Maybe you’ve heard it’s impossible to get a book deal for a memoir if you aren’t a celebrity or you don’t have millions of followers on TikTok.
You’re not a celebrity (yet) and you don’t have millions of TikTok followers (yet), so maybe you're thinking “why bother” writing a memoir at all?
After all, it’s a big commitment.
It will take time—and require a lot of emotional energy.
And, if you’ve never written a book before, there’s a steep learning curve ahead of you.
That’s a great question and one every writer should ask themselves before they say YES to writing a book.
When I ask my LGBTQ+ memoir clients why they want to share their story, many of them say—”This is something I HAVE to do. I HAVE to get this story out.”
Why bother? Because:
Have you ever been brought to your knees by 300-400 words?
Truth be told, I have.
Ahh ... the dreaded query letter. A three-paragraph email sent to an agent or editor with a single purpose: to entice them to read your book proposal or manuscript.
The first time I queried agents for Graveyard of Safe Choices, my memoir about reclaiming myself at midlife, was in the winter of 2021. I had set a deadline for myself to have queries sent before I turned 60.
I met my deadline. Hooray!
But my queries were met with form rejections or silence. A sign that the query was NOT working—no one, apparently, wanted to read more.
I went back to revise the query—and ultimately the manuscript.
You see, an unsuccessful query isn't always just about the query: often it reveals problems with the manuscript.
When your query is fuzzy and vague, it can indicate that you really don't know what your book is about.
The road to publication can be long, as I've shared in a recent post.
It also can be filled with rejection and never-to-be-answered queries.
And then there are those moments like my client Sarah had the other day. I won't tell you too much about her book—yet—as there are more steps on its path to publication.
But an OMG!!! email is a time to celebrate.
As soon as I read Sarah's "OMG! Can you call me?" email, I picked up the phone and seconds later I was on the verge of (happy) tears.
A dream agent had offered her representation.
He GOT her book. WHY it was important for women. Why it was important NOW.
And the book proposal that got this agent's attention?
"It's one of the best I've ever read," the agent told Sarah.
I can't lie—that comment was the icing on the cake.
My clients and I work hard—often for many months—on these proposals—which are documents that make the business case for their book.
When I connect with a friend I haven't seen in a while or a new acquaintance who knows I've written a memoir, inevitably I will be asked a variation on one of these questions:
What's happening with your book?
When can I buy your book?
When's your book coming out?
Most people can't imagine why it's TAKING ME SO DAMN LONG TO WRITE AND PUBLISH MY BOOK!
Truth be told, when I started this memoir journey 4+ years ago, I had no idea it would take this long either!
A few months ago, I blogged about my memoir journey:
#1: Writers who don’t care about making money with their books.
#2: And writers who do care.
The writers who don’t care—the creatives, the artists—they have a story they HAVE to share … regardless of whether they make money or sell many books.
Many memoirists fall into this category. They have a lived experience that has meant so much to them that they have to get their story out of their head and their heart … and hopefully some people will read—and buy—their books, but making money is not why they write.
To be clear, it’s not that these writers are opposed to making money, it’s just that money isn’t what’s driving them. They’d write even if they didn’t make a single dime. And many of them will spend many, many dimes to help them write the best book they can: on writing conferences, book coaches, self-publishing, and...