Tuesday, May 19, 2020

When to query a travel memoir?

I'm currently about halfway through a 50-state road trip around the United States. I'm stopping in cities and small towns to talk with people about community and identity. There are many multimedia parts to the project (including an upcoming podcast series) but the ultimate goal is to turn everything I've learned into a published book.
I envision the book as one part ethnography, one part memoir. I'll be pairing the interviews and research I've conducted on the road with the personal lessons and growth I've experienced over what will be 18 months of full-time travel.

I'm looking to get this work published by a more traditional publisher, rather than self-publishing. I've been researching agents and preparing a book proposal and sample chapter. But, due to the combination of narrative non-fiction and memoir, I'm wondering:

When should I query agents? Should it happen now, with a book proposal like narrative non-fiction? Or should I wait until the project is complete and submit it like a memoir?

You want to wait until the trip is over to query.
You won't know what the trip is about until you've done the whole thing.
You won't know what the memoir is about until you've done the personal growth you're undertaking.

Use this time to build your mailing list.
An Instagram account with photos of your travels will woo the many of us stuck at home right now.

I'd actually be very interested to hear more about travelling during this social isolation, and seeing how different communities are dealing with this.

Of course, when I hear you're on a road trip, my first thought is this:


Theresa said...

This project sounds fascinating, OP. Good luck!

Irene Troy said...

I adore long road trips and have taken many such trips, some for pleasure, some for work. I also love to read both memoir and travelogue and enjoy when these two genres meet. However, too many such books are...well, boring. They fail in the most important aspect of any writing: they don't tell a good enough story. I grew up with Charles Kuralt and still consider him one of the finest storytellers to grace the airways. He did what you are now doing, traveled the country in search of stories of regular folks and then told them very compellingly. If you have never read or heard his works, I recommend going online and listening to some of his broadcasts and then reading some of his work. Meanwhile, I cannot agree with Janet more on not trying to rush this process. Having spent months on the road at a time (my own explorations of the country and myself) I can verify that you will not understand the impact of your journey until it is over and you are back home. That is when the real work will begin.

Brenda said...

Looking forward to seeing this, OP.

Claire Bobrow said...

This sounds like a great project, OP. I agree with the other commenters - finish it up and let it marinate. (But maybe not for 30 years, like the renowned travel writer/memoirist Patrick Leigh Fermor did!)

Please keep us posted.

roadkills-r-us said...

Mayhap OP knows this, but just in case... not only is the journey the journey, but the writing is the journey. Don’t be surprised once you start writing the book itself to find the memoir is about something more- or even different- than you thought when you started.
But it sounds like a grest adventure.

John Davis Frain said...

With the weather around the country these days, you can write 50 States of Grey.

But of course, we're not talking about weather...

Beth Carpenter said...

Sounds like great project, OP. Are you taking the ferry to Alaska? And how will you handle Hawaii? Best of luck!

I know a man who used to roam the country with his wife in an RV. He told us that sometimes they'd say, "This is the ugliest place I've ever seen. Why would anyone live here? Let's stop and find out!"

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

50 States of Grey, ha!

Oh, Mr. Frain

AJ Blythe said...

Beth, I love that comment. My kinda logic :)