Q about memoir proposal package

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Newport2Newport

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I know what to include in a NF proposal, but memoir is a hybrid animal, and therein lies confusion. I know now that it's important to finish the book before querying. But I'm wondering...do you need to include chapter summaries in a memoir proposal?

Disclaimer: These are the sorts of questions that drive agents crazy. Rightfully so, I guess, because so much information's available online. But sometimes the answers contradict themselves, and sometimes they're confusing.

To wit:

WRITER'S Q: Do you think that a memoir book proposal's Table of Contents should be in first or third person?

AGENT'S A: I don’t often think of memoirs as having or needing a table of contents, but I think if yours does it should be written in whatever person you’ve written the book.

Do you suppose they were talking about chapter summaries? Because I tend to think of Table of Contents as a skeleton outline. The chapter summaries provide the meat, if I'm not mistaken.
 

Wayne K

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If you need a memoir proposal sample I have a good one. PM me your e-mail address.
 

Wayne K

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Agents have different tastes, but unless you're famous they want great writing and they want the ms to be ready when you query. The proposal is where you get them to read the darn thing though, so memoir writers need a killer query and a killer proposal.

Mine is different in that I have had a few brushes with infamous celebrities, so I can't attest to what the norm is.
 

Newport2Newport

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Mine is different in that I have had a few brushes with infamous celebrities, so I can't attest to what the norm is.

I have, as well, but even those agents who've expressed interest have strongly suggested that memoir manuscripts be finished before starting the submission process. Maybe this is part and parcel of the shifts in Publishing Land?

I'm still curious about that chapter summary question. Anyone else have insights borne of specific knowledge and/or experience?
 

Wayne K

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Chapter summary's are tough to suggest because the agent's taste vary, so I don't want to send you in the wrong direction. I did them like they're done in the proposal I sent you.
 

Red Bird

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Wayne,

Would you mind sending me the proposal too? I'm not ready to start working on it, but it wouldn't hurt to start gathering information.

Does this process ever end?

Red Bird
 

Nandi

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N2N: I included chapter summaries in my proposal, written in third person, even though the memoir iteself is written in first person. I no longer remember where I received the advice to do so, but I do recall that it was from several sources. For me, those summaries were the hardest part of the proposal. In the beginning, each one was a single-spaced page which I had to keep distilling until each was a tight paragraph.

Good luck!
 

Newport2Newport

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N2N: I included chapter summaries in my proposal, written in third person, even though the memoir iteself is written in first person. I no longer remember where I received the advice to do so, but I do recall that it was from several sources.

Nandi,

Thanks! I appreciate your weighing in. I've received the same advice as you from several people (including my former agent who, unfortunately, left the publishing world for a plum job elsewhere). That's mainly why I got confused by the agent Q & A excerpt I quoted above.

Mountain? Molehill? I dunno. But I think I'll play it safe by including one-paragraph summaries of each chapter in my proposal. I've already written most of them, anyway--might as well finish the task. (Oh, and you're so right: like synopses, they're very, very difficult to write.)
 

sommemi

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Wayne,

Would you mind sending me the proposal too? I'm not ready to start working on it, but it wouldn't hurt to start gathering information.

Does this process ever end?

Red Bird

Um... *raises hand* me too? :hi:
I'm not totally done, but I have a really really tight goal of trying to finish my proposal by Nov 14th. (Dad's birthday)
 

the addster

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Could I possibly bother you for a copy too? You know, you should really write an article about this. There is very little information out there on what these things should look like, and what works.
 

Newport2Newport

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Could I possibly bother you for a copy too? You know, you should really write an article about this. There is very little information out there on what these things should look like, and what works.

Actually, there are several handy books and online articles out there. They're not targeted specifically to memoir, for which the rules seem to vary (witness: the original Q in this thread), but they're certainly adaptable to agents' expectations/our own needs.

Two that I especially like, because they include instructions and a variety of successful examples:

NONFICTION BOOK PROPOSALS ANYBODY CAN WRITE (Elizabeth Lyon)
WRITE THE PERFECT BOOK PROPOSAL: 10 That Sold and Why (Jeff Herman)

If I could choose only one, I'd go with Lyon's. It's a step-by-step guide to writing a tailor-made proposal.

Hope this helps!
 
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