When you're ready to submit: queries, submission links, etc

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sommemi

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At the request of many, I'm starting a submission topic thread for including links, suggestions, query-letter samples, etc. I wasn't sure if it should be a query-letter specific post because I know there are other issues surrounding queries that relate to submitting... so I figured we'd group it all here for now. I know that submitting memoirs it VERY different than non-fiction so please feel free to include any suggestions, links, or blogs that you find helpful in your own research/experience!

Memoir Writers UNITE! lol ;)
 

sommemi

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Newport2Newport

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Thanks for the links Newport2Newport!

This article from Writer's Digest features a successful memoir query, including commentary from literary agent Verna Dreisbach (Dreisbach Literary), who represents the author. It's possible you have to have a Facebook account to access it.

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=131186605309

Edited to add a link to Jenna Glatzer's NF book proposal for Outwitting Writer's Block (PDF file):

http://www.adlerrobin.com/Outwitting Writers Block.pdf

Natch, you'll need to do a little nip-and-tucking to make it fit your memoir.
 
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Red Bird

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Newport2Newport,

Thanks for sharing this link. Even within memoir there seem to be differences. In the example shown, the author is proposing a sort of self-help type book, which is different than what some of us are doing. Do we follow this guideline, which supports a longer query because it includes more bio/platform?

Cheers,
Red Bird

Has anyone posted their query in SYW? I did and learned I needed to write my query in first person, which I thought was forbidden!

Also, there are questions posed to fiction writers, to help them form a good query, that may not apply to our genre.
I forget what they are, but Katiemac started asking them and now many people do.

Maybe we could formulate our own question?

Red Bird
 

Newport2Newport

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Newport2Newport,

Thanks for sharing this link. Even within memoir there seem to be differences. In the example shown, the author is proposing a sort of self-help type book, which is different than what some of us are doing. Do we follow this guideline, which supports a longer query because it includes more bio/platform?

Cheers,
Red Bird

Has anyone posted their query in SYW? I did and learned I needed to write my query in first person, which I thought was forbidden!


Red Bird

Red Bird~

That's the thing: memoir submissions are a hybrid, and within many stand-out queries/proposals, the "rules" are bent and broken.

It's not the gold standard by any means, but my memoir query was well-received at Backspace's Agent-Author Day. An early version is posted in Share Your Work, if you'd like to check it out.
 

Red Bird

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Newport2Newport,

Your query letter is excellent.

I read some other threads you started and I can tell you have already done much of the research I am just starting.

I started a query letter months ago and realized I wasn't saying what I really wanted to say. The thing is, my story has many traumatic events in it and I don't want it to seem as if I've written a book about any specific event, but if I mention any one of those events in the query it seems to shout "this is a book about rape, drugs, recovery, or abuse" when in actuality it isn't. It's a book about using the body as a landscape to discover my story, yes, but also the stories of other people.

Here's where I get hung up. My point is we each have a story to tell, but many have differing reasons for not being able to tell it. My inability to tell my story was different from my patients. They can't speak. I suffered memory loss from a trauma and then went on to live a life that was designed to help me forget (among other things). It wasn't until I learned to read my patients skin I learned to read my life, although I never remembered the first time my mind split, I found a way to reconcile the partial memory and move forward into a more meaningful way of living. Okay, that's the long of it, but that's all tell. How do I "show" that in a query without mentioning each patient and what I learned about myself from them? I'm sure I'm complicating this, but it does seem like a complex story to me.

Maybe I should post what I've written so far and let you all help me?

My next question has to do with the table of contents. I've written memoir, not a text book. How in the world do you formulate a t of c for memoir when the chapters are just numbers?

Oh boy, I do have many questions.

Your book, by the way, sounds fabulous. Have you had any luck shopping it?

Cheers,
Red Bird
 
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Newport2Newport

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Newport2Newport,

I started a query letter months ago and realized I wasn't saying what I really wanted to say. ... It's a book about using the body as a landscape to discover my story, yes, but also the stories of other people. [...] How do I "show" that in a query without mentioning each patient and what I learned about myself from them? I'm sure I'm complicating this, but it does seem like a complex story to me.

(snip)

My next question has to do with the table of contents. I've written memoir, not a text book. How in the world do you formulate a t of c for memoir when the chapters are just numbers?

(snip)

Your book, by the way, sounds fabulous. Have you had any luck shopping it?
Cheers,
Red Bird

Red Bird~I'm not an expert by any means, but there are some wonderful resources out there for memoir-writers like us. One that I especially enjoyed is YOUR LIFE AS STORY, by Tristine Rainer. Chapter 15, "String for Your Pearls," might help you identify/articulate the connecting threads among your experiences, patient interactions included.

As an aside, I didn't specify my theme in the query I posted to SYW. I added it later, after a v. kind agent pointed that out as a weakness.

(Pretend there's a nifty seque here, between your first question and the second.)

I've written a Table of Contents for the proposal itself, but I'm also including chapter summaries.

(Imagine another smooth transition in this spot.)

Thank you for your kind words about my query and project! Confession time: I queried too soon, but I discovered my mistake fairly quickly. As a NF writer (primarily), I thought memoir were submitted/sold on a proposal and sample chapters. When agents asked to see the entire manuscript, I had to tell them it wasn't ready.

I feel fortunate that I learned this early in the process, as I received a good deal of helpful guidance from agents, some of whom have left the door open. Plus, my manuscript is much stronger now for the extra time I'm taking to finish.

Thanks for asking these questions, Red Bird. I love talking with/learning from other memoirists. Again, everyone's story (and take-away) is different, so I'm hoping other people will jump into the conversation.
 
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Red Bird

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Newport2Newport,

I ditto your confession. My mentor, near the end of my wip, said something like, "You're going to need an agent." What I heard was, "Go find an agent." Two entirely different things, I learned. So, I submitted my query, which sucked, to an agency and they offered representation. Now, I'm no publishing scholar (obviously), but given I wrote the query at 3am, while working, and jacked up on coffee, I knew it was horrible. So, I thought, why in the hell did they accept this? That's when I started checking out their website and discovered they were listed here on the Beware forum. Saved. Since then, I've been trying to figure out the proper way to handle things. Ha.

Like you, I've since slowed down and know I'll have a better ms before I submit anything.

We are getting there.

Red Bird
 

Newport2Newport

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Just adding another link that someone posted in another thread....
http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/10/random-questions.html

Looks like an interesting blog link about memoir queries. Haven't read it all though, so if anyone else wants to comment on the content, please feel free!

Hi Sommemi,

That blog link raised a few question about Table of Contents & Chapter Summaries in memoir submissions, which we discussed in this thread.

Thanks again for pooling these resources. And have a great writing week, everyone!
 

Newport2Newport

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Here's another helpful Q & A, during which BookEnds, LLC weighs in on (among other things) proposals & memoir submissions. Excerpt:

"I'm currently writing a humorous narrative based on my blog. When I submit my work to you, do I submit a Query letter and a Proposal for non fiction? I think I understand both processes, but the proposal seems very scientific for a collection of humorous short stories.

The “scientific” proposal, as you put it, is for non-narrative nonfiction. Narrative nonfiction, whether a collection of short stories, a memoir, or a collection of essays, should typically be submitted as if it were a fiction proposal. That means you will likely submit the first 50 pages or so and a synopsis. Keep in mind, the only time you send a proposal to BookEnds is if it’s requested. We ask for simply a query first."
 

SusanH

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This article from Writer's Digest features a successful memoir query, including commentary from literary agent Verna Dreisbach (Dreisbach Literary), who represents the author. It's possible you have to have a Facebook account to access it.

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=131186605309

wow, that is a long query. I am a new writer and I don't have any great things to say for myself. I have been told, the shorter the better. I am feeling soooo frustrated right now.
 

Bluegate

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What is this? Some kind of stalker question?
http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=131186605309

This is a helpful link. Thank you for adding to the list!

Wow, that is a long query. I am a new writer and I don't have any great things to say for myself. I have been told, the shorter the better. I am feeling soooo frustrated right now.

That is a very long query. At 647 (quick word count) it is nearly 400 words longer than the oft advised length. It also is for a self help book which is much different than a memoir. Personally I don't think you should compare your own query needs to this particular example. It says they are posting other examples and maybe one of them will be more fitting for your needs. As I recall, you have more of a character driven story so your query should probably resemble something more traditional for a novel.

I hope my comment did not come off poorly here. I really wanted to offer encouragement by saying that you don't need to have all that stuff this writer did. Your story is a story not a non fiction self help so you're ahead in that regard. ;)
 

SusanH

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Good, that does make me feel better....I'll go read more... thanks Bluegate
 

Chrisla

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Another good book is Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach; I've been re-reading him lately. It's written from the perspective of a teacher of a life story writing class, gives examples of the problems the students encounter in the writing process and gives exercises to help overcome them.

Table of Contents: Getting Started; Memory; Scene-making; Big Ideas ("the underlying conception or conceptions that give a piece of successful nonficition its unity--the kind of unity that plot sometimes bring to fiction"); Characters and Characterization; Stage Presence (voice); Finding the Facts; Metaphor and Meaning; Saying it Right (Clarity, grammar); Building a Building (defines memoir, personal essay, formal essay, literary journalism, mosaic and journal; and discusses ways to put your research and ideas together to create whichever of those you are writing); Reaching Readers (good writing, revision, cutting, finding publishers, etc.)

The book also has a section on suggested readings in creative nonfiction.

My re-reading has given me fresh insight into revision, which he calls "re-seeing--as opposed to polishing and tinkering. It is helping me pare down a book I thought impossibly large for publication. I'm amazed at how much I can prune, and suspect I may end up with a tighter, better book as a result.
 

Red Bird

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I second the value of Roorbach's book, which was a required reading in my creative writing class.
 

SusanH

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Definitely a go see at Barnes and Noble.......
 

Michelle D.

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this is great thread! so glad i found it. didn't know memoirs needed completed ms
 

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