Ugh - QL Memoir doesn't fit into a neat box?

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keston925

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This may be the wrong place to post this... I hope not.

I have written - re-written and am re-writing my query letter again. Have gotten some professional (quick) advice and am now stuck after receiving feedback.

The problem is my memoir "Delaney Skye" does not fit into a neat box which is what I seem to be urged to do with it, at least in the query letter. It's driving me bonkers! It's about me dealing with grief and guilt, about overcoming my own prejudices, it touches on political "hot topics", my muse is my daughter with Down syndrome - she is my teacher and the catalyst for change in my heart... and she wasn't even supposed to be mine.

When I get feedback from professionals they say - Ok so your audience is "political" or its for women who are "surrogates", or people dealing with "grief", or your audience is the "Down syndrome community" ? I am asked - which one is it? I am urged to write the query as such.

WELL IT'S ALL OF THE ABOVE...

How do I deal with this? I hate putting it into a box when it really is about all of those things.

:(
 

Osulagh

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It's a common problem that people face when writing query letters. Our books are very large and filled with grand ideas, and some people can't easily condense it all down.

Though, a query is to give agents/publisher a taste, not an entire summary.

Read the stickies in Query Letter Hell ( http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=174 ), read up other people's queries and the comments people make to them, and possibly comment on other queries to get a feel for it.
 

ElaineA

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Not possibly, definitely comment.

I'm sorry to say, you'll probably have to come to grips with putting it in a box. A query is merely an enticement for the agent to ask for more. You pick the BEST story arc, the one with the strongest stake for the protagonist, and build your letter around that. If you do it well, the agent will see the other aspects of your story when they request pages.

Many memoir queries have passed through QLH. And memoir isn't the only genre where an author feels his or her story simply cannot be encapsulated in 250 words (*raises hand*). Go to QLH in the Share Your Work Forum (password vista). You can't post your own until you have 50 posts on AW, but you can most certainly participate. One thing will become quickly apparent: you aren't alone. :)
 

Siri Kirpal

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

You need to write a proposal and include the marketing information there. You don't need to put it in the query in most cases. Learn what you can about proposal writing. Elizabeth Lyons has a good book on the subject.

The query needs to have a short paragraph or three about the book. Tell it as a story. Write it in the style of the book. Then have a short sentence or two with the title and genre. Then a short paragraph with your bio--writing credits and media experience primarily.

Get your post count up to 50 and you can post your query in Query Letter Hell, in Share Your Work. Password is vista. You can go in there now and read everything and even comment on other threads.

Go into the regular non-fiction and memoir sections of the forum and read the threads there. This type of question comes up regularly.

Best of luck.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal, memoirist
 

Bufty

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I can never understand why folk try to squeeze a memoir into a Query Letter. Most attempts I've seen in QLH end up with long threads that peter out after ages of tinkering that leads nowhere.

A memoir is a different animal to a novel.
 
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Kylabelle

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Welcome, keston925. Siri Kirpal's advice is sound. :) Go thee forth to those forums, and read there. Successful memoirists take a different route than do novelists.

Bufty, I suspect people do that because they think it's required in order to find an agent and publish their memoir. I can't imagine they do it for fun.

:D
 

keston925

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

You need to write a proposal and include the marketing information there. You don't need to put it in the query in most cases. Learn what you can about proposal writing. Elizabeth Lyons has a good book on the subject.

The query needs to have a short paragraph or three about the book. Tell it as a story. Write it in the style of the book. Then have a short sentence or two with the title and genre. Then a short paragraph with your bio--writing credits and media experience primarily.

Get your post count up to 50 and you can post your query in Query Letter Hell, in Share Your Work. Password is vista. You can go in there now and read everything and even comment on other threads.

Go into the regular non-fiction and memoir sections of the forum and read the threads there. This type of question comes up regularly.

Best of luck.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal, memoirist

Great great advice! All of you have great advice. I looked and Elizabeth Lyons book says that it is before you actually write the book? My manuscript is completed (and I paid a hefty price to have it professionally edited)...
 
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keston925

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I can never understand why folk try to squeeze a memoir into a Query Letter. Most attempts I've seen in QLH end up with long threads that peter out after ages of tinkering that leads nowhere.

A memoir is a different animal to a novel.

The reason I was directing the manuscript into a query letter is 1) Because it is finished and 2) You read all over the place that a Memoir is a unique animal in that Agents review them as fiction ?

It was confusing.... so if agents review them as fiction - do they still want the query/proposal as they would non fiction still? I could be wrong, but from what I gather - non fiction often are viewed as "how to" books?
 

Bufty

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You asked a similar question in another thread in the non-Fiction Forum. I answered there as follows:-.

Firstly, the target Agent's stated requirements, if any, should be followed.

The purpose of a Query Letter is solely to have the Agent ask for the manuscript- it's the time for brevity and clarity, not the opportunity to ramble on about all the characters and story or all the ills that have befallen one.

Our Query Letter will most likely be one of a stack in the Agent's in-tray from total strangers - and unless we've written a darned good focused Query Letter ours will be in the reject tray within a minute or less.

In the final analysis if the memoir is complete and the Query letter route is followed, it all depends upon what is in the Query Letter and memoirs are a very hard sell unless one is a celebrity or has a really truly unique and unusual experience to relate. Tales of overcoming abuse, for example, are legion.

The Agent is obviously looking for a memoir with a target audience and that he thinks he can successfully sell to a publisher - and that will be what he wants to see in the Query letter. The Agent is not going to dwell on the contents of any Query letter if they don't immediately catch and hold his attention.

A novel is deliberately written with interesting characters in manufactured situations designed to thrill and appeal to a wide range of readers and can be doctored with that in mind. A memoir that by definition is based on reality doesn't have the same flexibility and if it's basically interesting only to whoever wrote it plus their friends and family that is going to be pretty obvious fairly quickly.

Good luck. There are many here far more experienced than I in the Memoir department and I'm sure someone else will respond shortly.

The reason I was directing the manuscript into a query letter is 1) Because it is finished and 2) You read all over the place that a Memoir is a unique animal in that Agents review them as fiction ?

It was confusing.... so if agents review them as fiction - do they still want the query/proposal as they would non fiction still? I could be wrong, but from what I gather - non fiction often are viewed as "how to" books?
 
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SunshineonMe

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I feel for you! Query letters are a pain in the rear, only next to the synopsis and the blurb.

From what I've learned, what makes your book stand out from all the other books on the same subjects? Write what makes yours different, focus on that arc. This might not be correct, but think of it as a 5 second commercial trying to entice the agent to "buy".

When I was querying mine, I was told they wanted a query, and not a proposal, for what that's worth.

Definitely get your post counts up, and send it to QLH for critique.

Good luck!
 

GinJones

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Like it or not, the agent's advice is solid.

What they're asking is: Why would a reader read it? In one short, pithy sentence. That's what your query needs to do. (Well, it'll be longer than that, but it should be summarizable into that one sentence, one basic throughline, one basic audience.)

A book -- memoir or fiction or even non-fiction -- that tries to be all things to all people, generally ends up being of interest to no one. (If you spend enough time in QLH, you'll see something similar in fiction queries, where the author will say, "this book will appeal to everyone, young and old, readers of fantasy, mystery, romance, horror and fables," which actually translates into: "this book will appeal to no one, because young folks won't like the stuff for old folks, and vice versa, and fantasy readers won't touch anything with romance cooties, and vice versa, and romance readers don't want to be horrified in the middle of a kiss, and so on." Each category actually shrinks the audience, rather than broadening it.

Pick one audience, one reason for readers to pick up the book. The fact that the experience is multi-faceted can come as a pleasant surprise (or not so much), after they've plunked down their cash to read it.

But, really, by saying it appeals to political/surrogate/grief/Down readers, you're NOT saying (as might seem to be the logical conclusion) that it appeals to the broad audience of ALL of them, but that it appeals to the much, much, much narrower of the INTERSECTION of those interests. (Sort of like a Venn diagram, where it's just that wee, little overlapping shape in the middle that's your audience, not the entire perimeter.)
 

khobar

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The reason I was directing the manuscript into a query letter is 1) Because it is finished and 2) You read all over the place that a Memoir is a unique animal in that Agents review them as fiction ?

It was confusing.... so if agents review them as fiction - do they still want the query/proposal as they would non fiction still? I could be wrong, but from what I gather - non fiction often are viewed as "how to" books?

"Because memoirs are narrative stories that, though nonfiction, flow much the way a novel does, some agents prefer that you send a query letter for your memoir just as you would for a novel. Other agents treat memoirs like other nonfiction submissions and prefer that you send a book proposal up front."

(2013-08-09). 2014 Guide to Literary Agents (p. 91). Writer's Digest Books. Kindle Edition.

So - read the submission guidelines and pay attention to them. If you really want to put together a 60 page "proposal", knock yourself out.

With regards to your particular problem, you are juggling many topics that all seem central to your story, and you feel you are being asked to pick one, for marketing purposes. Perhaps the problem is you can't see the forest for the trees? Take a step back and see if there's a common thread that links everything? Politics, grief, and guilt are not it. Your relationship with your daughter sounds like it could be, but I don't think you've got a parenting book. If she didn't exist in your life, where would you be? What difference did her having Down syndrome make, if any?
 

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