FOR NON FICTION AND MEMOIRS

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Unsheathed
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FOR NON FICTION AND MEMOIRS

Postby Unsheathed » Sat Mar 10, 2018 1:37 am

I hope this is the corrrect forum for the following issues:

I have heard TONS of conflicting advice.

FIRST GROUP OF QUESTIONS

1) Some people tell me that if one has written non fiction or memoirs, one should submit a query letter to an agent.

2) Some people tell me that if one has written non fiction or memoirs, one should submit a book proposal to an agent

3) Some people tell me that if one has written non fiction or memoirs, one should submit BOTH a book proposal and a query letter to an agent.

Please advise,

Thank you for your time.

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ostarella
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Re: FOR NON FICTION AND MEMOIRS

Postby ostarella » Sat Mar 10, 2018 9:37 am

The confusion may be because nonfiction and memoirs are generally treated differently.

From Jane Friedman's blog (https://www.janefriedman.com/start-here-how-to-get-your-book-published/):

Nonfiction: Proposal first, book after proposal accepted

Memoir: Like fiction - write the book first, then send out queries

Nonfiction author Sam Harris (https://samharris.org/how-to-get-your-book-published-in-6-painful-steps/) echoes the nonfiction process - proposal first, then book.

And last, from WD (http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-genre/memoir-by-writing-genre/queries-vs-proposals) - many agents treat memoirs like fiction as far as queries/proposals, so book first, then query.

Two final thoughts:

Many people confuse/conflate "query" with "proposal" - they are similar but not the same, so be sure you understand what it is you're writing.

Always - ALWAYS - follow the guidelines of the agent/publisher you want to submit to. Their guidelines trump any advice you get.
"The trick of the fiction writer is the beautiful lie..." Thomas Fox Averill

aka shadowwalker
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wdarcy
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Re: FOR NON FICTION AND MEMOIRS

Postby wdarcy » Sun Mar 11, 2018 2:41 pm

What Ostarella said.

As someone who has published two non-fiction books (the titles are beneath my signature), I can affirm that it is: proposal first, book after proposal has been accepted. However, there is often another component: sample chapters. In other words, proposal plus sample chapters first, book after proposal has been accepted.

Also, if you are going for an academic press, you generally submit directly to the publisher, not through an agent.

--Warren
"Wagner's 'Das Rheingold'" (Oxford 1993). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 1995.

"Elements of Sonata Theory" co-authored with James Hepokoski(Oxford 2006). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 2008.

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Re: FOR NON FICTION AND MEMOIRS

Postby Unsheathed » Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:47 am

Thank you for your help.

I just want a little clarification.

(Sorry if I seem a bit OCD)

Both of the responses said that in regard to non-fiction, the rule is:

"proposal first, book after proposal has been accepted"

QUESTION 1: Are you asserting that one's first communication with an agent is a proposal

QUESTION 2: Are you asserting that after the proposal is accepted one should write the book

MY SITUATION RE NON FICTION: About 5 of my non fiction essays have been published. They pertain to political and medical issues. I also have over 500 pages of essays on political, psychological, aesthetic and other issues which have not been published. I easily have enough for a book. Or Two. I don't want to sound like a conceited nut, but although I don't have any degrees other than a law degree, and although I don't have doctorates in poli sci, biology etc., I think I have provocative and new arguments.

In a nutshell: I believe that the so called experts very often are exceedingly bad at proffering commentary and advice. When one has invested one's money, life and time in a particular way of viewing a subject, one will have all the reason in the world to reject all ideas which challenge the way one was taught. And so an astronomer educated in accord with the myths of Ptolomy would not be receptive to the idea that the earth revolved around the sun; the leading doctors of Paris rejected Pasteur and Lister and the germ theory of disease because they did not want to hear that their unhygienic practices were facilitating the dissemination of microorganisms; and a Freudian doctor, perhaps, might be prejudiced against homosexuals because his education inculcated biases.
I think my law degree taught be to be skeptical and to challenge the norms and conventions in thought. I will never forget the words of one of my professor's on the first day of class: Never assume anything. I was taught to question everything.

In any event,
THIS BRINGS ME TO QUESTION THREE: What can I do if I have already written the non fiction book.

I have other questions, but there is so much material here that I will sign off now.

Thank you all for your help.

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ostarella
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Re: FOR NON FICTION AND MEMOIRS

Postby ostarella » Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:00 am

Unsheathed wrote:
>
> QUESTION 1: Are you asserting that one's first communication with an agent
> is a proposal
>

Yes. (Or publisher, as Warren noted above.)


> QUESTION 2: Are you asserting that after the proposal is accepted one
> should write the book
>

Yes.


> ... although I don't have
> any degrees other than a law degree, and although I don't have doctorates
> in poli sci, biology etc., I think I have provocative and new arguments.
>
> In a nutshell: I believe that the so called experts very often are
> exceedingly bad at proffering commentary and advice. When one has invested
> one's money, life and time in a particular way of viewing a subject, one
> will have all the reason in the world to reject all ideas which challenge
> the way one was taught.

One problem with not having a platform/expertise in any subject one chooses to write about is that people want to know why they should spend time (and money) reading your views. I know a lot of intelligent, thoughtful people who stay abreast of events and trends - but their opinions are just opinions because it's not their vocation or area of expertise. As Janet Reid explains:

"If your book’s purpose is to impart useful information or to benefit readers’ lives, then you’re selling it based on the marketability of your expertise, your platform, and your concept. The book proposal persuades agents/editors that readers will pay $20 or more for the benefit that your book provides. While everyone expects the writing to be solid, they’re probably not expecting a literary masterpiece. That is: To learn how to lose weight, readers don’t need a poet; they need a clear communicator who can deliver her ideas and methods in a way that will help readers achieve their goals.

"Especially in fields such as health, self-help, or parenting, your credibility and platform as a professional in the field may be most critical; your background must convey authority and instill confidence in the reader. (Would you, as a reader, trust a health book by an author with no medical experience or degrees? Would you be OK reading a serious guide on how to invest in the stock market by someone who is living in a van down by the river?)."

https://www.janefriedman.com/start-here-how-to-write-a-book-proposal/

So the biggest hurdle you're going to face is convincing a publisher/agent that you have 'standing', that you know what you're talking about and that readers will feel confidant about your analysis/opinions of the subject. Personally, any time I read a blurb about a nonfiction book, I look to see who the author is and why I should listen to them.

> In any event,
> THIS BRINGS ME TO QUESTION THREE: What can I do if I have already written
> the non fiction book.
>

The ol' "spilled milk" thing. Move forward. Not sure I would mention that the book was already written - might make publishers hesitate if they think there could be a lot of editing/revising involved.
"The trick of the fiction writer is the beautiful lie..." Thomas Fox Averill

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Re: FOR NON FICTION AND MEMOIRS

Postby Unsheathed » Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:42 am

I do not want to test or try anyone’s patience, but I am getting more confused: The last message I got on here seemed to tell me that my first submission, to an agent, should be a book proposal.

On another web site, I got ENTIRELY DIFFERENT ADVICE: I was counseled to first send a query letter but to have a proposal in reserve. Apparently, if the agent liked your query, he or she would ask for a proposal which, supposedly, you were supposed to be ready to send out in a moment’s notice.

Perhaps, the advice I am getting does not conflict. Perhaps different people are defining terms differently or are using terms interchangeably.

Ostraella (I hope that spelling is correct) said something about looking at Jane Friedman’s stuiff. I did. I found it ambiguous and confusing. But I must concede that the problem might be me: I am a lawyer and I have been trained to see ambiguity in everything. (And as an attorney, I am amazed that most people completely overlook the exceptional and intricate ambiguity in the second amendment, one of the most disorganized pieces of prose ever to make its way into a nation’s founding documents.)

In any event, do you guys really mean that in the case of non fiction, the very first missive is a book proposal. As I said, on another web site I was told that the query letter precedes the book proposal.

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ostarella
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Re: FOR NON FICTION AND MEMOIRS

Postby ostarella » Sun Mar 25, 2018 9:41 am

In nonfiction, I have never seen anyone advise writing the book before the proposal was accepted. That's the first thing. As to submitting a query before a proposal, I'm not sure I would take the advice of *one* website - it seems like a totally unnecessary extra step. A query and a proposal attempt to do the same thing - create enough interest in a project for the agent/publisher to move forward. They also do something else in common - give the agent/publisher a reason NOT to move forward. Why give them an additional opportunity to say no? And considering how many submissions most get, I can't imagine them wanting even more material to read before getting to the actual book.

That said, you do whatever the particular agent or publisher requires. If they want both query and proposal, that's what you give them. If they don't mention a query, you don't send them one.
"The trick of the fiction writer is the beautiful lie..." Thomas Fox Averill

aka shadowwalker
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Re: FOR NON FICTION AND MEMOIRS

Postby RobTheThird » Mon Mar 26, 2018 9:12 am

Read @ostarella's last sentence very closely.

You don't have to convince us. Last I looked, none of us are nonfiction agents nor publishers. Those are the people to whom you are trying to sell this, right? So look at them.

And, if you consider Writers Digest to be a good source, then look through their nonfiction writing and publishing articles, and see how rarely a query is even mentioned.

http://www.writersdigest.com/?s=nonfiction&submit=

Find nonfiction agents. Find nonfiction publishers. Both should have submission guidelines somewhere on their sites. Or talk to some nonfiction-published authors. Not all, but a great many authors will be happy to share their experience with you.


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