If you’ve written a memoir and your targeted agent or publisher has requested a query letter in lieu of a book proposal, then there are certain steps you will want to follow to make sure you convey all of the information that is desired. The steps to follow are outlined below.
Step #1: Finish your memoir.
The memoir you’ve written should be ready for publication. This means it must be finished and have been given a professional editing. It should be the very best that you can possibly make it. While you’re working on the memoir, it’s also a good idea to put together a book proposal for your memoir as well. Nonfiction books almost always need a proposal at some point, so creating one now will prevent delays during the latter steps of this process.
Step #2: Include specific elements into your query letter.
A good query letter should be personalized. You should be writing it for the specific agent or publisher that you want to have look at your memoir. A form letter will almost always be rejected.
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Be clear about what you are selling. You are not offering a fictional novel. It’s a memoir. Include the title and your word count as well.
Include the hook for your memoir as well. What is it that makes your story one that others will want to read? This is also a good place to discuss who is going to purchase your memoir. Remember: your target market cannot be “everyone” or “all men.” There must be specificity.
Then add in your own bio, your platform, and what your credentials happen to be. If you’ve won notable awards that could help with the proposal, a brief summary could be beneficial to include here as well.
A query letter must also have a full closing which includes a note of thanks for taking the time to review the application. Manners are still important and without them, a query letter may be rejected.
Step #3: Define your target audience.
This tends to be the most difficult aspect of writing a query letter for a memoir. The target audience for memoirs tends to be rather limited in nature. You’re writing in a narrative that is reminiscent of fiction, but presenting it to a nonfiction market. So defining a target audience means finding one that is large enough to be attractive to a publisher, but not one that is so large that the audience is unapproachable.
Even award-winning writers have had memoirs rejected for common reasons: it’s too long; it should be a magazine article; the audience is too small; the story is not distinctive.
Keep refining your target audience. Add specifics and statistics whenever possible. Showing that you’ve done your research and putting that data into your query letter will help you to make an effective argument about the potential of your memoir.
Step #4: Set yourself apart from the competition.
This is ultimately what your query letter is intended to do. There are undoubtedly other memoirs on the market right now that are similar to the one you’re trying to get published. This means you must make the concept of your memoir irresistible so that it can be effective.
Many writers will say that their memoir is the only one to address a specific subject. That’s a powerful claim to make, but one that is often untrue. A better solution would be to look at the solutions you’re offering to the readers because that is more likely to be completely unique.
Any secrets, methods, and lessons that have been personally experienced should also be part of the “setting apart” process.
You can also do this by explaining how readers will benefit from reading your memoir. Show that lives can be changed and those changes can become their own form of marketing to keep your memoir at the forefront of audience conversations. Offer examples of this if you can and include it with your query letter.
Step #5: Show it instead of telling it.
There is this temptation to critique your memoir as you write a query letter of book proposal. This is unnecessary. Your letter is going to show everyone the quality of your work. Stick to the facts and let the recipient determine how good your work is. If you tell the letter recipient that they will enjoy the work and you’ve received many compliments about your work, then the query letter is more about personal ego than it is providing a meaningful story or outcome for others.
Writing a memoir query letter can be difficult, but it will generally contain all of the elements of a fictional query letter. Include the key points, follow these steps, and then mail it out based on the listed requirements of your preferred agent or publisher to receive the best possible results.