Rock, Rattle & Read: How to Sell and Write a Music Biography
Rock biographies -- and memoirs -- are hot. Yet, not all subjects pique the interest of publishers. How do you choose your pop-music book topic, then successfully pitch it to an agent and/or publisher? Once you get your book deal, how do you proceed in researching and writing a biography? Learn about the ins and outs of music biographies.
Holly George-Warren is an award-winning writer, editor, music consultant and producer. She has written more than a dozen books, most recently A Man Called Destruction: The Life & Music of Alex Chilton. Her writing has also been published by Rolling Stone, the New York Times, the Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, and Mojo, among other publications. Her books range from a history of western wear to a photographic survey of punk to a biography of singing cowboy Gene Autry.
Parke Puterbaugh has been writing about music and other subjects for more than thirty years. He is a former senior editor of Rolling Stone magazine and longtime freelancer for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, for which he has written exhibit copy and website content since its inception.
He has been published in more than thirty periodicals and written or cowritten ten books. A Rolling Stone feature led to his latest book, Phish: The Biography (Da Capo Press, 2010), which is the definitive overview of the popular jam band. He has also coauthored two books on Sixties culture, Rhino’s Psychedelic Trip and I Want to Take You Higher: The Psychedelic Era, 1965-1969.
In addition to writing prolifically about music, he is the coauthor of several travel books, two of which – guidebooks to Florida and California - are in their fourth revised editions. He earned a master’s degree in Environmental Science at UNC-Chapel Hill and thereafter researched and wrote a book on wetlands for the Environmental Protection Agency.
However, his first love is still music, and he currently teaches courses in rock history at Guilford College (in Greensboro, NC) while working on a book about the phenomenon of Southern “beach music” for the University of North Carolina Press.
Denise Oswald has been senior editor at It Books / HarperCollins since 2011. Prior to that she oversaw the Faber and Faber list at Farrar, Straus and Giroux for nearly a decade, and more recently served as editorial director of Soft Skull Press. She has published numerous national bestsellers, including Billy Corgan’s Blinking with Fists, Michael Walker’sLaurel Canyon, Courtney Love’s Dirty Blonde, Peter Hook’s Unknown Pleasures, and most recently Nothin’ to Lose by Ken Sharp with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. Among the wide variety of writers and artists she’s worked with are Robert Christgau, Black Francis, Wyclef Jean, Neil LaBute, Simon Reynolds, and Molly Ringwald.