How to query an essay collection?

Questions for the resident (former) agent
Post Reply
damnation's delights
Posts: 8
Joined: November 11th, 2010, 10:43 am
Contact:

How to query an essay collection?

Post by damnation's delights » May 7th, 2012, 12:24 pm

Hi Nathan:
How do I query a book of personal/literary/creative nonfiction essays? Do I pitch it more like fiction, or more like a nonfiction proposal (platform, market analysis etc)? They're not food, travel, solely memoir, or other kinds of 'platform-based' essays per se (but more like everyday observations and musings on various things a la Virginia Woolf), so I wouldn't know quite how to do a standard proposal...I have a PhD in philosophy, but these essays are not academic.

User avatar
Nathan Bransford
Posts: 1381
Joined: December 4th, 2009, 11:17 pm
Location: New York, NY
Contact:

Re: How to query an essay collection?

Post by Nathan Bransford » May 9th, 2012, 11:30 pm

damnation's delights wrote:Hi Nathan:
How do I query a book of personal/literary/creative nonfiction essays? Do I pitch it more like fiction, or more like a nonfiction proposal (platform, market analysis etc)? They're not food, travel, solely memoir, or other kinds of 'platform-based' essays per se (but more like everyday observations and musings on various things a la Virginia Woolf), so I wouldn't know quite how to do a standard proposal...I have a PhD in philosophy, but these essays are not academic.
More like a nonfiction proposal. Though depending on your platform it will definitely need a very strong central idea to tie them together, and it would be helpful if at least some of them were published in reputable places. Hope that helps!

damnation's delights
Posts: 8
Joined: November 11th, 2010, 10:43 am
Contact:

Re: How to query an essay collection?

Post by damnation's delights » May 10th, 2012, 9:25 am

Thanks so much, Nathan.

A follow-up question: In the market analysis/competing titles section, are agents looking for numbers, eg how many copies of a similar book sold, how many editions were printed etc (if so, where would you get this info?), or are they just looking for a demonstration of your familiarity with extant literatures and an explanation why your book is like/unlike them?

User avatar
Nathan Bransford
Posts: 1381
Joined: December 4th, 2009, 11:17 pm
Location: New York, NY
Contact:

Re: How to query an essay collection?

Post by Nathan Bransford » May 19th, 2012, 3:32 pm

damnation's delights wrote:Thanks so much, Nathan.

A follow-up question: In the market analysis/competing titles section, are agents looking for numbers, eg how many copies of a similar book sold, how many editions were printed etc (if so, where would you get this info?), or are they just looking for a demonstration of your familiarity with extant literatures and an explanation why your book is like/unlike them?
It's difficult to get that sales information, so it's more about knowing about the competition and why your book treads new ground.

damnation's delights
Posts: 8
Joined: November 11th, 2010, 10:43 am
Contact:

Re: How to query an essay collection?

Post by damnation's delights » August 23rd, 2012, 11:32 am

Thanks for the reply.
I don't know about name, but my essays have been published in well-known outlets, and some have won awards. They were written over a few years with no specific 'theme' from the outset, but they definitely have a 'preoccupation' and even a progression as I've now arranged them. (A side note--I hate themes. Essays by definition should be 'loose' or loose enough.) I can also try to sell the immigrant angle. I know essays are a tough sell. It's weird, though, that that's not the case outside the US, in most of the rest of the world.
A side-side note--Americans' (or I suspect more American publishers') obsession with novels at first may seem paradoxical with our increasingly short attention span, but it makes perfect sense: reading short pieces requires much greater concentration, usually in one long sitting, with attention to almost every line, every word. Magazines buffer this perfectly with the variety they provide that single-author collections don't. Novels are more spread out, relaxed, read-a-few-pages-when-you-feel-like-it, even skip-a-few-boring-passages-and-you-still-know-what's-going-on, which is how most people read, over time. And who has time? Plus they gives us a stronger illusion of an escape, from our hectic world. Successful writers today have to be therapists in addition to being critics.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest