So you want to write a memoir?

May 19, 2014 | Writing A Book

It was a great night. We were having drinks on the deck and talking with friends. One of them turned to me and asked, “What will it take to get you to help me with my memoir?” What followed was what I call, “The Memoir Chat.”

At least once a month, someone contacts me about help in writing their memoir. My first suggestion is a reality check.

All lives are interesting but …

Sure, you’ve had interesting experiences and met some fascinating people. The fact is that everyone has had an interesting life. But that doesn’t mean that a book about your life will interest anyone outside the circle of those who know you.

If you don’t care about sales, there’s no problem.

That’s not a problem if you don’t care about sales. Writing the story of your life and experiences is a great exercise. The end result will be valuable to your family and other people who care about you. But the larger book-buying public plunks down their money for only two kinds of memoir.

Celebrity memoirs sell.

Celebrities can write a book or memoir about almost anything and generate some sales. If you’ve got some name recognition you can write about your sad or happy childhood, how much weight you’ve lost or gained, your personal secrets of success or the other famous people you’ve met.

Memoirs about hot issues of the day sell.

If your life connects with one of today’s hot button issues, people may be interested. You’d better have it ready to go though, because public interest changes quickly. You may have the good luck to publish a book just before current events help it sell, but I wouldn’t plan on it.

Think of a different book.

One reason that memoirs don’t attract a great readership is that they’re about you. You’ll have better luck if you use your experience to teach readers things that will help them.