Non-fiction humor queries

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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Jaded
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Non-fiction humor queries

Post by Jaded » August 6th, 2010, 7:46 pm

There are countless sources of information for humorous fiction queries and there are slightly less for non-fiction queries.

There are no blasted sources of information for non-fiction humor/short stories. (Short stories, she says? Off with her head!)

This genre has a market, these books are selling, but I can find no help with how to properly format a query for such a thing. Oh, sure... there are proposals for the non-fiction part and regular queries because it is humorous, but the entire MS itself is a hodgepodge of some very random (yet intricately connected through idiocy) stories from my life. I guess you could call it a memoir *shudders*, but it bypasses several key points in my life and they're not really in any particular order, especially not chronological. My MS has ADD but in an entertaining kind of way, not in a "Wtf is going on here?" kind of way.

Oh, the agents are saying that they don't take on short stories because they don't sell, but I have several collections of them on my bookshelves that were authored by people who were GENERALLY unknown before they were published. There are obvious exceptions to that rule, such as Chelsea Handler, but what can you do?

I don't want to have to murder my entire MS. I AM working on two other projects, one of which could easily be manipulated in such a manner as to include these short stories if need be, but I'd rather have them stand alone. If wishes were pennies...

Does anyone have any experience or expertise in this particular area? It's hard to write a synopsis when the only unifying themes throughout the MS are idiocy, bodily harm, and bad luck. (It seems I'm more entertaining while irritated or injured.) The formulas just aren't adding up for me, but then I've always sucked at math. I'm not entirely above bribery with baked goods at this point. It's sad to say that the only "hook" I can come up with without exerting more than two minutes worth of scattered thought involves Nathan's nemesis, the evil Rhetorical Question. It's sad, but true. I mean, seriously, has anyone here had their head rolled up in a car window before?

Any and all help would be greatly appreciated. Also, if anyone knows the correct word count preference for something like this. There's not a lot of information available at this time, but the closest I've managed to come up with is 40,000-70,000.

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Mira
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Re: Non-fiction humor queries

Post by Mira » August 6th, 2010, 9:05 pm

Good question. I have no idea for word count. I've tried to find that too, unsuccessfully.

I think you are writing something similar to David Sedaris? You might check him out. There is actually a humor section in bookstores, and I think his books are there. So, you could query it as straight humor, or query it as a memoir, since many memoirs are humorous and composed of non-linear essays.

Since memoir (narrative non-fiction) is queried the same way that fiction is, I would guess you would go that way rather than write up a proposal - which is how you solicit for non-fiction.

I'd probably start by researching agents who represent narrative non-fiction and/or humor, and query them.

Or - you could find the agent for the books you mentioned (usually in the acknowledgements section), go to their website and see what they call that genre. You could also query those agents.

I'm not an expert, so please take everything with a handful of salt, but those are my suggestions. :)

Good luck!

Jaded
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Re: Non-fiction humor queries

Post by Jaded » August 7th, 2010, 12:53 pm

Mira,

That's the best advice I've received thus far. (Thus far? Really?)

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, I truly appreciate it. For whatever reason, David Sedaris completely slipped my mind. I've enjoyed several of his essays but I will have to say that I am absolutely no David Sedaris. My work is far more shallow and if we're being honest here, probably nowhere near as well written. I have my strong points, but that man definitely has a way with words and evoking emotion in his readers.

"Non-linear essays" is a very good way to put it. It shames me to say that I've never thought of it that way before. I suppose it is narrative non-fiction in a non-linear fashion, so that's probably the best way to pitch it. These are confusing and anxiety riddled times, querying agents for the first time and all.

Hopefully as this genre picks up steam (again, hopefully) there will be more information out there on word counts and proper query strategy, if you will. One of my "dream agents" has represented a few of the authors on the shelf and has pretty lax querying standards, so I'm hoping that my query will be more convincing than my completely legal state issued driver's license that was almost confiscated last night.

Again Mira, thanks for the advice, and I think we can downgrade my salt intake to a grain as it seems to be solid and most likely accurate. :)

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Mira
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Re: Non-fiction humor queries

Post by Mira » August 9th, 2010, 12:51 pm

Jaded, you are very welcome! :) I'm glad what I said was helpful.

You know, another thought did occur to me (see what you did, you're encouraging me :). Nathan often says that you shouldn't worry too much about the genre. If you get an agent, they and the publisher will help you classify it. But it sounds like you've identified some 'dream agents' so that's cool. Then you can write the query to match what they represent.

And there's always a market for humor - and especially so in hard economic times.

Please keep me posted if you find out anything more - we're in the same general genre category.

Best to you!

Jaded
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Re: Non-fiction humor queries

Post by Jaded » August 9th, 2010, 1:37 pm

Same general genre? Really? I like meeting my own kind. :) What is it that you write?

I agree with that about needing humor in these times. The goal here is really just to make people laugh and if I can make money from doing it? Red letter day. Hopefully there are people out there like me that laugh when other people fall down, get their heads rolled up in car windows, or push their sister's down cobblestone hills in wheelchairs.

Without having much of a platform I'm going to go try to save orphans from burning buildings in an effort to at least get karma on my side. :)

Thanks again, Mira.

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Mira
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Re: Non-fiction humor queries

Post by Mira » August 11th, 2010, 12:26 pm

What do I write? Honestly, I'm not quite sure yet, but it's in the humor/non-fiction range. Somewhere in there. :)

With viral marketing, lack of platform can be overcome by simply writing something absolutely hilarious.

I know, who thought it could be that easy? ;)

Good luck with everything!

Jaded
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Re: Non-fiction humor queries

Post by Jaded » August 11th, 2010, 2:21 pm

Oh, is that all? :)

I've come across a few agents that are interested in works that can be adapted out of blogs, so I'm thinking they'll be my #2 Dream Agents. I've blogged for a major newspaper and when I left there I transferred it over to Blogger. I just wish I had done it sooner so my followers could have, well, followed me. It was easier to get page views when the page was listed on the newspaper's site though. It's a good thing my MS is memoir-ish, all of my sentences have begun with "I". Tsk tsk.

Good luck to you and your writing of things that you're not quite sure what they are. I look forward to reading them some day. :)

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