Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Are You a Memoir Author Looking for a Theme?

Memoir author looking for a theme depicted as a little girl with binoculars

Sometimes the hardest part of writing a memoir is identifying what it’s really about.

Most memoir authors fall into one of two groups. They either write their memoir to share a compelling episode in their life that comes with lessons for interested readers, or they want to chronicle their entire life for their children and grandchildren.

In both cases, there’s usually a theme. The theme is obvious in the case of authors rolling out a pivotal period of their life, but even with the older person writing a full autobiography, at least one theme tends to emerge—often the simple, relatable theme of starting out in humble surroundings and pushing through to forge a successful, happy life.

The Third Group of Memoir Authors

The third, probably smallest, category of memoir authors comprises people who are primarily writers by either profession or hobby. They enjoy sharing their thoughts and the process of writing. Driven to write, these authors at some point land upon the idea of writing a memoir. They believe, as we do at Write My Memoirs, that every life has interesting stories worth exploring and publishing. But they believe it just a little less than we do!

Some writers in this third group seek best-seller status or hope the book will inspire a screenplay. So while memoir authors in the second group, seeking only to document their lives, don’t really care whether a cohesive theme becomes apparent, this third group needs that theme for their work to be marketable.

Your “Ordinary” Life

If you identify with the third group, you may find your life’s theme to be an elusive target. Especially if you’re young, you may feel that there’s “no there there” yet to write about. I assure you, there is. But you don’t want to contrive some theme just to write a relevant book.

As with any memoir, the key is to be authentic. Maybe you grew up as the child of a single parent, but you had a large extended family that filled in and you never felt it was a hardship. Perhaps when you were a teenager you recovered from a terrible car accident, but you did recover fully and there wasn’t much drama around the collision—the other driver simply misjudged and crashed into you. Let’s say you’re an immigrant and moved to your current homeland ten years ago, but everything went pretty smoothly.

In all of those examples, you may think nothing unusual happened to you beyond the one pivotal event. So many people grow up in single-parent households, and yours was just one of them. Just about everyone has a car accident story; yours would not add to the literature. And you certainly wouldn’t be the first immigrant to share your tale.

Look Closer with a Little Positive Thinking

I just took you through a lot of negative thinking. So let’s flip that to the positive side.

No other person in the world is having exactly the day you’re having right now. Not your next-door neighbor, not your sibling, not your best friend. If your day is not identical to anyone else’s, how could your entire memoir duplicate another memoir?

Think of the experiences you have in common with other people as a strength of your memoir. This is what will get people to relate to your life. Then layer that with the singular you who faced those experiences. Your circumstances were different from other people’s situations even in a similar event, your personality is yours alone, and everything from your resources and support network to the sights/sounds, news headlines of the moment and your own reaction combines to shape any experience you’ve had into a unique narrative.

Now let’s say that you don’t even have that much—no tricky childhood, illness/accident nor major relocation. All you are is an everyday person with everyday experiences. I’d say look deeper. There’s something about your life that isn’t so “everyday.”

Lean Into Your Message

It’s pretty common for memoir authors in this third group to sit down and start writing with no real theme in mind. Then it happens, sometimes well after they’ve started, that they discover a thread running through the work. Maybe it’s very broad, such as the encounters of a person who makes friends easily, or the perspective on life from someone who has always had vivid nighttime dreams. Or maybe it’s just the opposite—an incident so seemingly minor that you don’t even remember it until you find yourself writing about how that one teacher or supervisor, or a comment by a stranger on the bus, set you on a life path that you never thought you’d be following.

See how that happens? Now you’re no longer a memoir author looking for a theme. You have one.

From that thread, you can drill down and identify a message. Really look inside yourself. What are you trying relate? What wisdom do you hope readers will take from your memoir? Complete this sentence: “I hope you read my memoir because you’ll learn _____.”

Have confidence that your story is different enough. The key is how you tell it.

It’s the Writing

I often use Educated by Tara Westover as an example for memoir authors who do not have a famous name. Raised in a religious cult-type environment, Tara has a compelling story to tell but not a unique one. Plenty of children grow up under the thumb of restrictive and even abusive parents, and many, like Tara, go out on their own and grow away from that limited world.

What made Westover’s book a best-seller for months and months was the writing. The summary on the book jacket may spark enough interest in the story to get someone to pick up the book, but excellent writing is what gets that book passed around and recommended over and over, generating sales. While staying on theme also is important, compelling writing will keep the reader invested even if, at times, you meander away from your theme.

So, really, the theme is not your biggest challenge. Writing isn’t that hard, but writing a tight narrative that keeps the reader turning pages takes some practice. If you’re in that third group, while you may have no obvious theme, you have what many author hopefuls lack—a love of writing. You don’t have to force yourself to sit down and bang out page after page. So keep at it. Write, edit and rewrite. Ask friends to read and give you input. Go back to your desk and write more. Your life has something to say.

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.

Build Buzz About Your Memoir by Publishing Articles and Comments Online

Screen capture of author's online article

First-time memoir authors are likely to have no solid writing credentials, much less an agent or publisher. How do you get writing credentials? Write!

Bylines Validate You as a Writer

Even a handful of online articles with your byline can build credibility for you as a writer as you begin to market your memoir, which you can do before it’s ready for publication. Write about things you know, and research websites that invite people to submit essays. There are lots of advantages to doing this:

  • Typically, your byline will be accompanied by a short bio. Given even just two or three sentences, your bio can easily mention that you’re the author of an upcoming memoir. If you can be more specific with the memoir’s name and the exact date or just month of publication, even better.
  • If you want an agent to represent you, or if you send your memoir manuscript to a publisher, impress them by including links to articles that carry your byline. That shows them that some professional outlet thought your work was worthy of publication.
  • These links look good on your own book website or blog as well. They say: I’m a professionally published writer. You can trust that my memoir is a well-written book.
  • Many articles offer readers the ability to leave comments. Keep an eye on your article, and respond to comments. This establishes a conversation with the very people who are potential buyers of your memoir.
  • You may get a little money for your efforts. But while some online outlets will pay for your material, that shouldn’t be your main consideration.
  • Writers write, and they constantly get better and faster at writing. Now that you’re a memoir author, writing frequently on other projects will help your writing flow so that it’s easier to motivate yourself to sit down and work on your memoir.

What to Write About

Ideally, you’ll find a website to carry your article about something directly related to your memoir. From your memoir’s theme to anything your memoir covers—your work, specific issues in family life, the geography you describe—you can speak as an expert by virtue of the fact that you’re writing a memoir that includes information on that subject. You are an authentic voice in that community. Don’t diminish the right you’ve earned to be an authority and the contributions you can make with a good article.

To just get your name out there, you also can write about something completely unrelated to your memoir. This won’t necessarily reach the target market for your memoir, but it will provide the other benefits of giving you a byline, links to share and a bio paragraph.

Here’s an article I wrote about a hot pop-culture topic that was published on sixtyandme.com. You can see that it’s been generating comments, and it’s even popping up on searches. Am I using my own blog here to help promote it? You bet.

Comment on Other People’s Articles

Another way to establish a familiar name with potential readers is to comment on articles that address your memoir’s theme. Any knowledgeable, informative comment you post will add to the discussion and set you up as a valuable voice on that topic.

On your comments, you may be able to sneak in a plug for your memoir, especially if you say something vague such as: “I’m writing a memoir about my experience with this same type of childhood.” Or you may be able to direct people to your book’s website.

How This is Different from Social Media

It’s helpful to build an online presence through Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook or whatever social media combination appeals to you. Articles are different, though, because they represent acceptance and a little bit of vetting by someone out there in the field. Anyone can tweet, but not everyone can submit an article and get it accepted for publication.

In addition, articles carry URLs that may stay there for years as you continue to send links to anyone interested in your writing. Social media is more about “follow me” and what’s coming next than what’s already out there. You don’t have to keep up with an article the way you do with a social account.

Good luck as you navigate all of this! Let us know if Write My Memoirs can help you with editing or self-publishing.

A Memoir Boosts Your Personal Brand—Even When You’re Already Famous

Molly Shannon's memoir

So many of the famous people who have published well-written memoirs in the past five or ten years have gotten a boost not only in their bank accounts but in their “personal brand.” They become respected in a new way. One great example is actor Jennette McCurdy, who was only marginally well-known before her memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, blew up the best-seller charts.

Memoirs Create Closeness

It’s not just that these celebrities are adding an impressive credential—book author—to their résumés. When a celebrity’s book is compelling and sells well, it’s typically because the content is raw, honest, and revealing. The writing tends to be courageous, showing the author’s vulnerability and sharing failures and other low points. This all helps the person’s star rise, because readers/fans feel closer to them.

You wouldn’t think someone as globally famous as Bruce Springsteen would gain much from writing a memoir, but his critically acclaimed book opened him up in a way that even his most personal lyrics never did. An artist down a rung or two on the fame ladder like Dave Grohl, whose memoir has also received high praise, expands people’s perceptions of him.

The latest memoir author to fall into that mid-level of celebrity is Molly Shannon, whose very recent memoir, Hello Molly!,  tells of Shannon’s lifelong effects of trauma from losing her mother, sister and cousin in a car accident when she was a little girl. She also chronicles her rise to fame and dishes about lots of “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) cast members, but it’s that early episode that draws you in and makes you feel that you really know her. Book sales may very well have helped her to snag a hosting spot on this past weekend’s SNL, which in turn got her a visit to “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” One of the things Fallon pointed out was that Shannon’s book had just been made available in paperback.

You’ll Shine Up Your Personal Brand

Remember all of this as you write your own memoir. You’ll be a published author, so that’s an accomplishment in itself. But you’ll also establish a type of intimacy with every reader in a way that you cannot otherwise achieve—even in person. There’s just something about a candid, forthcoming memoir that goes deep into the heart. Write your memoir, and your personal brand will shine.

5 Things Memoir Authors Can Be Thankful For on Thanksgiving

Two people wearing t-shirts saying "thankful"

You memoir authors work so hard to reach your goal of writing and publishing your life story. Write My Memoirs has identified five things you can be thankful for this Thanksgiving, whether you’re in the U.S. or elsewhere:

1. Your life. It’s pretty obvious, but your memoir is about a life, your life, and life is a gift. Whether you’re writing about a happy life or one full of trauma and grief, you have a life worth writing about.

2. Modern technology. From word processing software to photo editing to digital printing, today’s tech makes memoir creation easier, faster and more accurate than ever. Many of you are old enough to remember Wite-Out, erase tape and other inadequate methods of correcting errors. Cropping photos was done with red wax pencils. It wasn’t that long ago that authors would have to mail paper manuscripts to the printer. Without modern tech tools, you would have to hire professionals to complete every step instead of just sending a completed pdf to a self-publishing company like Write My Memoirs.

3. Supportive people. Most likely, at least one friend or family member is supporting your memoir goals. This support can keep you accountable, motivated and grateful.

4. Freedom to write. If you’re writing your memoir for publication, you have the freedom wherever you’re living to do that. We can’t take that freedom for granted. History shows that it’s fragile. Keep writing! Books contribute to freedom because they give the next generation information and perspective on what your life, living in freedom, has been like.

5. Health. Not all memoir authors would describe themselves as healthy. Perhaps you’re fighting an illness or living with a chronic condition. But you’re healthy enough to think through your life and, one way or another, get your story down.

At Write My Memoirs we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and all the turkey and trimmings you want. We’re thankful for you!

10 Ways Writing Your Memoir Boosts Your Self-Esteem

Man jumping from one cliff to another

Like any goal, completing your memoir will bring you a sense of accomplishment. That’s not the only way it will make you feel good, but let’s start there in counting out the 10 benefits writing your memoir has in store for you.

The new adjectives you can use to refer to yourself will be:

  1. Accomplished. Writing a memoir is an achievement! There’s nothing like working on a goal until you finish it to make you feel that you had time well spent. Go ahead and cross it off your list!
  2. Industrious. Writing a memoir is a long process, and it’s hard work. It’s an extra task, apart from your day job, family responsibilities and ordinary routine. You got down to work and did it.
  3. Persistent, also tenacious and persevering. So many people start Chapter 1 but never get to Chapter Last. You stuck with it.
  4. Relieved. Even if you enjoyed the process, on some level you’re relieved that it’s over. And if writing your memoir was part of healing from trauma, then you’re very relieved that, finally, you can truly move on.
  5. Magnanimous. Writing your life story for others to read and learn from is a generous act of giving back to your family, the community and, well, the universe.
  6. Brilliant. You’re brilliant not in the meaning of super-intelligent, but in the brilliance of shining like a star. When you finish your memoir, you are a shining star, lighting the way for others and beaming with the glow of, again, accomplishment.
  7. Talented, also artistic. Not everyone can sit down and write at all. You have the skill to get what’s in your head onto the screen/paper, and you’re not just reporting facts. A memoir is a work of art, showcasing your own writing flair.
  8. Grateful. You probably weren’t sure you could do this, and maybe you worried whether you’d live long enough to see your book. Gratitude for the opportunity to write and publish is a common outcome.
  9. Brave, also courageous, a synonym, but this point deserves two words even if they mean the same thing. It’s not easy to put yourself out there, display your triumphs and errors, your assets and weaknesses. Good for you.
  10. Trendy. From celebrities and politicians right down to people with what can be considered ordinary lives (no life is ordinary, really), everyone is writing a memoir! You’re on trend now that you’ve written yours.

Would you like to claim all of those ten attributes? Plus an 11th – proud of yourself? Start writing—or continue writing—your memoir, and when you finish you will feel all of that.

More Services Coming to Write My Memoirs Authors

blank, open book and pencil

We have some exciting announcements! You have always been able to write your memoir in your free account here on Write My Memoirs. That courtesy will remain! Keep your writing in your account, and access it from anywhere, anytime.

For many years we’ve also offered writing services to Write My Memoirs authors as well as to the general public. We’ll edit your work or ghostwrite your book for you, and you retain all rights, of course. When your manuscript is ready, we provide self-publishing services that include layout and simple cover design.

All of that will continue. So what’s new?

We want to make your dream of writing a memoir come true. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, and that’s where we’ll soon be adding services. How should you begin Chapter One? Which stories should you include? Should you follow a chronological structure or jump around throughout your life?

These questions can trip you up, but we’re very familiar with the struggles memoir authors face and how to get over the hurdles. Some questions have easy answers, while others will take a conversation to help you make decisions. There is no best way to write a memoir, but there may be a best way for you to write yours. We’ll help you identify it.

We’ll supply motivation, too, not only by giving you specific assignments and checking in with you, but also by doing some editing and organizing as you proceed. Seeing your book come to life little by little motivates you to continue even when other demands are competing for your time.

Through our new packages, you’ll be able to select the “soup to nuts” option, just the “front end” of coaching or, as now, only the editing or the self-publishing. If you’re just sitting down now to write your memoir, we can have you holding your book in your hand one year from now.

If you want to get a head start, fill out our Contact Us form and let us know your vision for your book. We can’t wait to work with you, and we think that’s very exciting!

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.

Selling a Memoir: One Author’s Top 10 Lessons to Share

Three books

Simon Michael Prior has written three books about his travels. He self-published them and says they’re selling pretty well. Simon created a video to share what he’s learned with other memoir authors.

Go ahead and watch the video, but I’ve also summarized his points for you along with my own comments:

1. Market Widely

Simon: While some of your friends and family will come up with excuses for not buying your book—“I don’t have a Kindle,” “I don’t have time to read,” “I’ll wait until you’ve written a couple more books”—someone you barely know, maybe just a Facebook friend, might be the one who buys your book and recommends it to friends. So make sure you tell everyone about your book.

Write My Memoirs: I agree with this. Don’t get mad at your friends. It’s not their job to make you a best-selling author. But also don’t be afraid to post your book repeatedly on all of your social media. You never know who might have a large Goodreads following and rave about your book in a review.

2. Continually Market

Simon: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”—you’ll hear that a lot. Believe it! To sell a lot of books that you’ve self-published, you have to keep your sales consistent over a long period of time. It’s better to sell one copy a day for a long time than to sell 100 copies the first day and have the sales come to a stop. That means selling to strangers. Figure out what works for you to continue to sell to strangers, and keep doing it even if that requires you to do some marketing every day.

WMM: I’ve learned this the hard way! My children’s book, The Case of the Disappearing Kisses, sold relatively okay right out of the gate because it was winter holiday time and my friends bought it for the children in their lives. Both the parents and the kids loved the book, but then I stopped marketing and guess what? Crickets. When sales lag, both Google and Amazon will quickly make it harder for people to find your book in a general search. One of these days I have to do what Simon Says: figure out how to sell a really charming kids’ book to strangers and keep doing whatever it takes.

3. Be Prolific

Simon: You have to write more than one book—preferably many books. Each one helps to sell the others.

WMM: This is a tough one for memoir writers. Most of our Write My Memoirs authors have a single memoir in mind. It’s an itch they must scratch, but when the book is done, they’re done. I agree that sales tend to benefit when a writer has multiple titles. It’s obvious that someone who enjoys one of your books will want to purchase another, so with three books you’re tripling the exposure to each one. But I’ll also point out no one cares that Tara Westover has written only Educated. That book is good enough for one lifetime. Every hear of any book by Margaret Mitchell other than Gone With the Wind? I’d say that book did pretty well for itself. Click here for a list of other iconic one-hit wonders like Black Beauty.

4. Price Your Book Appropriately

Simon: A lower price doesn’t mean you’ll sell more. You may be able to sell as many books at a higher price as you can from a lower price, and of course then you’ll be making more money.

WMM: I agree. My children’s book is priced too low for me to make money on it when I sell through Amazon. I make money only when people buy directly from my website, because Amazon requires me to track the delivery, and that costs a lot. I’m also thinking of raising the price on the Write My Memoirs Grammar and Writing Course because, at $39, people may undervalue how good the course is. According to Simon, he sold more e-books when he raised the price by a dollar.

5. Study All Types of Books

Simon: Learn how to write a memoir from authors and books in other genres. Read broadly in fiction and other types of nonfiction.

Me: Yes, definitely do this. You’re writing a nonfiction book that reads like a fictional story. You have to write compelling dialogue and descriptive text that paints a picture in the reader’s mind. You’ll see these devices in fiction.

6. “Write to Market”

Simon: If you want to make a living from writing books, eventually you’ll run out of things to write about if you stick to memoirs. You’ll have to branch out to whatever genres are currently popular.

WMM: This depends on the writer’s reasons for writing the memoir. At Write My Memoirs at least, most authors don’t have their sights set on launching a big writing career. You may want to sell your book for a screenplay and get a windfall from a successful movie, but I don’t think most of you are planning to become working book writers. If you are, then I agree with Simon. Consider learning how to write romance or young adult fiction, which are both hot right now.

7. & 8. Don’t Discount Any Potential Reader, and Learn from All Genres

WMM: Confidential to Simon—these two are just repeating #1 and #5. When you want a Top 10 list but have only eight ideas, you twist two of them a little. I recognize this trick. However, you do give two good tips in #8: look at the titles of best-selling fiction. They’re short and snappy, yet still intriguing enough to make people want to see what the book is about. And fictional books have a story with a beginning, middle and end. The book is not just a series of chapters that can stand alone, which is how some memoir writers structure their chapters. Google to discover different story structures.

9. Don’t Assume You Know Your Reader

Simon: You probably think you know which parts of your book people will like best, which scenes are the most compelling and which chapters are funny. But every reader will experience your book differently, and you’ll be surprised at how wrong you were!

WMM: This is so true. Even the articles I write get reactions I never anticipated. You thought that part was funny? THAT line was your favorite? You just never know how people will react. Think about telling a joke to a group. Some people will not be able to stop laughing, and others will look at you with no expression at all.

10. Let Your Writing Bring You Joy

Simon: Joy is what should happen. If writing this book really is not bringing you some level of joy, stop writing.

WMM: I partly agree with this. It’s cathartic to write a memoir, and I suppose catharsis is a form of joy. Even if parts are painful, once you get going the memories pour out of you and provide a relief you may not anticipate. People with a dark story to tell often find that writing it out is the best—or only—way to move forward. But goals have another side. They don’t always bring us joy in the process of accomplishing them. The joy comes afterward. I write constantly. There are times I don’t enjoy the writing, but I always enjoy having written. A piece of writing that you’re proud of? That for sure brings you joy.

If you want to self-publish, please think of our Write My Memoirs publishing services. We’re here for you :).

 

 

Wrap Your Memoir in its Perfect Cover

I hang out a lot in Facebook’s various groups for memoir writers. One thing people come there seeking is a “hive mind” opinion on the cover art they’re considering for their memoir.

Should you buy an image?

One time an author on one of those Facebook pages floated a cover with a really cool image, but I did a quick search and found it online illustrating all sorts of things. My short answer for whether you should purchase an image or use one that you find on a free site like Unsplash is simply: no. If you like the image, I can pretty much guarantee that other people have liked it, bought it and used it as well.

This is your memoir about the unique you. Certainly you can come up with a unique cover.

What’s trending?

Choosing your cover is one of the more fun things you do when you publish—not nearly as difficult as writing the whole thing! So let’s look at the trends right now for book covers in general.

There’s a broad range of looks for covers, which gives you license to accommodate your own esthetic. The variety also lets you reflect the theme of your memoir. Your cover is the first introduction to get your reader in the mood to read your book, so use the cover to represent a little of what’s inside.

Bold, vivid, colorful

If “bold” describes you, then now is your time to showcase yourself. Display the boldness through dramatic contrasts, colors that aren’t often paired or heavy fonts. Don’t forget your background—a pattern or bright solid can give your book a distinct look.

    

Understated

This is the opposite of bold and probably not very colorful, but it’s not dull. It’s still profound. If your memoir is quietly powerful, this could be the choice for you.

  

Your photo

There simply is no more powerful way to draw people in than to look straight at them. If you’re a celebrity, this is an obviously good choice because you’re recognizable. But all human faces are a little irresistible. Use your image from present day or from years ago. Either way, you can be sure when you slap your own face on your book, no other book will look like yours.

   

Illustration

Original art can be very effective. If you draw, go through your work to see whether anything connects to the topics in your memoir. Perhaps you’ve painted your self-portrait or your house growing up—anything like that could be perfect. But you may have something in mind like a soaring eagle, hovering butterfly, empty chair—a creature or object that you identify with. It might be worth your time to pay a decent artist to draw your vision.

  

More ideas

You can always use an image of a mountain, beach, field, lake or bustling city. If some natural surrounding complements your book’s theme, this can work well enough. Perhaps pair it with a distinct font for your title.

You can use an object that plays an important role in your memoir, or you can just try to be clever in some way. I think this fails more than it succeeds, but when it works it can be amazing.

 

Write My Memoirs can help

Typically, our Write My Memoirs authors are less interested in selling their book than in leaving something for their family. They tend to choose a photo of themselves from the prime of their life, the way people remember them. But we can work with you on any cover of your choice. Just as every story is unique and crafted with thoughtfulness, so should every cover have exactly the perfect look.

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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!