How to Write a Proposal for a Memoir

The memoir market is not for the faint of heart. A writer cannot hope to get a memoir published without top-notch pen skills, a unique story and, often, an established marketing platform.

My StoryYou can see why, once he teamed up with a professional writer, Keith Richards had no problem getting his memoir published. His life spent as the guitarist of a popular rock band is highly compelling, and his platform – Rolling Stones fans – was already firmly established. Your average cancer patient, on the other hand, may have some difficulty publishing a memoir, as the market is flooded with similar stories.

If you are confident in your writing abilities and the story of your life has yet to be published in a similar memoir, read on for tips on constructing your proposal package.

There is no set way to create a proposal, but there are certain things every memoir and other non-fiction book proposal must include.


The Query Letter:

This one-page, single-spaced letter to the publisher introduces both the writer and the memoir’s subject matter.

In it you make a grab for the publisher’s attention with a strong opening, briefly describing your book.

Follow up the opening by painting a clear picture of what your book is about and how it’s structured.

Like the cover letter of a resume, you should use the query letter to establish yourself as an expert in your subject matter. Make mention of any training or experience that qualifies you to write this memoir.


The Overview:

Give a brief summary of your memoir. This part of the proposal will discuss the subject matter and explain how it will develop over the course of the book.

This section should entice the readers and make them want to actually read the work in its entirety.


The Outline:

This summary explores the plot details on a chapter by chapter basis. (Lean more here)

It must include all of the story’s major points, and is typically written in paragraph form, though if you feel more comfortable with a traditional outline form, you can use that as well.


Author Biography:

This gives the publisher a solid idea about what your writing background looks like. It’s also a good place to firmly establish your qualifications regarding the subject matter of your memoir.

For example, if you are a musician and you’re writing about a tour you went on in the summer of ’69 (can I have an autograph?), describe the success of your hit singles or how many concert tickets you sold that season.


Sample Chapters:

Many publishers require authors to include the memoir’s first few chapters with the proposal, especially as-yet unpublished authors.

This is undoubtedly the most important part of any book proposal – the part that should shine the most.

The sample chapters display your writing talents and let the publisher know what to expect from your finished product.


Marketing Background:

Explain who is going to buy your book.

It has become the author’s job, at least in a proposal, to explain to a publisher how the book will appeal to its audience.

After all, a book is just another product. To do well, it must sell. Again, the memoir market is tough. The more people who are thirsting to buy your book before it is even published, the more likely it is to actually be published.


The Competition:

Select four to five titles that are similar to your memoir, and write a short synopsis for each.

Explain why your book improves upon or differs from these similar works.

Filed in: Getting Published

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