, on the face of it, doesn't have universal appeal. A celebrity memoir may not need stellar writing to generate big sales. And that ever-elusive "voice"....who can say what will work in any given case?

I'm not giving up, though I sure hope my odds aren't one in a billion!

Susan

Sakamonda
05-20-2007, 07:06 PM
The one-in-a-billion shot I'm referring to in John's case is the fact he had so many publishers bidding to publish his book, HE chose which publisher to go with---rather than publishers choosing him. He was a character in several bestselling books already, and he got a seven-figure advance in less than a week of submitting his proposal for precisely that reason.

I know my own agent tells me he gets approximately 30 queries for Asperger's-related books every week, every one of which he has rejected. So it's not just writing a book on Asperger's that leads to kismet---it's a whole host of other factors. John has the advantage of having lived an extraordinary life, of being involved with huge celebrities since he was a teenager, and being the brother of a famous bestselling author---in addition to writing a good book. The rest of us, who can only claim to have written a good book, remain voices in the wilderness.

rnning2wn
06-06-2007, 10:21 PM
:hi:Sakamonda, I've been reading this thread and after noting your thoughts, feedback, reactions, feelings, etc., I felt the strong desire to share mine. It is about approach & perspective. Because I am a nobody with a story, this is all I have to find MY way thru the muck, keeping in mind that John R. & his brother (and other authors) are human beings too. They found their way and so can we.

After becoming a "Master Grad" of Rapport Leadership International, Inc., I gained new hope in my whole way of thinking & looking at life, because I learned all about these 2 things. My dream of writing resurfaced (after 30+ years) and though I tho't I knew where I was headed (been writing for a year now), I realized I needed to educate myself on the woes of the publishing world so that I know what fork to take in the road that is b4 me.

Here’s my approach (not that you care, but I’m really hoping you do:snoopy: !!): As I have read the input on life stories (and other forums about memoirs), I have copied & pasted every POSITIVE comment, every inspirational idea, all resources, etc. & put them into a Word doc. (and bookmarked on Internet) so I could readily study them & pound them into my brain. I personally can't think of anything that might bring me down or I will fail & actually get sick. See, the positive energy I build up in my mind becomes a part of my being & reflects on how I achieve my goals. It actually affects my perspective,and I have no doubts of accomplishing anything I set my mind to!

Bottom line, I simply want to reach out with the belief it will be reciprocated (and already has thru this website)! Let’s learn from each other:Hug2:, discover similarities from other successes that will help us find the uniqueness of our own selves. (I have a twin sister and even with the same DNA, we are not alike:Shrug:.) I could use the help as well at this juncture and certainly as I journey ahead – I’m sure that’s why we gather around the water cooler, right?!

Things to ponder based on today's lecture :Lecture: : 1) Remember, John R.’s brother started from scratch just as we have – let’s find out what made his book, his approach, his perspective special. (Maybe we could email him?) Focus on this point & this point alone. 2) Have you read or seen The Secret? 3) Your agent HAS worked hard for you, but this isn't personal -- or rather it shouldn't be. Why not just LOOK at other agents and see what happens -- get a new perspective? Jenna says it's not even necessary to have one. She has agent cheat sheets, and books -- have you purchased or seen? 4) Sometimes starting from a clean slate is a really good thing – I, for one, have just turned 40 and I’m tell’n you, my slate is squeaky clean, and I've never felt cleaner :banana: !

….I hope that I have helped & not hindered :e2cry: .

johnrobison
06-06-2007, 11:23 PM
Hi Rhonda,

If you want to know what makes my brother's book special, I'd suggest reading it. I'd say the same thing for Look Me in the Eye, but you'll have to hunt around for an advance reading copy as it's not on sale till September.

There is no one-paragraph answer to your question. It's the style, the content, the construction.

With respect to point 2, I have not read The Secret and have no comment on it.

Point 3 . . . A new agent may give a new perspective, but it's also true that new agents are hard to come by for unpublished writers.

4 - For me, the whole business of being a book author is "starting from a clean slate." It's a remarkable process.

No one can deny that the odds are long, but people beat them every day. Here are the things you need to succeed with a memoir:

1 - Great writing, with a story that keeps the reader engaged. That goes without saying.
2 - The story has to offer something new. I know, "it's all been said before," but there are always new angles and twists, and you need one.
3 - You need an audience. That's the platform. Did you work with celebrities? Build the World Trade Center? Win the Indy 500? Sakamonda hits upon this . . . it is hard if you did not do something like that. But it possible to overcome that, by blogging and building a following other ways. An example of that is Doreen Orion, who appears here as PrevostPrincess. Her memoir about travelling the country was bought from a blog and proposal.
4 - Once you have all that, your final hurdle is getting in the door, both with an agent and a publisher. And for that, the best thing I can recommend is a personal introduction or referral. That, at least, will get your proposal read. And you can't succeed without that. How to do it? Shows like BEa . . . conferences . . . writer's retreats. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this.

rnning2wn
06-07-2007, 01:59 AM
Gosh, thx for all that, Mr. Robison -- I really had intended my message to be inspirational for Sakamonda as she seems to be struggling. I hope I got that point across, 'cause if I didn't, then I failed:cry: .

Most of my direction in continuing on down the road has been the comments you have written in these forums because we have enough in common (with our lives & our stories) that I am now ready to proceed. With that said, I intend to buy your book and noted this in another forum :)

As far as the rest of the info. I wrote on approach & perspective, I hope this helps you, Sakamonda, simply because it has changed my life.

As far as an agent is concerned, I may or may not choose to get one when I'm finished w/ my proposal, but if I do, I will be ready. I already am losing sleep over all the things I want to accomplish b4 then (i.e., public speaking engagements, pitch my book to RLI, finish my website & blog, become a freelance writer so I can get some articles published! and as of today, I was officially included in Strathmore's Who's Who 2007! They do free advertising with Amazon thru their online bookstore and are a great networking tool)! I might even attempt to meet up with Peter Funt (from Candid Camera) as I use to work for him -- that sounds like a good plan, doesn't it?! I'll pull up some more ideas, but first, I need some sleep -- I'm tiring myself out!

I will be sharing my story on the Share Your Work Board so I can get feedback soon.

rnning2wn
06-09-2007, 02:50 AM
Hi, it's me again. I finsihed my blog and would like to share. See below and comments are SOOO very welcome! Have a great weekend, all!

.....until I'm published -- I believe, I believe, I believe!