I have written a collection (55k words) of memoir essays...sort of a memoir of unconnected chapters. I've sold some that have been published in large and small magazines.
I have queried a zillion agents without success and have concluded that unless the author has some celebrity, agents (and the large publishers) are not interested in this sort of thing. Just too uncertain to make enough money to justify the time and effort. I'm okay with that.
I am thinking I might try the small publishers directly. I am not interested in self publishing at all.
May I ask for any advice you might offer.
Unconnected chapters means there's no narrative arc. That means this book is a series of unconnected essays: so, what's it about? If you can't tell me what the book is about in 25 words or less, it's really hard to pitch it. And I don't mean just to me, I mean it's hard for me to pitch it to an editor, an editor to her boss, or to the acquisitions meeting, for sales to pitch it to accounts, for film guys to pitch it to producers, for subrights agents to pitch it to audio publishers and translation agents.
Personal memoir is often described as "tricky" which is a kind way of saying "no, not everyone has led a life that's interesting to other people." And by interesting to other people, I mean willing to fork over $16.00 to read all about it.
Notice I didn't say important and I didn't say it was dull, but face facts: people are generally interested in themselves, and books that will have resonance for them. One of the most crushing facts you learn in publishing is that No One Else Cares.
Unless you've been involved in some hitherto unknown aspect of a historically significant event, chances are your memoir isn't going to garner trade publishing interest.
Sure there are exceptions. They tend to be written by people who are bitingly funny: David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs; or by people with some significant writing credentials: David Carr.
There are exceptions to this of course, but they're rare. If you don't think they're rare it's because you don't see all the projects that DON'T get published.
I shopped two terrific memoirs in 2015, both of which I thought had real potential and neither got a nibble of any kind.
Smaller publishers can make money selling fewer copies it's true, but it doesn't mean they are less selective than anyone else. On the contrary, they're often MORE selective cause they publish fewer books than the bigs.
Without specifics about your book, remember I'm speaking in generalities here. You'd be wise to invest some time in a memoir writing workshop to get some advice from someone who's actually seen your work. Grub Street in Boston has a good one. There are others as well.