In the world of publishing, a literary agent acts as a filter, sifting and sorting out manuscripts until, only the best gets to the publisher. The first step is to get an agent's attention in order for a publishing house to consider your memoir. Hire a literary agent. Few publishers look at unsolicited work, especially when an agent does not submit the manuscript.
- Skill level:
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Submit work that qualifies as "memoir." Memoir tells the story of significant events in a person's life. The writer must have a clear vision of how those events changed or shaped his life.
Read a variety of memoirs. Learn about what works and what doesn't. Analyze several memoirs and note how each is structured and what sets it apart from other genres, specifically biography and narrative non-fiction
Participate in writing workshops to hone your skills. Look for programs focused on memoir and personal essay. Many memoirs have grown out a single personal essay.
Attend writing conference where agents will be present. For an additional fee, many conferences offer the opportunity for a one-on-one with an agent. Before the meeting, make certain that your pages are ready.
Set aside any concerns about legal issues such as libel. Write what you feel needs to be written. An agent may offer some advice once she opts to pick up your book, but a publisher will have the work vetted for any potential problems.
Be prepared to promote your book. An agent is more likely to take on a book if you have a platform and a marketing plan that uses your expertise, professional connections or position in the community. Use your personal spotlight about you and the book.
Tips and warnings
- Always include a postage-paid, pre-addressed envelope for the return of your pages, especially if they are unsolicited.
- Submit pages only after the final edit. Do not expect an agent to correct errors or give advice on grammar and punctuation. When you send pages to an agent, replace any that aren't fresh or that might have marks from a previous reader.
- Check credentials. Literary agents (and agencies) are affiliated with the Association of Artists' Representatives (AAR) and do not charge a fee.
- Do not send electronic submissions unless the agent accepts them. Many agents still prefer hard copies.
- Do not accept representation from an agent who charges a fee for anything from postage to travel to a "reading fee." If the subject comes up, say "Thank you for your time," and move on.
- Do not contact an agent for representation until the book is written. Do not offer "half the profits."
- Do not ask an agent to proof your pages, correct your grammar and spelling or give you suggestions as to how the manuscript can be improved. If you need assistance in any of those areas, the book is not ready to be sent to an agent.
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