Author Topic: Struggling with how much to give away in a nonfiction narrative query  (Read 54 times)

Offline skmwrites

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Hello! I am grappling with a nonfiction query predicament that I'd love some opinions on. The story is a biographical narrative, about a mother whose newborn daughter was abducted, and her search for answers. There's a really beautiful, natural story arc where this mother overcomes the odds to find and reunite with her daughter 40 years after the kidnapping. It's a pitch-perfect happy ending, a really inspirational tale.

The problem is, it doesn't end there.

A few weeks after reuniting, the daughter unexpectedly died. Meaning the mother, who endured four decades of mystery before uncovering the truth, ultimately got just 17 days to be with her daughter.

The fact that this happened makes the story stand out in a crowded field of "feel-good, overcoming-adversity" memoirs and biographies. It has also made crafting the query difficult. Do I:
  • Explicitly state they reunited, and that a tragedy ripped the daughter away once again?
  • Gently suggest that the mother achieved her goal of finding her daughter, but that wasn't the end of her challenging life?
  • Outright explain exactly what happened?
  • Not even hint at the tragedy to come, and leave it as a shocking development for the reader?
Including it in detail feels antithetical to a query pitch. But by not including some mention of what happens, that's leaving out a really vital element of the story, one that makes it unique compared to similar titles.

Anyone have any thoughts? (I can provide a couple versions of a query letter in a reply if it helps demonstrate what I'm talking about.)

Offline jcwrites

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Re: Struggling with how much to give away in a nonfiction narrative query
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2019, 02:34:37 PM »
Nonfiction queries are very different from fiction. I'm no expert, so Google this, but nonfiction involves not a query letter but a proposal that outlines the content and structure of the work. So, yes, you would reveal all.

Again, research nonfiction book proposals.

Sounds like you've got a gripping story. Good luck with it.

Offline skmwrites

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Re: Struggling with how much to give away in a nonfiction narrative query
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2019, 08:17:38 AM »
Nonfiction queries are very different from fiction. I'm no expert, so Google this, but nonfiction involves not a query letter but a proposal that outlines the content and structure of the work. So, yes, you would reveal all.

Again, research nonfiction book proposals.

Sounds like you've got a gripping story. Good luck with it.

Seems to depend. Some agents say they just want a guery letter straight away, others want the full proposal with sample chapters, and others want something inbetween.

Thanks!