Saturday, March 2, 2013

Should memoir be treated as fiction?

"You say to treat memoir as fiction when querying, and that makes sense to me. My concern is, will I irritate agents if I don't follow their specific guidelines for submitting non-fiction?"

When querying, memoir needs to be treated as fiction in certain respects: as with fiction, the entire manuscript should be finished before you query; as with fiction, your concept won't matter as much as the execution of the writing; and, unless you are a celebrity or have a major, national platform, your background and platform won't matter as much. It is more about the writing itself, whereas with most types of commercial non-fiction, greater weight is given to your expertise, the competition, the market and other issues.

Most agents should specify guidelines for submission of fiction, non-fiction and memoir. If they don't specify, then at first you can treat memoir as non-fiction for the sake of initiating a submission. For example, most agents want you to begin with a one page query letter--and in that case, just send in a letter, and if they want more, they should tell you how much they want. If they ask for a proposal, the typical non-fiction proposal contains an overview, an outline and 1 or 2 chapters, and you can send that. Don't worry--these distinctions are not so important, because if they want more, they will tell  you exactly what they want. The important thing to remember is that, unlike other types of non-fiction, with a memoir you should not query until your entire manuscript is complete. You don't want to have an agent like the first two chapters and then not have the manuscript ready to show for two more years.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, muchas gracias, arrigato gosaimasu! I was feeling like a dolt for having written the book first because later I was advised that the proposal is more important and I should have started with it. Your answer has encouraged me, as has your assurance that seeking an agent is a sensible thing to do. My friends, none of whom are publishing professionals, all want me to self-publish just to get Memoirs of a Cat Named Dog out into the world. I am so very grateful that you are sharing your expertise with me and all of your other followers.


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