Ensure your autobiography is a marketable story before you try to have it published. Many people feel they have a story worth telling, but the hard truth is that many people without marketable stories feel their personal stories will sell. While deciding what is or is not marketable can be subjective, you can ask yourself several questions to help determine if you have a personal story that a publisher may be interested in, which can help increase your chance of publishing your autobiography. A good story needs to be more than the story of someone who has had a hard life. Does your story offer hope to readers or something else of value? Have you achieved something that will make readers interested in the life of the person who has made the achievement? Asking these questions can help you determine the marketability of your manuscript.
The autobiography is a type of writing handled primarily by publishers specializing in those types of books. One of the best sources for finding these type publishers is the Writer's Market, either on-line or in the print version of the book. An updated version of this book can help you locate and pitch your manuscript to publishers dealing in the autobiographical market.
While you can submit your manuscripts without an agent, and may choose to do so for companies that allow you to submit on your own, many publishing companies won't consider material not represented by an agent. An agent shops (shows) your work to publishers and works out a deal for you. Using an agent who specializes in autobiographical material can help increase your chance of selling an autobiography that has potential. You can find a listing of agents to query on-line at no charge. To query an agent, select one that handles autobiographical material, write a brief introductory letter, state that you are looking for representation for your autobiography, and include a brief synopsis of your story. The agent database listings give you contact and submission information for individual literary agencies.
Search the market listings for those publishing companies that will allow you to submit work without an agent. Follow the guidelines for individual publishers to submit your manuscript. The market listings will tell you what each publisher accepts, how to submit your work, where to submit, and what you will be paid. Prepare your submission per the guidelines for your specific market.
Write a brief cover letter to the editor. Introduce yourself, give a brief publishing history (if you have one), write a synopsis of your autobiography, and send your manuscript to the publisher (so long as the guidelines don't ask you to submit only selected chapters). Follow the estimated response time in the guidelines before you follow up on the status of your submission.