I've helped a friend prepare her memoirs for publication (she's elderly, not computer savy and a bit disorganized now; she stopped writing 20 years ago.). Two questions for Miss Snark:
1) Should the query letter be in my name on her behalf or written AS IF she had written it?
2) I've taken the manuscript behind the woodshed and chopped off 600 pages of autobiographical and historical material, and darned if a compelling story ( i.e, her experiences during the Nazi occupation of Lorraine, deportation and life in post-war Paris ) didn't emerge from the block.What's a good ratio of early childhood background to the the "real" story of interest in a memoir of an unknown person?
Thanks, Miss Snark, for your invaluable blog!
Is your friend around the bend? Can she take phone calls? If she can't, you've got a problem. Agents are going to want to talk to her directly. Clearly she doesn't have email so you can use your own email contact for the letter.
You'll want the query letter to be from her.
I can't really make even a guess at any ratios, but it's always a good idea to focus on the interesting parts more than the idyllic childhood chasing butterflies around the vineyards.