Guess the Plot
Snap: Memoir of a Paparazza
1. Geraldine has shot over 50 starlets. She'd have shot more, but there were always these guys with cameras hanging around.
2. Crackle and Pop may have been content to lounge around in bowls of sweetened milk, but I, Snap, took the pictures that showed the world all those fancy TV chefs eating Lucky Charms for breakfast.
3. Just as finger-snapping virtuoso Pietro Paparazza finally wins fame and fortune--and recognition for snapping as an art form--his career is tragically cut short by a crippling case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
4. The candid memoir of Hollywood’s most successful paparazza and her hilarious encounters with such superstars as Adrian Grenier and Zac Efron. Includes the infamous Seal Bitchslap and the Cameron Diaz elevator ride.
5. At six, Jenna’s dad gave her her first camera. At seven, her mother took it away. Now sixty, the lead photographer for Scandalous Magazine looks back on a life lived peering through lenses and peeping through windows for the shot that everyone wants but few dare to take.
6. Angelina's crazy jealous over Brad and Jennifer, Britney's looking chubby again, and Kim bought a new shirt that almost covers her boobs! An exclusive tell-all from one woman willing to stop at nothing to uncover the news that really matters.
Dear Mr./ Ms. Evil Editor,
The candid memoir of Jennifer Buhl, Hollywood’s most successful paparaaza. [For the correct spelling of that word, see your title in your following sentence.] [The incomprehensible Italian language provides four correct spellings, depending on gender and quantity: paparazzi, paparazzo, paparazza, and paparazze. They all refer to the people Queen Elizabeth II hired to kill sweet Lady Di.]
Chock-full of celebrity anecdotes, Snap: Memoir of a Paparazza, gives a never-before look inside the paparazzi with detailed accounts of interactions with the world’s most famous. [For instance, a detailed account of Lady Di's moans as she lay dying with cameras flashing in her face.] [Ah, Di, if only you'd met me before you met Charles.] As well, the book is an Idiot’s Guide – How-to be a paparazzi; How-to be a celebrity; How-to get famous; How-to get less famous [; How to get the famous killed; Which doctors to see to have a camera removed from your rectum after trying to photograph Russell Crowe.] And it’s all weaved [woven] through the story of a girl in her mid-thirties looking for love, babies… and adrenaline.
As Jennifer struggles to gain acceptance in an industry full of men and a profession marked with ugliness, her personal stories of embarrassment, harassment, and ridicule (the Cameron Diaz elevator ride; Seal and the bitchslap, Mathew [Matthew] McConaughey’s beach fight…) are combined with hysterical, compelling and delicious ones (running from Tori Spelling, swimming with Adrian Grenier, Kristen Stewart smoking pot, roses for Zac Efron, and many more). [It's clear that you feel the draw of the book is the celebrities' names. Maybe it is. If I listed the highlights of a book as running, swimming, riding an elevator, etc, you wouldn't be interested. Better than these lists, to me, would be a couple elaborated examples of personal anecdotes. Good ones that make me want to see what else you've got.] All the while, Jennifer’s plans for a baby – husband or not – unfold with candor.
Working as an L.A. paparazza from 2006 to 2009 and previously as a CNN guest producer (“booker”), I am a media-genic expert in my field. Appearances and interviews include: CNN’s Larry King Live, CNN Headline News, an L.A. news station, kickstarter.com, NPR, LA Times, [You're more famous than half the celebrities in your book.] and Michael Smerconish’s syndicated radio show. [The Michael Smerconish?!] My work has appeared frequently in magazines, blogs and TV shows such as People, TMZ, and Access Hollywood. [Not only that, I was the first and only paparazza to photograph Julia Roberts in her home taking a shower.] As a freelance photographer, I own the copyright to (and the right to reprint) all of my photos. [Are you the one who took that shot of Evil Editor and Tom Cruise in the hot tub? Because that was totally innocent.] [Also, can you send me an 8 by 10 glossy of it?]
My industry contacts comprise celebrity blogs [such as Evil Editor] and magazines, as well as a celebrity “friend” or two who have agreed to write a back book blurb. ["Friend" in quotation marks meaning not really a friend, just someone who has to do anything you ask or you'll release scandalous photos of them with Mel Gibson?] But perhaps, most importantly, I know how to get Snap into the hands of current celebrities with paps eagerly poised to photograph “what they’re reading [on the john].”
Thank you Mr./Ms. Evil Editor for your time and consideration. The tell-all book is complete and available upon request. I am including sample chapters of Snap below for your review.
If you want an editor to publish your book, spend less time working on your query letter and more time photoshopping shots of him committing crimes against nature.
There's still time to bid on Evil Editor editing your book in the Brenda Novak auction. Not that I'm all that interested in all that celebrity dirt and the photos of Amanda Peet and meeting all the celebs who'll be at the book signings I'll accompany you to, just saying...
Okay, so a little research reveals that this is an actual memoir. The query doesn't make it clear that Jennifer is not a fictional character. Possibly the problem is that you refer to Jennifer in the third person. The third paragraph sounds like it's describing a novel.
What we have here is a little of this and a little of a lot of other stuff. Which could sell if the celebrities are a big enough draw. But if people want to read about celebrities, they have a million options, so maybe you should stress what makes your book different, namely you. The paparazza who made it to the top of the world and then bagged it all to pursue her dream. You could try converting your book into a novel about a paparazza who just wants to move to Colorado and photograph babies, including her own. If you turn it into fiction, you can embellish the anecdotes to make them even funnier. Although you'd have to use fictional celebrity names. But readers will have fun guessing which celebrities are which.
Your credits are too long. Larry King, NPR, People, TMZ and Access Hollywood are plenty. The "contacts" paragraph can go. That leaves you some room to expand on the third paragraph, which you'll want to do if the book is written in 3rd person and has a plot. (Include an example of one of these hysterical anecdotes Jennifer was involved in.) If the book is basically a list of things that have happened to you, which could be put in any order, I don't see why it isn't written in 1st person. Or is it?
I'm not crazy about the Idiot's Guides unless they're appendixes in the back of the book. Are they actual guides, or are you just saying the reader will absorb these things by reading the story?
Are you available to follow me around a writers convention getting candid shots so my minions can see me in action? Also, can you get me on Dancing with the Stars?
Does Jennifer promise to only shoot nice things for various actors until one promises to give her a baby?
That's the book I want to read.
Whoa, so the whole book is done? You didn't want to pitch a proposal and get an advance?
Author, I'm sure you're the best at what you do, but there are so many grammatical errors and awkward constructions in the query that I can't imagine a publisher would turn you loose without a collaborator. There's too much copyediting to be done here for a non-celebrity.
You're a believer in Idiot's Guides, so I'd suggest you look at a book called Damn! Why Didnt I Write That? by Marc McCutcheon. I think a worm's-eye-view of the paparazzi world by a girl-photographer would appeal to quite a few publishers, but not a badly crafted one. You've probably done a lot of work (although you don't provide a word count), but based on your query I'd say it has to be torn down and redone from scratch. If you won't do it, your publisher will.
EE might set me right on any misperceptions about the industry. The basis of my knowledge is the work I've done as a paid editor and research assistant for a bestselling author of narrative non-fiction.
Dictionery is Dictionary according to dictionary.com
Seems pretty strong to me. I agree with EE's edits - definitely write this in the first person, especially if that's what your book will be in.
But it's my understanding that for non-fiction one sends an entire book proposal, not just sample chapters? That would be the place to include your full list of credits and contacts.
Funnily enough, my media contacts largely comprise celebrity blogs, too. And their Twitter feeds.
Does something like this project get queried in the normal way? Jennifer is promising:
* celebrity anecdotes that aren't yet all over the internet
* celebrity photos ditto
* author with platform (access to top talk shows)
Wouldn't someone reckon they could make money on that? Enough to hire a ghostwriter/editor to fix spelling, grammar and story issues?
I agree though that if you can also show the celebrity anecdotes are interesting, and the framing device of your own story is both compelling and connected to the celebrities, that would be far better. Did Seal slap you because you asked him to be your sperm donor? Was Tori Spelling running after you to share her nanny's phone number? The connection is important because the audience/reader frame of mind for the motherhood story is not quite the same as for gossip about unwilling celebrities. There will be many women who will relate to one and be appalled at the other. Making the tone/angle/audience crystal clear will be important.
In the real query, you should name the celebs who will write blurbs. Not saying just makes it sound like they were the first voted off on that cable reality show from six years ago.
Jennifer, I just looked at your website and read your "my philosophy" page. It's fabulous. That's what you need in your query - what you learned. "Papparazzi" makes people think sleazy - show them different; show them the unique angle you have here. Which is what EE said, really. I should have shut up and let him give the advice.
This doesn't fit a query or a proposal. Fixable.
Research non fiction submission guidelines for a start. Proposal, bio, ToC, sample chapters,cover letter, the list can be extensive.
Echo Arhl's comments particularly on awkward construction/copy editing.
Consider Evil's suggestion on the fiction route. (The baby line convinced me this was fiction, written memoir style. Wrong.)
A critique group might help sort problems.
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