A short recap: A few months ago I had plans to self-publish my memoir, but then realized I should at least run it past a few agents before going the self-pub route. I sent out two rounds of queries, 5 agents in each round. The first round earned me two no thanks, not for me replies, and three agents didn't reply at all. Before sending out more queries I revamped my query letter, revising the book description. That round resulted in three agents wanting to see material, one no response, and one request three months later.
I know nothing about queries, but I think the first one was too impersonal and stiff.
Here is the second query, with some of the boring stuff removed.
I am currently seeking representation for my memoir, THE ORCHARD.
(note: Bio was here,and it was pretty extensive. Then I launched into brief description of project.)
Current completed project:
THE ORCHARD (a memoir)
THE ORCHARD relates the very personal story of a street-smart city girl who must adapt to a new life on an apple farm. At the age of twenty-one, while working in my uncle’s bar near the Mississippi River, I met a young farmer. Three months later, we were married and I found myself immersed in the isolated world of farming, pesticides, environmental destruction, and death, as well as a witness and reluctant player in the futile and fatal attempt to keep the codling moth from destroying the orchard. Always an outsider, I was able to view events and people with the eye of an observer. This could be called an environmental love story, and the writing has been compared to that of Joan Didion and Mary Karr. Several writers have agreed to possible endorsements:
(Listed about eight names here.)
the three agents:
Agent 1 asked for the first 50 pages. I sent them.
Agent 2 asked for an exclusive full manuscript read.
This threw me, because I wasn't prepared for the exclusive request. But since this was someone I really wanted to work with, I agreed to the exclusive. This was followed by a signing of papers (never heard of this!) before the material was sent.
Agent 3 called and ask for full. I told her about exclusive and she was surprised and annoyed that that someone would request exclusive. She told me I would also need a platform which should consist of 20 - 100 pages. This was the first I'd heard of a "platform" for a memoir. I did some searching and discovered that while a platform is necessary for some nonfiction, it's often not required for a memoir. I decided I would not send material to agent 3 once exclusive was lifted. I didn't feel she had a solid grasp on memoir market.
Agent 1 quickly read first 50 and requested full. I had to tell her about the exclusive. By this time I really felt I'd been put in an awkward position, and could see that I'd made the wrong decision concerning the exclusive read. Afraid agent 1 would lose interest, I emailed agent 2 (after about two weeks) and was told she wouldn't get to the material for several more weeks, so I regretfully pulled it.
In the end, the material was only read by one agent, and luckily she wanted to represent me.