Saturday, July 28, 2012

Friday Night at the Questiom Emporium--a day late

I wish there were a Query Shark for non-fiction queries. It would be very helpful to me and I'm certain, others. There may be such a site (s) but I've looked all over both your sites and can't find a link anywhere. Could you help me?

I don't know of a site that critiques non-fiction like QueryShark.  And if I thought it was a good idea to have one, I'd have done it.

The main reason I don't? Platform.  Non-fiction queries are very much about platform.  There's no way to redact that information from a query and have it make sense.  "I'm well known" doesn't cut the mustard unless you know who the person actually is.  You'd be surprised how many people I've never heard of who describe themselves as  well known.

And while QueryShark may gnaw on you till you bleed, I try not to personalize it.  The lessons of QueryShark are ones (I hope) that also apply to other writers.  Platform is completely individual. A book about Mayberry RFD written by Ron Howard is a far different project than a book about Mayberry RFD written by a fan. 

Second reason? Market.  Non-fiction is less about writing and more about market.  "There's no market for your book about being abused" isn't something I ever want to say to someone even though it's true.

I've tried to cover some questions about non-fiction on this blog (there's a blog post category called Non-fiction if you want to take a look) but that's the best I've been able to do.

If you've got general questions about non-fiction, send me an email with the subject line: FRIDAY NIGHT AT THE QUESTION EMPORIUM and I'll do my best to answer.

If anyone has other ideas, please fire away in the comment column.


BP said...

I wonder if joining a critique group to have your non-fic buddies look over a query might be helpful. They won't be able to give the insight of an agent, but at least they'll be able to give reasonable feedback. Best wishes!

Eva said...

I agree with BP. Joining a critique group is one of the best things I ever did as a writer.

S.P. Bowers said...

Behler Blog has many posts about nonfiction queries. They don't critique them like Query Shark but they do offer a lot of advice.

Ellen said...

What about memoir or narrative nonfic though? Since it is more like fiction in terms of plot/story...

Janet Reid said...

From a poster who couldnt post:

I tried to post on your blog and it sa..... well it failed.
Here's what I oh so cleverly first saved in a word doc before hitting send:

I gave some thought to your response that offering sharkiness on Non-Fiction queries wasn't tenable due anonymity and the uniqueness of  the writer's platform.

Many agents share your posture re NF queries but I don't agree that it is an absolute filter by any stretch. Platform as I understand is the author's fame or notoriety which by some calculus is expected to translate into book sales.

While there might be some guesstimated number that is derivable, it is not firm nor certain. In the end, a book must stand on it's own merits-- in NF these might include its relevance, utility, accuracy, organization, and clarity.
I'm thinking of the moment of Carl Franz, author of the classic People's Guide to Mexico.Or, John Muir's How to Keep Your VW Alive. These guys were nobodies, with no bona fides (Franz was a hippie traveler, Muir a backyard mechanic). They simply wrote fantastic and for, the time, original books with an accessible voice coupled with  humorous illustrations full of great information.

Too, I think one's fame only narrowly translates to actual book sales and is only one tool in the book marketer's box. NF book buyers are a discerning lot-- I am not going to buy an investment book blurbs alone. Nor do I think that it would influence me much in buying a Baby Names book " A. Jolie:this book has the nuttiest and most peculiar names ever!"

Now,I am not saying that Suzie Orman doesn't have a massive platform and that it doesn't drive sales in a crowded category but that platform can -- and often does --- start with a well executed book backed by a few modest credentials.

So can NF queries be critiqued sans platform? I for one think: you betcha.