At several points during my research on writing a book proposal my reaction to a new bit of information has been, “You have GOT to be kidding me.”
One of these is the “Marketing” section, in which I must describe how I will actively market my book and what marketing opportunities are already available for my book. I’m very tempted to write only, “I’ll do whatever you tell me to do. You do this for a living, yes?”
Instead I found myself writing about my “social media presence” in a way that made me feel the urge to throw myself out of a window.
Worse, however, is the “Competitive Titles” section. In this passage I must describe around six top selling books that are similar to my book to establish that a market already exists. Then I must differentiate my book from these works to demonstrate how it is better than each.
This troubles me in many ways. First, I’m a little shy about picking up a top selling memoir and going, “Oh yeah. Everyone who bought this will buy my book. Oh, and mine is better.” It just doesn’t seem nice. And also, incredibly presumptuous.
More dire, picking top selling books that are similar to mine would require having read books similar to mine – something I’ve been avoiding for more than three years. In order to preserve my own unique narrative voice, it seemed prudent to keep others’ out of my head. Now I have to do three years worth of contemporary memoir writing so I can write four sentences about six books. Super.
I began this quest with the book everyone and their mother (especially their mothers)
have been telling me I have to read the minute they find out what I’ve been writing, Eat, Pray, Love. Within the first hundred pages of the book, I am totally annoyed. “Wow,” I couldn’t stop thinking, “someone sure thinks every detail of herself is veeeeeeery interesting.” Every chapter I kept feeling more and more like her journey toward spiritual enlightenment was just so contrived and had to remind myself why I cared about her character at all.
These are bad sentiments to feel about a book that is apparently similar to the one you just spent three years writing. Of course she finds herself interesting – that’s why she wrote a book about herself. Sound familiar to anyone?
I’ve been able to convince myself, however, that my story is different for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that Elizabeth Gilbert went seeking globe-trotting spiritual enlightenment with her pockets stuffed with a book advance and my journey of self-discovery is decidedly more…haphazard. And impoverished.
I felt much more confident after reading Me Talk Pretty One Day, which doesn’t seem like a competitive title, but I’m going to argue that it is. David Sedaris makes narcissism charming, which is my greatest hope for my own. We also share a much more similar narrative voice and common eye-rolling for each interesting cultural discoveries. Yet even writing this for public consumption seems blasphemous to me. Could I compare myself to Sedaris? Certainly not without the queried agent giggling my book proposal right off her desk.
The upside is that reading Me Talk Pretty inspired a whole series of much-needed edits to my book. At first I was concerned that I’d erred by abstaining from memoir reading for so long, but I decided it was better this way. I’d rather be inspired to polish bits of my cohesive piece by Sedaris’ work rather than random chunks of my book sounding like they were written by a gay, OCD New Yorker. All delightful qualities, to be sure, but slightly off from the naive, Midwestern girl thing I have going.
And let’s be honest, I don’t need to get all worked up about anything else. I haven’t event started to fret about the “About the Author” section yet…