Maybe I’m going about this all backwards.
I was under the impression that an agent and publisher would consider my book based on a quality proposal and sample chapters, before I write the entire manuscript. That’s how many nonfiction books are sold.
Fiction works differently; writers are usually required to finish the manuscript before they have a chance at getting an advance.
Narrative nonfiction, the genre of my book, fits somewhere in between. It is nonfiction, but it actually has more in common with fiction. It has to read like a novel. Unlike nonfiction “how to” books, readers will buy my travel memoir for the same reason they might buy fiction, because it’s a good story.
That’s why Faust says I need to write the entire book before sending out queries. I’ve got to treat this travel memoir like fiction.
I have to admit this news got me a little down. It doesn’t seriously derail my timeline; I have to write the whole book anyhow! But I was hoping to start querying agents next month to offer my proposal and sample chapters. I’d feel better about putting my entire self into this project if I knew it was going to sell (although I’ll write it regardless). And my plan to query early on was the reason why I wrote my proposal before my chapters.
That proposal won’t go to waste. I’m using it now as an outline for my book, and I’ll probably need it later when it’s finally time to query.
When I mentioned this advice to an author friend who used to work in publishing, she said there’s not really a right answer about when to query. To prove her point, she reminded me that she has sold fiction based on proposal alone.
So I ask: What do you think? Is Faust on target or should I still try to land an agent before finishing the manuscript?