Whether through the written word, oral tradition, or visual media, people love personal story. According to 2009 Publishers Weekly nonfiction hardcover report, 10 out of 30 nonfiction books listed were personal story, and plenty more will appear on the 2010 listing. Memoirs are the rage.
Yet, the word I’m getting is that unless the writing far exceeds the writing of a memoir written by a famous person, publishers are reluctant to sign with an unknown author. Apparently, fame moves books. However, as an expert in the field of reading, I disagree. And this is why.
I cannot deny that people are fascinated with stories about people whose lives they can only dream about. I am one of those people. But I also know—as an expert reader—that beyond the entertainment factor of a good read, germane to our humanity, people want to connect to other people. A writer’s fears, disappointments, tragedies, and triumphs validate and clarify the reader’s experience.
A reader doesn’t want to get lost in bad writing, but rejecting a well-written book with a strong hook and fabulous story because the author is not famous is to minimize the need for personal stories the common person (most of us) can relate to.
Does this make me a failure? I don’t think so.
Sorry Winston, but I am going to counter your definition of success with my own, “Success is the ability to stand up in the midst of discouragement (loss of enthusiasm), brush yourself off, and ride into the wind with your head held high.”
I just requested a non-fiction proposal template from Mary E. DeMuth, memoir (and other works) author, speaker, and book mentor to help me piece together a more polished proposal. Even though I have a completed proposal, it needs work and I have not known where to start the process. I feel like a floundering fish just reeled to shore.
For years, I have been working with another book mentor, a perceptive and talented writer/editor with whom I work well: my Cousin Judy. But Judy has not been well enough to help me for the past few months, and we both know that it’s time for me to give birth to this book. A seven-year labor is long enough.
Though we both know that I need to keep working even if it means without her direct help, I am emotionally torn. Judy has been more than a mentor. She has been a midwife, and she has been a friend. Our relationship throughout this book-mentoring process nourishes my soul and enriches my life.
I have always loved my Cuz, but I love her even more now. Thank you, Cousin Judy!
The protocol for submitting fiction to a literary agent or publisher differs from submitting nonfiction. Typically for fiction, and most certainly for unknown fiction writers, agents and/or publishers want to see a completed manuscript. But for nonfiction, they usually request just the first two or three chapters of a manuscript-in-process, plus a proposal.
Might sound like nonfiction writers are getting a break, but they are not. A well-constructed proposal, the nonfiction-writer’s primary marketing tool, is a huge task. Not only does a proposal require focused, polished writing, but also the type of writing, the genre, if you will, differs drastically from the proposed writing.
A book proposal is a sales pitch written to persuade a businessperson (agent and/or publisher) that readers (your ultimate audience) will buy your writing. And most writers simply want to tell a story, not sell their story or themselves.