You’ve written an amazing memoir!
Unfortunately, you have no idea how to get a standard publisher such as Simon & Schuster to purchase and publish your memoir.
Here’s an overview of the steps you’ll need to take.
1) Write an Irresistible Book Proposal
When considering whether to purchase a memoir, the first thing a standard publisher wants to see is the book proposal. Not the memoir itself but the proposal: a document that describes the work and its author, and demonstrates how popular—and hence profitable—it will be. If the publisher likes your book proposal, he or she will ask to see your entire finished manuscript. To learn how to write a winning book proposal, go to the library, the bookstore or online; there are many books and blogs on the topic.
As you work on your proposal, remember that what intrigues a publisher, first, last, and always, is the possibility of making a lot of money. So make sure the parts of your proposal detailing your marketing platform (how you plan to help market the book) and other sales elements are strong.
2) Find an Agent
You’ve got a polished manuscript and a book proposal. Now you need a literary agent, for most larger standard publishing houses won’t accept work that is not submitted by an agent. You can find prospective agents by searching online and/or purchasing a guide to literary agents in the bookstore. Look for agents who handle the type of memoir you’ve written.
The best way to contact an agent is via a query letter: a single page that introduces yourself and your book, and asks if the agent is interested in seeing more. If your letter sparks some interest, the agent will either call you or ask you to submit your manuscript. If the agent likes it, he or she will agree to represent you and begin contacting publishers about your fantastic memoir.
3) Finish Your Manuscript – Really Finish It
Before you submit your manuscript to an agent, be sure it is absolutely finished and in tip-top condition. Many enthusiastic—or weary—memoir writers complete a first draft and then stop, believing that down the line a publisher will assign one of their own editors to polish the manuscript. If you happen to be a celebrity, famous politician, or some other well-known person, maybe you can get away with a rough manuscript at this stage. But if you’re an average Jill or Joe, any publisher or agent will expect you to submit a manuscript that has already been polished to perfection. Anything less will practically guarantee rejection.
For more about agents, see the article on “Literary Agents” at Poets & Writers. To learn more about memoir writing, see “How to Write a Memoir.”
IF YOU’D LIKE HELP WRITING YOUR MEMOIR…
We’re Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor, professional ghostwriters and authors with a long list of satisfied clients and editors at major publishing houses.
We’d love to talk to you about your exciting memoir!
Although based in Los Angeles, California, we often travel to work with our clients.