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 :).

 

 

Easy Writing: From Blog to Book

Do you write a personal or professional blog? If so, you probably have a lot of really good material, already written and illustrated, that’s just sitting there. Adapt some of your best blog work to a book format, and now you have something to hand out and even sell. And it’s so easy.

Every Christmas, I exchange gifts with a longtime friend. This past Christmas I was trying to figure out a nice gift for her when I had a thought: what if I took one aspect of her personal blog and “stole” the text and photos to make her a little paperback book with her own name as the author? Would that work? Would it be cool?

I knew that her blog addressed many sides of her life—travels, family, home decor, food and quite a bit about her pets. When I went to her blog, I saw that both of her dogs had died earlier in the year. At each passing, she wrote a beautiful tribute and posted lots of images covering the dog’s entire life and all of the people who spent time with that dog. She also had posts about the dogs while they were alive. I did a copy-and-paste on each of those entries and downloaded all of the images. I organized the material, devoting a chapter to each dog sandwiched between end pages of quotes that my friend posted about her pets. It turned out to be mostly a picture book, with just enough text to provide some color and clarity. I didn’t write a word; every bit of text was lifted from the blog.

To publish the book, I used the normal format we offer our Write My Memoirs authors: a perfect-bound paperback. Since it was largely a picture book, I made the width greater than the height/length. I created a PDF for our regular Write My Memoirs printer, and everything went smoothly. I was very happy with the result and had the book in my hands in plenty of time to ship some copies off to my friend.

As you might guess, this little 40-page book was a huge hit. She tells me it was the best gift her family received and was passed around multiple times as everyone was opening gifts on Christmas night. We would love to do the same thing for you—turn your blog into a book or help you present this type of gift to a friend who writes a blog. You can gather the essentials, or just provide a link to the blog and we’ll be the “curator” for you. Email us at support@writemymemoirs.com, or go to our Publishing page and get started! Books bring joy!

The Valentine Memoir

What’s the best valentine you’ve ever received? Maybe your partner wrote you a heartfelt note about how much you are cherished, or a child drew hearts on a card to present to you. Perhaps someone wrote a song for you or created a little video of your relationship. You know what else makes a really nice valentine? A love memoir. It’s just taking the card, the video or the song up a notch to create a whole book.

Relationships are complex, but happy relationships have love at the core. Write about that love. You can start anywhere, but the obvious place to begin is to talk about how you met. Did you “meet cute”? Were you fixed up? Was it love at first sight? A memoir like this can chronicle some of the rougher times, too, but that will shift the focus. A valentine memoir probably should stick to the positive.

Gather photos of the two of you and really look at them. Can you see love in the eyes? Can you tell that you each feel safe with the other? Choose pics that show playfulness and intimacy, and place them throughout your love memoir. Watch the years go by in those photographs. If you have children together, you can include some pics of the kids—or pets you’ve nurtured together.

A love memoir doesn’t need to have a lot of pages, just enough for a printer to bind it. You can create it as either a paperback or a hard-cover book. A hard cover makes it more durable, and then the book can go large like a coffee table book or you still can keep it small. Imagine handing that to your favorite person in the world as something to treasure forever. Now that’s a thoughtful valentine!

Please consider our publishing services at Write My Memoirs when you’re ready to publish any book!