So I just saw this story about Justin Bieber’s memoir at age 16 (which really isn’t a memoir because that would be ridiculous, right?), and it made me think of a recent experience I had with a project in this category.
We had discovered an author who had previously published a couple of true crime books but who now sent us material for a possible memoir. Her voice was simply superb and I was thrilled as, after all, this is why we do what we do—to find those voices that stand out. The discovery of wonderful writing is what our business is all about.
We helped this writer develop her proposal and I thought we would put it into the newsletter we distributed last May and sell it shortly thereafter. First, though, I thought I would send it to three publishers just to test the waters. I picked three very good publishers and three very good editors. And despite the fact that the material was superb and the publishers and editors were very strong, they all turned down this excellent proposal. Why? Because their marketing and sales people said that “memoirs don’t sell.” At one of the houses I submitted to, the editor didn’t even take the time to read the material.
I found this absolutely shocking, but I wasn’t giving up. I couldn’t believe that in the business of reading people weren’t reading.
And so some weeks later, after the newsletter had gone out and a number of editors had expressed interest in my client and her work, I sent the proposal out to several other houses. We had seven bids at auction and in the end the material ultimately went to Knopf, a terrific publisher. We sold it well. Fortunately there are those in our business who still do read and who aren’t daunted by purely commercial considerations, and all I can think is thank goodness for that!
Do you all read a lot of memoirs?