You’ve written your memoir. Now what?
Finishing your memoir is not the end of the path to publication. You’re going to need a book proposal. But why?
Your book proposal is where the rubber hits the road. If your memoir is truly going to be published, you are going to have to figure out how to persuade an agent and an editor that it’s commercially viable—as well as creatively attractive. Your book proposal encapsulates the idea of your memoir, and helps you to explain why anyone's going to be interested enough to buy it.
The book proposal is your next milestone. It’s the culmination of honing your message, testing it on your audience, and analyzing the competition. A well-written book proposal for an outstanding memoir has a high chance of securing an agent and a publisher.
But here are your qualifiers: it must be fresh, well-written, persuasive, timely, professional, and desirable. And remember that, in order to get a literary agent or acquisitions editor to read your memoir, you’re going to have to hook them with an excellent book proposal.
Why should I do this?
Starting out, a question a lot of people ask is, “can I just send in my manuscript?” The simple answer is no. You need to convince an agent or editor that they should take the time to read your whole story—and your well-crafted book proposal is the way to do this.
Glance and gone
One beef that a lot of authors have is this: you send off a book proposal to an agent or twenty, and it can take months before you hear back. Some of you might imagine those agents are just filing their nails, meeting for lunch, taking their time, being very Zen and leisurely. But in fact, it's glance and gone. Unless you grab their attention, they’re gone and onto the next author’s pitch.
So, how can you convince agents and publishers to love your memoir proposal?
When they receive your proposal, the first step for an agent or publisher is figuring out why they should read this submission out of the thousands on the desk in front of them. So make it accessible, and hook them quick.
Your book proposal should be split into sections, to make it easy for the agent to flick through, then dive into the pieces they want to read. You need to show them that you understand the competition, and you know about comparative titles. Most importantly, you need to show that you understand what your story is about and who might want to read it.
Is it good for me?
A book proposal is a vital part of your development as an author. It demonstrates your understanding of the commercial aspect of your work and how people will receive it. It’s an amazing exercise in empathy, because it makes you think, what will my memoir sound like to an agent or to an editor? In fact, it doesn't stop there, because the book proposal becomes a strand of DNA that stays with your book all the way. It will be the core of what is known about your memoir. It’s how the sales and marketing team at your publishing house will learn about your book. It will become a hub from which the jacket copy might be written, as well as the advance information and press media materials, and the copy that booksellers base their buying decisions on.
Ultimately, a well worked book proposal has benefits for you. It makes you strong in your convictions about your memoir and your message, and who you are as an aspiring author.
In the end, you’re going to love your book proposal because it will teach you how to reach your potential readers and will give you a great chance to get published.
These are the principles, but how do we write this amazing book proposal for a memoir?
If you want to learn more and get practical guidance, click here to access an on-demand webinar How to Write a Book Proposal for Your Memoir. This is an in-depth conversation between me and memoir expert Joanne Spataro, in which Joanne and I discuss the whys and wherefores, as well as the pitfalls of writing a book proposal for your memoir. You’ll be guided through the entire process with useful pointers, tips, and expert advice.