When I read a manuscript of a memoir or a non-fiction book proposal I bring the same set of expectations to the table as I do when I read fiction. That is to say, the things that are important to me in fiction are still important to me. You need to pay attention to pacing, characterization, voice. Crickey, please pay attention to voice! There still needs to be a certain amount of tension or conflict, to keep me turning those pages. If I don’t want to find out what’s next, why on earth would I bother to offer you representation, or want to sell your book? I’ll just pass. If your memoir or non-fiction book proposal isn’t in some way unique, quirky or tackling a new subject (or an old subject in a new way), I’m just going to pass. It’s not enough that it’s written by you. Well, unless you are some kind of celebrity. Then let’s talk!
Publishing is a tough business. It’s not enough that you’ve written something. It’s not enough that you’ve labored over your work, delving into your painful past, or learning everything about The Corn Palace in South Dakota, or interviewing the guy who makes handmade ukuleles from recycled material, or stringing together your grandmother’s recipes with commentary about your fascinating cultural history. If you want to sell books, the first step is writing something truly compelling. Keep me turning those pages.
What keeps you turning pages when you read? Do you think you’ve got what it takes?