Sunday, September 11, 2011

Write A Memoir That Sells

Without fail, it happens at almost every writers conference.

Some writer will come to me with a memoir or personal experience book. I can see it in their eyes and expressions. They've already met with the literary agents and editors who have told them that they can't publish this type of writing. Discouraged with such pointed news, they want my advice about what they can do with their work.

Each of these writers has invested countless hours on their writing. Some of them have blogged their experiences while others have simply cranked the words into their computer. Their stories are driven with their desire to help others who can learn from their experiences.

Because I've been in the publishing industry for many years, I can see both sides of the situation. The editors have good reasons behind their reluctance. Many of these writers are inexperienced, unpublished with no visibility in the marketplace (readers or fans) yet they want to tell their story. Others are trying to write a book too soon in the normal cycle of events for an author.

I have a number of concrete action steps these writers can take to change their situation and produce a memoir that sells.

1. They need to practice their storytelling and writing craft through producing personal experience magazine articles. Many publications take personal experience stories. Look at the magazines which you see frequently. Study the publication and note the articles which are written in the first person and include personal experiences. Notice the big pattern of the story. These types of article are each driven to a single point or take away lesson for the reader. When you are published in magazines, it will give you publishing experience and more visibility in the marketplace. Also you will reach many more people with your shorter magazine articles than you will probably reach with your books.

2. These writers need to set up a blog to capture their raw writing and get it into the marketplace. The search engines like blogs and it's a place to build an audience and group of readers for your work—provided you do more than write the blog. You have to have a goal for your blog and write with a purpose. I suggest you get a copy of my risk-free guide, The 31 Day Guide to Blogging for Bucks because it will help you make money from your blog and also focus it.

3. A key to reaching the literary agents or editors is to have an excellent book proposal or pitch. Take my Write A Book Proposal online course or read my Book Proposals That Sell to help you learn more in this area.

4. Get more ideas and tips from this excellent article by Mary DeMuth in the June 2011 issue of The Writer called A Smart Approach to Memoir. For example, this article points out a National Association for Memoir Writers. While I was unfamiliar with this group, I know the power of organizations and from looking at their website, believe they have many solid resources to help your memoir writing.

5. Read memoirs on a regular basis. One of the questions that I regularly ask these memoir writers is, “Do you read memoirs?” To my surprise, they often answer that they do not. Just look at the memoir/ autobiography section in any bookstore or your local library and you will be surprised at the variety of books and topics in this category. These books do continue to sell on a regular basis.

Recently I read David and Nancy French's excellent book, Home and Away: A Story of a Family in a Time of War. The book is well-written and full of practical take away messages for every reader. It's the same type of material that I recommend you build into your own memoir. If you do, then you will write a memoir that sells.

Don't let the naysayers get to you. Memoir continues to sell and be published. You have to persist to find the right place for your writing.

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1 Comment:

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Charlotte Rains Dixon Left a note...

Yes, I have a client I've been working with who assumes that just telling her story in journal style will nab her a publisher. And she doesn't want to make the effort to rewrite the book, nor does she want to read memoirs to gain knowledge about the genre. Sigh. You offer good advice for memoir writers here, hope they take it!


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