Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Let’s Talk About Your Memoir Audiobook

Make a memoir audiobook

The questions start with why, how and who.

When you get to the point of publishing your memoir in traditional book form, you’ll probably give some thought to also developing a memoir audiobook to let readers decide whether they want to read your book themselves or listen as it’s read to them. People like options, and today many are choosing to acquire the content of a book through its audiobook.

Some nonfiction books are best digested through print. They include two types of books that are kind of polar opposites of each other—those that give you more information than you want, so you end up skimming sections or skipping entire chapters, and those you want to read so carefully that you go back to some parts to reread or take notes. Neither of those categories makes the book a great fit for an audiobook.

But your memoir falls into neither of those groups. Therefore, will your memoir make a good audiobook? Yes! Oh yes. Very much yes.

My deal with myself is that when I run, and only when I run, I get to listen to a memoir audiobook. That is largely my motivation for running. I focus mostly on celebrity memoirs, and thanks to my deal with myself I’ve not only been able to stay in relatively decent running shape, but I’ve also listened to a library’s worth of celebrity memoirs available on Audible. So I have a lot of opinions on audiobook memoirs.

Where to Start to Make an Audiobook Memoir

Of the many questions you may ask on this topic, the “how” question is probably the one holding you back from creating a memoir audiobook to accompany your print memoir. Making an audiobook is a complicated process. In addition, there’s no inexpensive way to do it. If your memoir is destined to be your only book, it doesn’t make sense for you to invest in the purchase of equipment and claw your way through the steep learning curve that creating the audiobook will entail. But hiring a whole company to do it for you will cost an even prettier penny.

If your book gets picked up by a publisher, you probably won’t have to worry too much about the audiobook, because the publisher will make the arrangements and absorb the expense. But even then you may have input into one critical decision—who supplies the narration. It doesn’t have to be you.

Scribe Media explains all the steps and choices that go into creating an audiobook for your memoir or for any book—here’s a link for you to read that yourself. Scribe Media sells services to create the audiobook for you, so keep that in mind. But I feel that the information they provide is worthwhile and gives you a realistic idea of how much each option will cost you—although to find out their prices, you’ll have to get deeper into the process.

Reasons for Not Narrating Your Own Memoir Audiobook

It was interesting to learn that for her new memoir’s narration, Britney Spears chose actor Michelle Williams to do the voice. Why would she do that? There are lots of reasons—a little about time investment but primarily about the quality of the finished product.

The average narrator will deliver three to four times the amount of usable narration. This means that if the book’s print word count is 90,000, the audiobook will take roughly seven hours when completed, and you’ll spend up to 28 hours to produce those seven usable hours. A professional actor might be able to cut that down, but either way at least the author doesn’t have to spend the time on the task.

Anyone can read, but reading aloud without error and with proper inflection is harder than you might think. I imagine it would get really frustrating to flub the same sentence multiple times or have trouble keeping up a consistent level of energy after a couple of hours of reading. It would make sense to schedule multiple sessions rather than doing the whole book in one sitting, but then each time you come back to it you have to regroup whatever team you’re using, get back into your narrator head space and start up again.

Voiceover and other types of actors are the perfect choice for delivering the audio for any book, even a memoir. A professional in any field is more experienced than a novice, hobbyist or enthusiastic amateur. The Britney Spears memoir provides a great point of reference, because even though Spears is a seasoned performer comfortable at the microphone, a singer is still not an actor. Voiceover is a specialty skill.

People who purchase an audiobook for a celebrity memoir may want to hear it read by the author because they are familiar with the author’s voice. When I listened to the memoirs of musicians Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Ricki Lee Jones and Dave Grohl, I loved hearing their voices even though they weren’t singing. With the audiobook for Minka Kelly’s Tell Me Everything, it felt as if I were spending time with Lyla from “Friday Night Lights.” But you are not a celebrity, and your voice is not recognizable by the masses. You may not even have a pleasant speaking voice. No one will mind if you put in a beautifully voiced pinch-hitter to knock your memoir out of the ballpark.

A Big Reason to Narrate Your Memoir Audiobook Yourself

The best-case scenario, of course, is if you’re both the author and a great actor—like Viola Davis, whose Finding Me: A Memoir audiobook is magnificent partly because she narrates it, bringing her award-winning acting talent to the task of reading her own words. No one could top the end result of that effort, because she delivers not only intuitive pacing and that fabulous, full-throated voice, but also the emotion that accompanies a life story that belongs to her and her alone.

For me, it’s that last part that matters. I’m partial to the author reading the work, because that’s what establishes my intimacy with the story I’m hearing. While I enjoyed the Keith Richards memoir, Life, I feel it lost something as delivered in Johnny Depp’s American accent rather than Richards’s authentic voice.

Author credit of Life lists a professional writer along with Richards. Similarly, Britney Spears reportedly had a ghostwriter. I have to wonder whether authors who don’t write the book themselves feel less connected to the work, making it easier for them to hand over the narration to a surrogate.

Less Professional Can Mean Less Canned

While voiceover artists will apply their own style to narrating your book, they still will all sound similar—maybe even a little dry. Professional is not quirky, and the quirky narrations are some of my favorites.

For example, Jennette McCurdy narrates her best-selling memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, at such a quick pace that I was getting out of breath just listening to her. But that helped her memoir audiobook stand out. She just speaks fast, I guess. Or maybe she wanted to get the reading over with. Before long, I got accustomed to her pace.

I can’t imagine anyone but journalist Tina Brown narrating The Vanity Fair Diaries. Her educated, lofty, British delivery is just so perfect, not surprisingly since she wrote the words.

Then there are the comedians and comic actors. Would you want Bossypants read to you by anyone other than Tina Fey? Could some other narrator deliver any of Mindy Kaling’s autobiographical works? Harvey Fierstein is a hoot but also sentimental as he reads his memoir, I Was Better Last Night.

A real outlier here is Leslie Jones, who takes a unique approach to narrating her memoir, Leslie F*cking Jones. Instead of reading the words on the page, Jones uses her book as a guide to deliver what can only be described as a very long standup routine. Imagine that Leslie Jones begins to tell her story on stage, and after four hours leaves to use the restroom, then returns to the microphone and starts chapter two. It’s like that. She laughs throughout her own stories except for the times she cries as she shares episodes like her parents’ deaths. It’s completely charming.

You, too, may be able to make your voice sound charming or your delivery heartfelt or whatever mood defines your chapters. I suggest doing a sample few pages even if your equipment is not professional. Then play it for a few friends and also someone who doesn’t know you. Watch their reaction. Unless they cringe, practice until you’re confident that you can narrate your own memoir at least as well as a stranger can. And then just do it.

Why I Like Coaching Memoir Authors and Editing Memoirs

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The rewards of owning a business like Write My Memoirs

We are now uploading Write My Memoirs blog posts to Substack. They also will continue to be posted on the Write My Memoirs website. We update our blog with a fresh post every two weeks, usually on Tuesday or Wednesday.

For Substack users unfamiliar with Write My Memoirs, I’m using this post to introduce myself and the work of my business. For those of you accustomed to receiving an email notice of the latest blog, Substack will continue to send you those emails.

Memoirs Should Not Be Tedious

Through Write My Memoirs, I have the opportunity to help people write and publish their life stories. Some authors write what’s considered more of a full autobiography, while others stay true to the memoir genre and chronicle one event, theme or time period in their life. Either way is fine; you should write the book you want your family to have or, perhaps, the one you hope to sell.

This is such rewarding work for me. Writing/editing is my interest, my talent and what I was trained to do—I have a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and have worked for decades as a professional writer and editor across many industries. I’ve also taught writing through a focus on grammar. But, while Write My Memoirs offers a go-at-your-own-pace grammar workshop, we don’t focus on grammar when helping someone complete a memoir. For many people, grammar is tedious. Writing a memoir should not be tedious.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Expressing your thoughts in writing is hard enough. Then add the aim of crafting a compelling narrative so that readers will want to continue turning the pages; even seasoned writers do not always hit that mark. It’s also challenging to dig into your own psyche, admit your mistakes or shortcomings, and reveal your vulnerability to others. When a memoir focuses on, or even just includes, a traumatic event, reliving that trauma is really difficult. Additional work is necessary in doing research to fill in memory gaps and fact-check names, dates and places. It’s easy for authors to get frustrated, impatient and, sometimes, disillusioned about whether they should even finish the task.

Helping Throughout the Memoir Writing Process

But if it were easy, these authors wouldn’t need a coach or editor. I’m so glad I’m able to help authors attain this goal. Let’s look at the process from beginning to end.

  1. Motivation. Simply having someone keeping you accountable can motivate you to produce work regularly—but, honestly, this is on you. I can help you design a writing schedule, and I can share a few tricks that have been shown to help people stick to the schedule, but somehow you have to get those fingers on the keyboard and put something up there on the screen. Together we can explore whether you work best with or without specific deadlines and how much nagging you’d like me to do. There’s just no one formula for everyone; staying motivated is a highly individual dynamic. It’s nice having a partner, though, and I’m in it with you all the way.
  2. Good writing. People like to point out all the terrible writing out there online, but I’m pretty impressed with the manuscripts I receive. So what if you write complimentary when you mean complementary or you’re partial to a haphazardly placed semicolon? I can fix those things. I find that, for first-time authors, their own memoir makes a perfect initial book, because it’s their heart that’s driving the effort. They’re writing from a deep place, so it comes out as authentic, passionate, relatable. What nonprofessionals need is polishing, which is what a professional editor can supply. The voice is still the author’s voice, but the readability improves.
  3. Logical organization. While a chronological memoir is fine, typically it’s more interesting to start a memoir at a pivotal moment and then trace what came before and follow up with what happened from that point forward. That takes a bit of finesse, which is where the coaching gets really helpful. Even a story written chronologically tends to need a little pause here and there to explain some background, expound about a specific character or jump ahead in one aspect to finish it up since it doesn’t much relate to the rest of the book.
  4. Publishing. It’s so sad when a manuscript sits in a drawer and never becomes a real book! I enjoy helping authors update, edit and finalize a previous attempt to get that work out of the drawer and onto the bookshelf. Write My Memoirs is partly a self-publishing business. We do all the preparation for our clients and can print up as many copies as our authors want, in any size, soft cover or hard cover. Speaking of covers, we help authors with cover design.

As the coaching, editing and publishing progress, I get to know the authors and enjoy the stories they tell. I’m with them as they complete this major goal. Often it’s just a few hundred pages in soft cover, but it’s their life right there in print. When their friends and family members learn that they’ve written up their lives, they all want copies. Reprints are among our most common requests. The authors then feel the result was worth the work, and I do, too.

Have 4 to 12 Wednesdays Free? Take an Online Memoir Writing Course!

Sign saying "This is the sign you've been looking for"

The very beginning of your memoir journey can be the most daunting phase. Once you get going, momentum can carry you through. As you get comfortable and confident with writing, you’ll make steady progress on your memoir.

How do you start?

A friend of Write My Memoirs specializes in coaching new writers through the first steps. She’s offering a 3-part online workshop beginning January 18, 2023, with each part made up of four weekly sessions. You can take all three segments or just one or two.

“I help non-writers focus on getting their story down and generating pages,” our friend and colleague Barbara of Writing Life Stories says. “It’s all about leaving your stories as a legacy to your family and friends! Not about learning to be a writer! Or publishing!”

In her coaching, Barbara motivates, teaches and inspires using a process proven to be effective for thousands of people over more than 30 years. While this process results in a full memoir for the participants, it has benefits that go even beyond that.

“Research shows that you will gain increased resilience and self-confidence, more compassion for others and a greater appreciation for life using this method,” Barbara says.

When you finish the workshop and complete your first draft, come back to Write My Memoirs for editing/polishing and publishing! We will finish the project so that you have a wonderful book to distribute to friends and family in 2023. It’s still only January. This is the year you’ll do it!

“You may wish you knew more about your father or grandmother who passed away, but it’s too late,” Barbara says. “Your family loses by not knowing YOUR story. Isn’t it time to write it?”



Writing a Memoir about a Traumatic Experience

Bulletin board posted with types of trauma

Documenting trauma is a common motivation for writing a memoir. But to write this type of memoir, authors have to go through the event emotionally all over again. That’s a big hurdle. At Write My Memoirs, we want to help you conquer that challenge.

Roxane Gay, whose own memoir documents trauma, advises writers to be raw, honest and pretty explicit. She believes your depiction of your horrifying experience should fall short of traumatizing your reader but still provide enough graphic detail so that the reader may have to put down your book for an hour or even a day before finishing that part.

Be Gentle With Yourself When Writing About Trauma

Going over what happened to you is something you can’t force. Chances are that by the time you’re considering writing this memoir, months or years have already passed since the traumatic event occurred. You didn’t just sit down at your computer the next day. But maybe the time still isn’t right.

Ask yourself whether you’re ready to more or less relive the event. If you feel that you cannot handle it, there’s no harm in waiting longer, letting more time pass between the you that faced trauma and the you that is writing the book. It’s difficult to write about it.

More Tips on Trauma Documentation

One way to find out whether you’re up to the task is to start out by writing just 15 or 20 minutes a day. Keep that up for a week, and you’ll know whether telling your story is providing a sense of relief or compounding your anxiety.

Writing for Writer’s Digest, author Kelly Clink shares tips from her own experience writing about her brother’s death by suicide. She advises writers not to keep this writing goal to yourself. As you’re writing about a traumatic event, she says, it will help to alert your therapist, family members and friends that you’re in the process of sorting out this terrible event by writing about it.

Making Your Story Relatable

Clink and other experts make the distinction between a memoir you write as therapy and a memoir you write to sell. The former is for you, the latter for everyone else. If your goal is to get closure or work out your feelings of trauma, then include the content you need for your own wellbeing. If your goal is to help others, that’s a whole different book. In that case, you’re writing for them, not for you, and you should be more selective in your content as well as less indulgent in your writing voice. Of course, you can do both. Write the book for yourself, and use that as the foundation for crafting a different, more marketable memoir.

The way to write for others is to make your personal story relatable to a lot of people. Think about what they will want to take from your experience. That doesn’t mean you should make it a how-to guide on recovering from trauma. Tell the story as a dramatic, compelling, page-turning saga. Then it can be both a valuable book for your readers and a statement of your own triumph over, or acceptance of, your traumatic ordeal.

5 Memoir Writing Tips We Can Glean from Tina Brown

Vanity Fair Diaries

I just finished Tina Brown’s memoir, The Vanity Fair Diaries, about her time as editor-in-chief of the magazine Vanity Fair from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. I liked it. You can read my Goodreads review here.

Brown is recognized as one of the best magazine editors of all time, but she’s a very good writer as well. Here are five lessons we can learn from this memoir:

1. Keep a diary.

You can’t go back to your childhood and start writing down everything that happened throughout your life, but if you’re thinking that you may “someday” write a memoir, start keeping a diary now! Then you won’t have to rely on your memory. Imagine that! What if you opened a book of entries you’d written right at the time the events were taking place? Your memoir would be rich with detail. That’s exactly what you find in The Vanity Fair Diaries. Tina Brown kept an account of everything, from what she wore to what she ate, from the dinner party conversations to her impressions of the other guests. It’s like fiction, the way the writer can just make it up and mention all of those things, except these details are not made up.

2. Don’t worry so much about naming names.

One very common question we get is whether a memoir author should obscure the identity of people presented in an unflattering way. Maybe if you change the name and the description, and say in your memoir that some people’s identity has been disguised, that will keep them from suing you for defamation of character or libel or whatever authors are so afraid of getting sued for. Tina Brown throws caution to the wind and tells it like it is whether the person she’s trashing is famous or not. I don’t necessarily encourage you to be as harsh as she is in this book, but tell your truth. If it’s the truth, that’s your defense. And if it’s your opinion, as Brown presents a lot of her trash talk, then you’re free to express it how you wish.

3. Write in specifics, not generalities.

I explain this point in the Goodreads review, so I’ll just quote it:

For example, why call someone a girlfriend when you can call her a seductress? From “seductress,” the reader learns so much about Brown’s regard for the person. It’s not fiancée or lover, paramour or gold digger, not even temptress. Another example: Brown observes that it had become fashionable for women to remove their earrings before dessert. She tries in vain to make sense of this odd trend, but concludes simply that when “the creme brulée arrives,” the earrings come off. She could have just said “when the dessert arrives,” but she never would do that. I get it. Don’t repeat a word when you can drill into it and hit something specific instead.

4. Write a good first line—and a good last line.

I wouldn’t say this book has a great first line: “I am here in NYC at last, brimming with fear and insecurity.” But it does set the stage for the decade she’s about to roll out. It makes you want to read at least the next sentence. It’s the last line that I like: “But I also hear something else, something I can’t resist—the sweet Gershwin strings of a new opportunity.” An epilogue follows, but this is the last line of the main book. Again, Brown gets specific with “the sweet Gershwin strings.” It’s a true ending, closure. She lets us know that we’re leaving her in a good place. And she sets herself up for a possible sequel.

5. Show and tell.

The conventional advice to writers is “show, don’t tell.” Describe what’s going on in an objective way. Don’t say it smelled good in the room; tell the reader it smelled like freshly mown grass after a rain. The reader will get the idea that you think that smells good, since who wouldn’t? This is all great advice. But it’s a memoir, not a piece of fiction. You can tell the reader how you felt about seeing someone after so many years or how tasting the soup reminded you of your mother. You can let the reader into your brain and do a lot of showing but also some telling, as Tina Brown does in this book.

Is It Writer’s Block or Creative Anxiety?

For some people the problem is getting started. Others have trouble maintaining momentum. Still others go along fine until they hit a wall regarding a particular topic or chapter. Commonly referred to as “writer’s block,” this condition seems to affect all writers sooner or later. So what is it really?

A guy named Eric Maisel at dailyom.com offers a course he calls “Creative Anxiety” to help people overcome their roadblocks to writing, art and other creative pursuits. I am not endorsing his course—it may be helpful but I have no personal knowledge about it one way or the other. I’m referencing it because I like the way he’s reframed the writer’s block concept. Creative anxiety precisely describes what I’m hearing from authors here at Write My Memoirs and beyond.

“Many believe that the symptoms below are just ‘part of the creative process,’ but they are actually representative of a deeper, more damaging problem,” Maisel writes on his website. “If left unmanaged, the creative person in question may find that their creative work is too taxing mentally and stop altogether, opting for a ‘less emotionally complicated’ path in life.”

You don’t want a less emotionally complicated life, right? You want to write!

Maisel lists these symptoms of creative anxiety:

  • Procrastination.
  • Avoidance of creative work altogether.
  • Finding excuses to not be marketing your work.
  • Fear of showing your work to the public.
  • Being unable to make a creative decision.
  • Comparing your work to others in an unconstructive way.
  • Feelings of being not good enough.
  • Getting angry when others give you criticism.
  • Feeling depressed if others don’t respond how you’d hoped they would.
  • Consistently not taking advantage of opportunities because your work is “not quite ready yet.”
  • Giving your work away for free, when you know you should be charging.
  • Starting new projects before you’ve finished your old ones.
  • Thinking that other peoples ideas are generally better than yours.
  • Having trouble deciding on what project to tackle.
  • Either talking to others constantly about your creative work (that you’re not actually doing), or avoiding the subject altogether, at all costs.

Do you see yourself in that list? The relevant items I see most in writers are procrastinating, fear that other people won’t think the work is good and losing confidence in being able to determine what to write about. And then I’d add one: generally overthinking the whole writing process. This overthinking comes in the form of spending all day reading articles and books about writing, posting and messaging people in online writing groups, and watching videos about writers and writing. Then all day turns into all week.

The answer is that you have to sit at the computer and write. Edit later, show people later, read up on some fine points later. For a big chunk of the day, you have to write. The more you do it, the easier it gets, the faster you can write and the more confidence you’ll gain. Gradually, your anxiety will fade and the excitement will kick in.

Join Us for Mentoring and Support in a Facebook Group!

The Write My Memoirs community is growing, with a new page for authors to share work and discuss the writing process. Whether you’re writing a memoir or crafting a different type of book—fiction or nonfiction—you are welcome at the Write My Memoirs Group page. I will personally help you with writing, grammar, motivation and validation.

The more authors I meet, the more I’m convinced that a group setting is beneficial. We all get so deeply into our heads as we write alone at our computer hour after hour. Facebook groups of all sorts bring together people who are dealing with a common situation. It’s so helpful, whether the members share a medical diagnosis, profession, hobby, family situation, lifestyle choice—the list is long. In our case, we’ll all be writers comparing notes—literally!

I will coach you both as a group and individually. You also will mentor each other. Sound fun? It will be. Hope to see you there. Just ask to join, and I’ll admit you! Here’s the link again:
Write My Memoirs Facebook Group

A Memoir Doesn’t Have to be a Book Format

When you have a compelling story to tell, the most obvious route to take is to write a book about it. But that route is not the only way to get where you’re going. Between technology that provides do-it-yourself options for creative projects and established websites that accept personal essays, you can find lots of alternatives to the traditional book. So let’s look at those options.

  • Book. When you write a book, you have something in your hand. You can give it to friends and family members. You can list it on Amazon and sell it. You can convert it to digital and sell it as an e-book or get a narrator and also have it as an audio book. You put your book on your bookshelf, and it’s there forever. At Write My Memoirs, we offer writing services to help you publish.
  • Short-form written account. Maybe you want to describe just one incident in your life or a short period of your life, and really there’s not enough content for a whole book. You can write a personal essay instead. Websites like Narratively accept well-written, compelling essays. I have had personal observations published on Motherwell, BoomerCafé and SixtyAndMe. Or consider a magazine article format like the one we offer here at Write My Memoirs.
  • Video. Creating a video of your story may seem like an overwhelming undertaking, but if you take it step by step it can be manageable even for a novice. Gather the photos and video clips you’ve taken during your life, focusing on the incident or period you want to cover. Write a script that you’ll read as a voiceover, and also take some video of yourself talking to the camera about your life. To put it all together, you’ll need video editing software. There’s a learning curve for sure, but the learning can be the fun part! Here’s a powerful example of a video created by a friend of ours about his journey as a young man who lost a leg to cancer.
  • Dedicated website. It’s so easy to purchase a URL that has some form of your name—johnsmithmemoir.com kind of thing—and the website host will have page builder software that makes it pretty easy to upload text and photos and embed videos. It turns into a sort of private Facebook site just for you. The beauty of this option is that you keep updating it, so it chronicles your life in a dynamic way rather than having a beginning and an ending.

The important thing to remember is that your life is worth documenting. There are many ways to leave a legacy for your children or a record for history. Choose one—or try them all!

How Should Your Memoir End?

When you (finally!) write the last chapter of your memoir, you have two decisions to make: at what point to stop writing, and what type of sentence will supply a fitting end to your story. I think the first decision is easier than the second.

If your memoir is more of a full autobiography, you’ll probably end it at the present time. If the story concerns one period of your life or just one episode of your life, you can either end it naturally when the time period or episode is complete, or you can jump ahead to present day and end with a sort of epitaph that lets the reader know how you feel about it now or how things turned out in the long run.

On her website Live Write Thrive, C.S. Lakin, author of The Memoir Workbook, writes, “You should end your story at the place where the lessons have hit home—when you’ve taken those epiphanies you’ve gleaned from your experiences and now use them to light the way forward.”

It’s tougher to settle on the one exact sentence to end your memoir that will feel satisfying to readers and, even better, stick with them a while. Last year, Buzzfeed asked people to submit great ending sentences from literature. Here are some from famous fictional works that strike me as instructive for a memoir:

After all…tomorrow is another day.—Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

“Darling,” replied Valentine, “has not the count just told us that all human wisdom is summed up in two words? — Wait and hope.”—The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Now I understand that the same road was to bring us together again. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.—My Ántonia by Willa Cather

But now I know that our world is no more permanent than a wave rising on the ocean. Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.—Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

But I don’t think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt. Amen.—The Color Purple by Alice Walker

These aren’t just sentences; they’re poetry. They’re poignant and thoughtful. You should craft every sentence in your book with care, but the final sentence is even more special. Take time to come up with something that caps off your story just right.

Naming Your Memoir: Not So Easy for Us Non-Celebrities

Michelle Obama gave her heralded memoir the unremarkable title of Becoming. Snarky comic George Carlin tried only semi-successfully working his famous “7 dirty words” stand-up routine into his autobiography by calling it the generic Last Words. Creative Desi Arnaz came up with the less-than-creative A Book, dramatically gifted Katharine Hepburn wrote the undramatically named memoir Me, the autobiography of trailblazing actor Sidney Poitier carries the trite title of The Measure of a Man, original Johnny Cash chose the unoriginal Cash, Dolly Parton and Ozzy Osbourne had similar thoughts with, respectively, Dolly and I Am Ozzy and genius inventor Ben Franklin devised The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. So maybe you don’t have to hurt your brain and struggle to figure out what to call your memoir, right?

Wrong! You are not a former first lady, disruptive comedian, Oscar-winning actor, iconic singer or founding father. You cannot rely on name recognition to attract readership, so you need a title that actually says something.

For guidance, let’s continue down the celebrity list. The late Carrie Fisher had a best-seller with Wishful Drinking. A pun is not an original idea, because puns are so popular for memoir titles and a bit of a copout since they’re clever by definition. But Fisher’s title—comedic, dramatic and tragic all at once—has so many implications that I like it a lot. Michael J. Fox named his autobiography Lucky Man: A Memoir. This simple title gives the reader immediate knowledge of the author’s outlook on life, even without the ironic twist implying that someone living with Parkinson’s Disease might be considered quite unlucky. Carly Simon’s Boys in the Trees sparks curiosity about which boys, which trees and what any of that has to do with the author.

Duplication is another thing to consider. With all of the books out there, duplicating a title is a strong possibility. Using your own name in the title is the most obvious way to avoid that, but it’s not the only idea. Tina Fey’s famous Bossypants has a memorable name that pretty much ensures uniqueness. Crafting a very long title increases the chances that yours will be the only one to have it. Consider Billy Crystal’s memoir, called Still Foolin’ ’Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? A funny title is great for an upbeat memoir, but even comedians run the gamut on this dynamic. Both Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Chandler and Yes Please by Amy Poehler earned rave reviews, but I think we know which one gets the catchy title award.

If there’s an ultimate title to emulate, I’d choose Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. A title doesn’t get better than that—revealing that the author’s life has provided insight into the feeling of being caged while inviting the reader to look inside to find out where the joy or optimism—the “singing”— comes in. But Angelou is a poet; we shouldn’t hold ourselves to that standard. We ordinary, non-poet, non-celebs should put some thought into it, test out a few of our title finalists on friends and family and then give it our best shot. And if all else fails, yes, there’s a Buzzfeed quiz that will create a memoir title for you.


Then just set up a chapter and start writing your memoir. Don’t worry about rules. There are no rules to writing your memoir; there are only trends. These trends are based on techniques and features identified in current top-selling memoirs. At best, they’re the flavor of the month. If you’re capturing your life in print for your family, for your own gratification or to inspire readers, rather than aiming to set off Hollywood screenplay bidding wars, these trends don’t even apply to you. You’ll write the memoir that suits you best, and it will be timeless, not trend-driven.There are no rules, but there are four steps:

1. Theme/framework
2. Writing
3. Editing/polishing
4. Self-publishing

You’ve researched this, too, and you’ve been shocked at the price for getting help with any one of those steps, much less all four. That’s because most memoir sites promise to commercialize your work. They’ll follow a formula based on current memoir trends, because they want to convince you that they can turn your memoir into a best-seller. These sites overwhelm you with unnecessary information not to help you, the memoir author, but to address Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithms so they can sell more.

That’s not what we do at Write My Memoirs. Our small community of coaches, writers and editors are every bit as skilled as any you’ll find, and we charge appropriately for their expertise and the time they’ll spend helping you craft a compelling, enjoyable read. But you won’t pay an upcharge for other websites’ commercialization, the marketing that follows, and the pages of intimidating “advice.” You can sell your book if you like—we have ISBNs available for you—but our organic process of capturing your story takes a noncommercial path.

If you want help with any or all of the four steps above, choose from our services or save money by selecting one of our packages. If you’d like to talk about what’s right for you, schedule a call. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!