I get a lot of memoir clients and I love working on these stories, but memoirs have challenges ahead of them that fiction does not. Here are some tips for enhancing your life-story so it captures your audience.
Memoirs are a collection of factual memories from an individual’s perspective often told in a narrative format that features a theme of one’s life or reflects on a particular place or event in their life.
The truth is, memoirs can be tough to sell for folks who are not already famous. It’s just the lay of the land. So, in order to really hook an agent and publisher, the story needs to show why this life story different, why it’s so important, and who will benefit most from this book (hint: it’s not the author).
Once the book is out there for public reading, it’s no longer about how cathartic it was to write it for the author, it’s about what it can do for the reader. This is an important thing to keep in mind as you revise. The theme of your memoir is the crux of the story; be sure that every memory fuels this theme.
I recommend that you create a list of current/recent published memoirs that your story is similar to. These are called “comp titles” or “comparable titles.” Notate how yours is different or stands out from that list. It’s something agents or publishers may ask for if they request a full proposal from you.
On that note, memoir writers won’t always need to craft a nonfiction proposal, as memoirs are treated more like fiction than nonfiction because of the way the work is written (in narrative format), but it’s best to be prepared. If you aren’t familiar with proposals, here’s a good post on the subject: https://www.janefriedman.com/start-here-how-to-write-a-book-proposal/
Memoirs are beautiful portrayals of the intricacies of life. Share with me the theme of your memoir (or what it would be) by commenting below!
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