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Newport2Newport
09-23-2007, 08:43 PM
Hi everyone! As I mentioned on the newbie forum, I'm a long-time spectator who's finally ready to suit up and play.

My memoir project, CAN I GET A WITNESS, chronicles my itinerant upbringing as the daughter of a tent evangelist. My proposal and sample chapters are almost ready for submission. (Can I hear an amen?) First, though, I have a couple of questions....

1) I know that the Chapter Summaries section chronicles key events, but should it also trace the author's (i.e. my) transformation? (I'll touch on both in the Overview.)

2) Should the Competition section compare a memoir to top titles on the general topic, to successful books in the genre, or both?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

britlitfantw
09-24-2007, 02:46 AM
I would say stick to the genre, but I think there is also merit in comparing to others in the topic. You could play it safe and do one of each, as different agents/editors may have different preferences for comparisons.

Anyone else care to weigh in?

Shwebb
10-10-2007, 09:30 PM
Call me ignorant, but wouldn't you want to start with a query letter, first, then see what each agent would want from you? That's where I'd be spending my time, making certain the agent will thirst for the other stuff.

nancy sv
10-11-2007, 04:24 AM
I really don't know the answer to your question, but I am in the exact same spot you are in. I covered the basic ideas in the summaries so that one can get an idea of the whole story by reading those - but don't know if that's what I should have done! And the other - tough question. There is only one book on the market that is even closely resembling mine, so I put that and then put a few others that could be stretched to resemble mine in some ways - and I was sure to say how I made that leap. I do think you should compare yours to others along the same line - you wouldn't compare your memoir of a child of an evangelist to a memoir of a famous cook!

Newport2Newport
10-12-2007, 07:06 PM
Call me ignorant, but wouldn't you want to start with a query letter, first, then see what each agent would want from you? That's where I'd be spending my time, making certain the agent will thirst for the other stuff.

Nah, I'd never call you ignorant...I appreciate your response! I definitely agree that you need a killer query, but I also want to have to have the complete proposal package ready when said agents ask for it. :)

Newport2Newport
10-12-2007, 07:12 PM
I put that and then put a few others that could be stretched to resemble mine in some ways - and I was sure to say how I made that leap. I do think you should compare yours to others along the same line - you wouldn't compare your memoir of a child of an evangelist to a memoir of a famous cook!

Thanks -- that's what I did, too. I compared themes and approaches, rather than actual topics/experiences.

I decided to write my chapter summaries like the short episode descriptions you'd find in TV Guide. Each one reveals the main events of the chapter, plus my realizations/transformations. Here's an example:

There’s power in the blood,” Clifford preaches, “and if you’ll drop a little money in the collection plate, we can keep the power going for another service.” At a diner afterward, Clifford tries unsuccessfully to convince the manager to write off the bill. When her father pays the tab with money from the collection plate, Melodye discovers the extent to which her family depends on the generosity of strangers.

Pat~
11-11-2007, 11:50 PM
Looks good, Newport2Newport. I'm new to memoir writing; do most publishers want a proposal for a memoir? I've read on some agent blogs that they only want a query with sample chapters (similar to a proposal for a novel). Does this vary from publisher to publisher?

Little Red Barn
11-11-2007, 11:58 PM
Looks good, Newport2Newport. I'm new to memoir writing; do most publishers want a proposal for a memoir? I've read on some agent blogs that they only want a query with sample chapters (similar to a proposal for a novel). Does this vary from publisher to publisher?
Hi Pat, Newport. Yes to proposals...as a rule, although if your work is complete, they may bypass it first to look at sample chpts...then rquest your proposal later. Sometimes an agent would ask for my proposal first, so it would be good to have one on standby.

Newport2Newport
11-12-2007, 12:12 AM
Hi Pat, Newport. Yes to proposals...as a rule, although if your work is complete, they may bypass it first to look at sample chpts...then rquest your proposal later. Sometimes an agent would ask for my proposal first, so it would be good to have one on standby.

So far, I've been asked to submit my proposal and (five) sample chapters together.

Kimmi...if you don't mind a follow-up question, I'm wondering if you wrote the entire book before starting the submission process, or if you sold your memoir based on the proposal and sample chapters. I've heard conflicting advice about this aspect of memoir-writing, too.

Susan B
11-12-2007, 03:59 AM
Hi Newport2newport,
Sounds like a very interesting book!

My experience with memoir was this: it's funny and unpredictable, because it is something of a hybrid. Since it's nonfiction, I think you do need to have a proposal ready to go when you start querying (including the 1-2 sample chapters that go along with the proposal.) That's what most agents/editors wanted, in my experience. But be prepared: you could also be asked for more sample material before a decision is made.

When I queried, I offered to send the proposal and/or partial manuscript. (At that point my book was close to finished.)

The majority of the agents who responded positively to my query letter wanted to see the proposal package. But a significant minority wanted different things, such as 1st 25 pages, the table of contents plus 2 chapters, or "whatever I had written so far." (I sent the first 100 pages to that one.) I signed with an agent who initially wanted the proposal, then asked to see a significant portion of the ms. before finalizing the offer.

When my agent submitted to publishers, she sent the proposal (including 2 sample chapters), with a cover letter from her indicating the book was almost done. The publishers who were interested after reading the proposal all asked to see the full ms. before making a decision.

Can't say whether this is typical of memoir in general, or just memoir by an unknown first-time writer--or perhaps because my subject area is a little quirky.

Hope this is helpful.

Little Red Barn
11-12-2007, 04:04 AM
So far, I've been asked to submit my proposal and (five) sample chapters together.

Kimmi...if you don't mind a follow-up question, I'm wondering if you wrote the entire book before starting the submission process, or if you sold your memoir based on the proposal and sample chapters. I've heard conflicting advice about this aspect of memoir-writing, too.
Hmm. Good question. :smile: I wrote the entire memoir, submitted, breaking every rule and then any I could think up. Then rewrote, lather, rinse and repeat and all the while, breaking additional rules along the way, learning from every mistake. But in the end, due to stresses of writing frustration, etc... I no longer thought or really cared about rules, I just started doing what felt best for me and my ms. :)

The dreaded proposal, my weakness--the kiss of death -- the make or breaker, I call it. I avoided it like the plague, until I could no longer. The book had to really speak for itself as it (proposal) was still lame till the end and although I had one, I did advise agent before giving it to her, proposal was weak, to say the least.

Btw, my ms has not sold yet... I'll let you know.

ETA: Of course, I'm speaking memoir. I'm sure it's different for other non-fiction books. And others would be better suited to answer those questions re; these non fictions for you.

Bottom-line, a proposal is great to have, a great proposal is priceless.