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.

Take This Quiz to Find Out Whether You’re Writing a Memoir or an Autobiography

Woman wondering what to call her book.

A common question authors have about memoir is whether they’re writing a true memoir or an autobiography. At Write My Memoirs, we don’t make much of a distinction. If you’re writing about your life, you’re writing about your life. Call it a memoir, autobiography, life history—we don’t think it matters much.

But authors continue to want to know how to label their book, so here’s a little quiz for you to take to reveal whether, according to conventional thinking, you’re writing a memoir or an autobiography.

Answer TRUE or FALSE:

  1. My story begins with my birth and continues to present day.
  2. My primary goal in writing my book is to provide information for my children and grandchildren to “know where they come from.”
  3. I would like generations in the future to have a reliable record of what life was like growing up when and where I grew up, as well as what adulthood was like during my lifetime.
  4. Even though my life hasn’t been that unusual, I want to get all the facts down.
  5. I want to tell all about my life in my own voice.
  6. The hurdles I overcame in my life holds lessons for other people.
  7. Even though I am not yet 50 years old, I want to write my book now.
  8. I will devote much of my book to one part of my life that was very unusual.
  9. Something happened to me that I feel compelled to write about.
  10. Everyone asks me about one episode in my life, so I decided to write about that.

As you may have figured out, this list of 10 questions starts heavy on autobiography and progresses incrementally to memoir.

Give yourself 1 point for each time you answered TRUE to questions 1 through 4.
Give yourself 2 points for each time you answered TRUE to questions 5 and 6.
Give yourself 3 points for each time you answered TRUE to questions 7 through 10.

Scores

1-8: Your book is an autobiography.

9-16: Your book is more of a memoir.

17-20: Your book may not have enough of a theme. Rethink whether you want to focus on one part of your life or write a comprehensive book that gives relatively equal treatment to all parts of your life.

Hope this helps! At Write My Memoirs, we want to help you write and publish the best book you can have to represent your perspective of your life.

New Feature: Post Your Writing at Write My Memoirs!

Our Write My Memoirs community and services are growing!

While we provide publishing services to help you publish your book, we’re hearing from some authors who do not want “paper publishing” but would prefer to share their work by displaying it online. Some people want to share with the public, and some want a link to send just to friends, family or other selected people.

In response, we have created a new section on Write My Memoirs that gives you, the author, your own publishing page! See an example here of an author who would love for you to read her stories. As you can see, we place the copyright symbol with your name at the top of the page to protect the work.

Let us know that you would like to post your work, and we’ll create a page for you. You can use our Contact Us form or write us directly at: support@writemymemoirs.com

Our tech department is working on a way for you to upload your work, but for right now you can just email the work to the “support” address, and we’ll get it online within a day or two. Then we’ll supply you with a link to share. Feel free to include images.

This is a good way to get feedback little by little as you write each chapter. You can learn how people are reacting to your writing and continuously polish it as you work to complete your book. And if you’d like, at our very reasonable prices we’ll supply a quick edit before you display your work.

What Types of Memoirs Sell?

Getting published can feel like such a crap shoot. No wonder memoir writers doubt whether they have a story that’s compelling enough to appeal to publishers. At Write My Memoirs we believe that every life is interesting and worth documenting, and we help our writers self-publish so that they will have a book to hand out to friends and family. But getting a monetary offer from a publishing company that wants to publish your book is a whole different kettle of fish.

As I look over the 2019 “best memoirs” lists, I’m finding several common themes among the books that get published and then land on these lists. The books from 2019 tend to break down into four categories:

  1. Celebrity. Being famous is the obvious way to get a memoir published. Unfortunately, that route is not open to all of us. But you can be barely famous if you’re around celebrities all the time and will dish on things you know about them—or if you’re related to, or a good friend of, someone very famous. This summer saw the release of Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter of Apple founder Steve Jobs. So her memoir sort of doubles as a biography of her famous dad, who’s the one readers are more interested in.
  2. Highly unusual life event. This seems to be the dominant category for the non-famous writer. If any segment of your life—job, childhood, illness—is way off the typical path, people will be interested in reading about it. Tara Westover’s Educated and Karen Keilt’s The Parrot’s Perch: A Memoir are good examples of this. And, as with celebrity, you can write from your own perspective if the person with the unusual life event is a close friend or relative, as Tom Weidlinger does about his father in The Restless Hungarian: Modernism, Madness, and The American Dream.
  3. Moderately unusual life event. Lots of people have had cancer, but writers keep finding new ways to share the experience. You can perhaps focus on the aspect that was the most unusual or talk about your very individual way of processing it. In No Happy Endings: A Memoir, author Nora McInerny tells what it’s like to lose a father, husband and unborn child all within a year. While that much loss all at once is not typical, it’s also not unheard of, but McInerny has a way of connecting with the reader. Another popular 2019 memoir, On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard by Jennifer Pastiloff, takes the reader through the author’s experience of triumphing over her own difficulties by helping others heal at yoga retreats. There are tons of yoga teachers out there, but Pastiloff tells a new story.
  4. Fresh twist on ordinary life. Although this strikes me as the toughest category to break through in publishing, a very gifted writer can do it. You just have to be a keen observer of life. We all are players in some story every day; it’s the way you look at it that makes it uniquely interesting. While this type of memoir can be poignant, typically it’s written with humor. With this year’s release of Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, author Trevor Noah joins a long list of comedians who put their humorous spin on their life story. Sharing life’s true experiences in some form of memoir is a regular pastime for Mindy Kaling, Chelsea Handler and many others. And although the celebrity factor plays here, their humor and writing is part of what made them famous, so the books stand on their own.

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!

Putting Other People in Your Memoir

Your story is yours to tell, and no one can take that away from you. But everyone’s story involves other people. It’s very common for memoir authors to be concerned about their rights and obligations surrounding the role other people have played in their lives, especially if the memoir depicts a negative impact. We’ve addressed this issue previously on Write My Memoirs here and here.

So we’ve talked about legal aspects, but what about the ethical ones? And how will your memoir change your relationships? Even the relatives you didn’t include may be upset with you about what you did write. Your aunt, not mentioned at all in your memoir, may never speak to you again because you wrote negatively about your mother, who was her sister. Perhaps your mother is no longer alive, and your aunt feels that you shouldn’t write about someone who cannot defend herself. Or maybe even though your memoir concerns your early life, your current adult children would prefer you to keep your story to yourself. Perhaps they’re embarrassed by something you’ve written, or they don’t want to be forced to become public figures if your book sells well.

Memoir authors and coaches have opinions all across the board on this, but I haven’t seen anyone make the point that social media has completely changed this game. You have chosen the memoir as your forum. You’ll have it in book form, or ebook only or whatever you want. But everyone who objects to what you’ve written has many opportunities to refute what’s in your book. Facebook, Twitter and the rest provide a forum for everyone. As long as you write the truth as you know it—and it’s a good idea to have some sort of disclaimer saying in your book that the information is accurate to the best of your memory—then you should present your life the way you want. Be prepared for some pushback, but this is your story. The other people can tweet about it to defend themselves.

Memoir Gifts on Father’s Day

We’re getting down to the wire—just a week and a half to figure out what you’re getting your dad for Father’s Day 2019. You know your dad has a lot of stories to tell. May I suggest memoir coaching, writing and publishing services as the perfect gift?

A lot of people start writing a memoir only to abandon it. Why? Because writing a book is hard. From figuring out what to write to organizing the information in chapters to sitting down and grinding out the words, the process can feel overwhelming. Having a coach/editor in your corner can make all the difference.

Our professionals at Write My Memoirs can interview your dad and do the writing for him, or we can coach him to do the writing himself and we’ll edit the work as he goes along. We have a “magazine-style bio” option that produces a magazine-length article all about him, and all he has to do is talk to us and send us pictures. Or maybe your dad’s pretty far along in his memoir, and all he needs is the gift of publishing. We’ll take his document and photos, lay out the book for him and publish it as a paperback or hardback book with as many copies as he wants.

This becomes a gift to the whole family, because you’ll have his life documented in his own voice. Years from now you won’t regret neglecting to ask your dad about his childhood, his days in the military, his work or his feelings about life’s challenges and triumphs. At a certain point, people have most of the material things they need. A gift like this shows your dad that you’re thinking of him beyond yet another necktie or the more powerful drill. You care about his life, and you want to find out more. You care about what he cares about. We would love to get to know your dad and help him have a published memoir!

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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 that extra 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. SCHEDULE A CALL TODAY if you’d like to talk about what’s right for you. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!