One of my strategies to get a memoir book deal is to write a related story for an appropriate outlet to get some feedback on your story, your hooks, and make some valuable connections in the publishing world.
People crave personal stories, and highbrow outlets like the below are no different. Thousands of outlets across the world publish first-person articles and essays, but below is a list of high profile outlets that can really boost your writer platform and increase your chances of a memoir book deal.
But be warned: getting an essay published in a high profile outlet takes just the same level of skill (and patience) as getting a book deal, which is why both go hand-in-hand.
Case in point: I wrote a first-person essay for Vogue in 2009 and it took longer to get published than my first book! The essay, which I wrote in 2009, not long after signing the contract for Love & Other U-Turns, wasn’t published until May 2011. Patience, studying previous issues, professionalism, and following up are key with getting published for any major media, whether it’s the New York Times or with Penguin Random House.
I teach the step-by-step process to implementing this strategy in The Art of the Book Deal.
Pitching stories is a skill, and something you need to master if you want to get a book deal or get anything published. One of the reasons it’s so valuable for memoir writers to understand how to pitch is that building relationships with editors and different outlets will help you really clarify your story hooks and what’s of interest to the public. Often it’s not what you’d think, at first! Feedback all helps you to position your memoir appropriately for a publisher.
Looking at this essay outlet list for your potential publication will also be a great way to remind yourself that there are SO many places looking for personal stories every day, every week. The question is: Are you brave enough to reach out?
Why not start at the top? The New York Times has given many a published author their breakthrough gig.
The investigative journalism in Vanity Fair is a dream, I love it so. I’m told their fact-checking department is intense – which is good!
Cheryl Strayed got her book deal for the memoir WILD after being a long-time contributor to the Rumpus.
I’m told you need an agent to pitch you to the New Yorker, but you may be lucky. Read this amazing story about a writer who pitched for ten years and was finally accepted, and use it to fuel your own perseverance!!
I’ve always loved the feature stories and first-person essays in Elle. Particularly good for stories that tie into a health trend or cultural trend.
This essay in the Atlantic has stayed with me for five years since it was first published.
So many sections and editors to choose from!
Another great one for writers to get book deals. See my essay to book deal post. Narratively favours long-form writing.
Long-form Australian journalism. Stephanie Wood’s memoir FAKE came from an essay for Good Weekend that went viral.
The Paris Review is verrrrry selective with submissions, much like the New Yorker. Be sure to read everything you can about upcoming issue themes and open calls. Some say you need an agent to pitch you, unless it’s for the Paris Review Daily blog.
All submissions online go through Submittable.
The market for personal stories is enormous. We crave story, as humans. We all want to know how another dealt with a certain issue or problem, and even though there is indeed ‘nothing new under the sun’, nobody can write your story in the same way you write your story. Because no-one will have experienced your story in the unique way you did!
Take a look at this list for your ‘big wish’ submission dreams, but don’t forget that you don’t need to be published in one of these to get a book deal. I teach you how I strategised a book deal from a blog post in the Art of the Book Deal. If you need help forming a query, following up, knowing what to do when you’re published (no, an agent isn’t just going to call you as soon as you’re published, you do need to take a few specific steps!), make sure you hop on the waiting list to be the first to know when applications open!
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