Saturday, June 6, 2009

On Sending Out a Memoir

Ok, I'm not fooling anyone--I've no idea what I'm doing. I've never done this before. Still, when the first press says no to a proposal (of a book already done, but certainly in need of tweaking and smoothing out and an eye other than my own), it's similar to getting a rejection from a literary journal. Wait, no it's not. I think journals are worse. Though the letters read the same, I think there's the idea that this essay or this poem is far more perfected. Some would say then why are you trying to get your book published--because every single person who reads or hears about the book says "that's such a unique idea and story!"

Look, it's a good book, but I have no clue (or bravado) on how to prostitute myself. I've read some books and many, many websites on how to write and organize proposal packages, but I've never been good at fellowship or job letters (well, maybe job letters). What is anyone looking for? Is a book proposal nearly as much a lottery, darts at the board, lightening strike as publishing a poem? An essay? Is it like finding good pastries?

Look, I want to say, let's stop beating around the bush. I'll drive out to wherever you are, buy you coffee or dinner, and we can just talk. If after 10 minutes we can't stand the other person, let's have a safe word so we can exit and be mutually understanding. My safe word is "ni." Prior to our date, you could have stalked me on Google, read a chapter or two from my book, and that way we'd know if this relationship could even have a chance.

Promising hybrid memoir on hot topic that spans many niches and markets looking for press / editor to fill in the mortar joints. Author is congenial and will listen to anything, not terribly demanding (except for the cover perhaps). Book just wants to be held close on a rainy afternoon in mid summer and given a chance to become something more. Looking forward to taking a chance with the right person.


our friend Ben said...

Dollin, you need to get you an agent to get that kind of book published. You might still be able to get a how-to publisher to pick up a cookbook or sheep farming book, or a garden publishing house to take a gardening book, without an agent, but you need one for pretty much everything else. A good agent can help you craft a masterful proposal and has contacts to make sure it gets to the right house and the right person. I've never used an agent for my writing because I do those nuts-and-bolts nonfiction books for publication and write my novels and poetry for my own pleasure, but I've worked with plenty of agents in my publishing career. If you'd like, I can check in with a few of them and see who they'd recommend to handle a memoir. Just lemme know.

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

I know nothing about publishing, but the first thought, while I was reading your post, was "get an agent". Then I saw the first comment. Well, there are two of us already... Good luck!

Fake Sigi said...

As someone who's whored out a mediocre manuscript with moderate success, I can definitively say that you don't need an agent. If you want to go that route, great, but there are plenty of publishing houses that accept agent-less submissions.

That being said, knowing someone helps immensely. Having a close friend who spent time in the NYC publishing industry got my proposal looked at much more than it would have been otherwise. Sad but true.

I suspect it's not much different than journal/magazine subscriptions. You're looking for the person that will be as passionate about your manuscript as you are. And that means learning what each publishing house puts out, what they are looking to put out, all the obvious stuff. That and making personal contacts via the internets or whatever non-stalking method you prefer.

I'm guessing you're more talented than the average hack, but even so, words like "hybrid memoir on hot topic that spans many niches and markets," more often than not means unfocused crap as opposed to great art. Make sure you know which one you've got and edit accordingly. Be ruthless.

All that being said, the traditional book industry is dying. If you can't find a publishing house, there's no shame in getting those you know to provide feedback and publishing it yourself, either through Lulu or in e-book format.

Good luck.


Benjamin Vogt said...

OFB--Thanks for the offer, which, at a later date, I may take you up on. I have a list of several publishers that should be interested. If they fail, maybe an agent, maybe. but I'd be more inclined to find an agn if this was fiction.
Tatyana--But I don't want to pay an agent. That's one of the issues. But thanks.
F--A national soccer coach commenting on my blog? Wow. Yup, the publishing indusry as we know it is hurting, but I don't think it's dying--I think, like car makers, it is having to face huge realities about the market and a changing world. Personally, I'm no on the publish yourself bandwagon--and I think the larger industry is still very much at the point where I'd be ignored if I did. And, of course, I won't send out any general crap to a publisher that says "everyone will want to read this!" Heck no. But I do see a very diverse set of readers approaching the book. And if you come back to the blog, there's sample writing from the book here and there. I'm just starting this process and learning the only way--the hard way.

Fake Sigi said...

Fake national soccer coach, but I appreciate the sentiment.

Note I said that the traditional book industry is dying, not publishing as a whole. And for me, self publishing is something of a last resort, but totally viable, as blogs and other individual enterprises have shown. To each his or her own.

FWIW, I'm something of a regular here, so I've seen some of your writing. Best of luck.

Benjamin Vogt said...

FS--Oh, twas sarcasm on my part, coach. I meant book industry, not publishing industry. I ain't with it today. Cheers.