“If you don’t have at least some fear come up, you’re likely not going deep enough.”
This was one of the first things I read about writing a memoir well into my first memoir. By the time I read about fear when writing a memoir, I had written over 29,000 on my first draft.
Honestly, I was relieved to discover fear is all part of the process of writing a memoir. Why? Because as I wrote about a very dark period in my life, I did have a fair amount of fear show up.
“Was it really this bad? What will people think? Wouldn’t it be better to let sleeping giants lie?” These were only a few of the questions that came up while writing about my demons with alcohol and the behaviors that seem to be a part of an alcoholic’s life.
I thought it was just me being a wimp. After all, plenty of people have had dark times in their life. But plenty of people keep that a secret. They don’t write a memoir around their experiences. They close the door on their past and hope no one will ever find out.
Then there are those who reveal all, seeming to not have a fear in the world. But they likely dealt with emotions that were similar to being on a roller-coaster ride at the county fair.
One minute their feeling great, thinking this is the most freeing feeling in the world. The next minute they feel like they could puke their guts out. In some cases, they do.
Why Writing a Memoir Appeals to Some Writers
So, what’s the appeal to writing a memoir? For some, it’s a great way to heal the past. For others, it’s a way to relive a time they loved deeply and want to share it with the world. Maybe it was a period of great pain they wished would never have happened, but it did.
For some, it’s a great way to leave a legacy of a snapshot of a meaningful period in their life. Not that their entire life isn’t meaningful, but it could be their time in the military. Or when they were in a hostage situation. Or maybe it’s a tribute to someone who had a profound impact on the direction of their life.
Although I’ve written plenty of books, blog posts, articles and marketing pieces, writing millions of words over the years, penning a memoir is a new undertaking for me.
It’s Been A Dream for Years
I’ve thought about writing a memoir for well over a decade. A few years ago, I did write what I thought was a memoir. After a recent evaluation of the manuscript, I realized it was more of a self-help book than a memoir.
I have yet to do anything with that manuscript. At some point I may, but for now, my most recent writing project is what will be published as my first memoir.
What Exactly is a Memoir?
According to Dictionary.com, “a memoir is a record of events written by a person having intimate knowledge of them and based on personal observation. It’s also an account of one’s personal life and experiences. Although some call biographies and autobiographies memoirs, in its truest sense a memoir is a snapshot of a period or theme in a person’s life.” Click here for full post.
According to a post on www.study.com “Memoirs are factual stories about someone’s life. ‘Memoir’ is from the French word mémoire, which means ‘reminiscence’ or ‘memory.’ They are a part of the nonfiction literary genre and are usually told in the first person. We might expect the information the author provides in a memoir to be factual, but that doesn’t mean the memoirist won’t occasionally embellish the truth to tell a more interesting story. Memoirs are typically classified as a subgenre of the autobiography.”
Increase in the Genre
Over the last few years, there’s been a substantial increase in the number of published memoirs. In years past, memoirs were usually written by celebrities, public figures and those who had incredible life experiences.
With the ability for any author to self-publish, nowadays there are countless memoirs. One need not do anything hugely substantial to write a memoir. There are plenty of stories of victory over drugs and alcohol, childhood abuse, overcoming a disease and care-taking a parent. So much in fact, some experts claim these type of stories are run of the mill.
It was in the 1990’s memoirs became a popular choice for seasoned and first time authors.
“Many observers have linked the memoir boom to the publication of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes in 1999, and its trip to the bestseller list, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Award. With a subtitle like A Memoir, and with an author who was a retired public school teacher, this book—along with the earlier and more sensational tale, A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer in 1995—sent out a subliminal call to others, especially those who had endured difficult childhoods, to write their own stories.” https://janefriedman.com/memoir-trend/
As with any genre, there are pros and cons to self-publishing your book(s). The obvious upside is virtually any author can get their work to market. The downside is that virtually any author can get their work to market.
You Have to Market Your Memoir
As an author who understands (and embraces) the need to be fully responsible for marketing my books, regardless of the topic, I did a great deal of research on how to market a memoir.
There are many similarities to marketing a memoir as to marketing a business book including press coverage, social media marketing, database distribution, article marketing, interviews and book signing.
A nice aspect of memoir marketing are the many hooks in your promotions. For example, if your story-line takes place in a specific geographic area, and that’s central to the theme, you can market within that locale.
Finding an Agent and Publisher
If you dream of having an agent pitch your story to publishers, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of what a publisher is looking for. In a word, platform.
Your platform is your reach. It’s your community. It’s where you are known.
A few questions to consider:
- Do you have a social media presence?
- Have you spoken in public on the subject of your memoir?
- Have you been interviewed on radio, television or podcast shows?
- Do you write for a blog or blogs?
- Have you guest blogged?
- Do you have articles published?
One agent indicated if an author can sell 5,000 copies of their memoir on their own, they have a lot of leverage with a potential publisher. After all, publishers are interested in sales and profits. Show them your book will generate both and you have their attention.
The more you can show you have a clear understanding of visibility as an author and expert, the better. That’s if you overcome your fear long enough to dig deep and reveal the aspects of your life you have so carefully protected… until now.
Be watching for details on my upcoming memoir. Target date for publication is Winter, 2017.
I can promise you this, you won’t be bored with what you’ll learn about me when the book releases.
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