If you’ve ever wondered about trying to document your life – or aspects of your life – this article will address some of the big questions you might be asking:
- Should you write an autobiography or a memoir?
- Is it worth working with a memoir writer, or should you write your own book?
- How do you find a memoir writer who will be a good fit for you and your story?
- Are there are any memoir publishers that might be interested in your book?
- Should you consider self-publishing your memoir?
As we answer these questions, we’ll also address specific ways in which a memoir writer might be able to help you, and throw in some tips to help you document your life, whether you work with a memoir writer, or decide to write your own book.
Is it a memoir or an autobiography?
Although they’re very similar – and often used interchangeably – a memoir and an autobiography are a little different. While an autobiography tends to tell a birth-to-present-day story, a memoir usually focuses in on a narrower span of time, or a specific aspect of one’s life.
Memoir writers may choose to focus on their life at work, overcoming a specific struggle in their life, or on a specific relationship. I’ve worked with people who have told their stories of overcoming bereavement or illness. I’ve written books that documented the effects of specific incidents or events on their lives. And I’ve helped memoir writers tell stories that covered the entire span of their life, but focused in on one overriding theme or relationship from it.
(You might also hear ‘memoir’ used to describe a short autobiography. Rather than the full bells-and-whistles approach, a memoir can sometimes tell an edited highlights version of your life story.)
Above all, don’t get too hung up on the differences. You can document your life in many ways, but by the time it’s written no one is really going to worry whether it’s one thing or the other. It is, after all, what’s inside that counts! Even Amazon presents their memoirs and autobiographies in the same listing.
Do you have a story to tell?
Sometimes people know they’ve got a story to tell, sometimes they need a bit of convincing…
They’re both good starting points. If you’re already fired-up and raring to tell your story, that enthusiasm and impetus can take you a long way.
If you’ve been talked into writing a book about your life by a friend or relative, that can help you stay focused. In fact, it really helps if there’s a ready-made audience of friends and family for your story. Knowing who wants to read about you, and what they want to know, will help you document your life in ways they’re going to find interesting.
Personal autobiographies and memoirs are often inspired by children and grandparents asking very specific questions like:
- What did you do before we were around? (It’s often hard for young children to imagine a world without them in it!)
- What did you do in the army, Grandad?
- How did you make your way in a man’s world, Mum?
- How did you build up your business?
Questions like these don’t just provide good inspiration, they can give memoir writers razor-sharp focus. So think about some of the very specific questions your story is going to address.
Of course, you don’t need a memoir writer to help you write your life story, but it can help…
How a memoir writer can help
Writing a book about your life may sound like the ultimate example of something that only you can do. So why hire a memoir writer? Strange as it may sound, it’s really useful to enlist someone to write your life story who hardly knows you!
Memoir writers bring two special skills to the table:
- Memoir writers are objective, and that objectivity will help them write your life story so it makes perfect sense to your readers. They’ll dive deeper to scrutinise the details of your story, get under the skin of your well-worn anecdotes and find fresh insights.
- Memoir writers know how to tell your story efficiently. What stops too many would-be memoir writers in their tracks is the sheer time it takes to tell their own story. But a memoir writer will interview you extensively and build your story for you. And because that’s their bread-and-butter work, they’ll do it for you quickly and expertly.
Should you self-publish or try and get your memoir published?
Some of the memoirs that I work on go on to be professionally published, and many more are self-published.
When you’ve decided you want to write your life story, I recommend that, before you do anything else, you think about who you’re writing your book for. Very often, this will help you decide if you should try and publish or self-publish your book.
Self-publishing your memoir
If you’re writing a very personal book about your life that will be of primary interest to a small audience of family and friends, you’ll be better off looking at self-publishing options. There are lots of excellent ways of getting your story into print, or published as an eBook.
I know that self-publishing your story may not feel quite as romantic as having it optioned by a publishing house. But there are lots of good reasons to self-publish:
- You won’t have to make any concessions for an editor or publisher; you retain compete editorial control.
- You can design and present your story any way you wish.
- You can have your book finished and in print quickly.
- Your self-published memoir can still make money…
Have you got a memoir money-maker?
Many memoir writers promote their business services and their expertise using their own book. Never mind the website and the CV, the memoir is the ideal way to impress upon potential clients that you really know your onions.
You can use your memoir to highlight your innovations and achievements, your processes, and your defining priorities. You can show by example, how your ideas have helped make things better. More than that, you can convey trust. And surely that’s the hardest thing to create, from scratch, in a new client relationship.
You can give your professional memoir away – or sell it – on your website, and at trade fairs and conferences.
Reaching out to memoir publishers
So what about professionally published memoirs? If you’re going to write your life story, could it pique a publisher’s interest?
It’s worth repeating that most personal memoirs and autobiographies tell stories that are only of relevance to a very select audience. That isn’t a bad thing, and it’s certainly not a reason for not telling your story. It just means that the majority of memoirs won’t be of interest to mainstream memoir publishers.
However, if you feel your memoir tells a broader interest story, if it imparts uniquely interesting information, or draws universal lessons from your own experiences, your memoir might well be publication-worthy.
Be selective: look for memoir publishers who are actively searching for stories or subjects like yours. Even if you worry that the subject of your book is ‘too niche,’ there are publishers and imprints with some pretty wide-ranging interests out there!
One good example of how a memoir (as opposed to a full autobiography) can catch a publisher’s interest is Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt. His memoir concerning his travails as a House Officer in the NHS is told through diary entries. His insights into the terrifying pressures of working in the NHS were given with real candour and humour, and his book resonated with a huge audience.
Other memoir writers have lifted the veil on their professional lives, opening them up to wider scrutiny – and that can be a great way to catch a memoir publisher’s attention.
A memoir writer can help you in lots of different ways
Let’s return to our question: why hire a memoir writer? Let’s see if I can sum up the key benefits:
- Your memoir writer will tell your story quickly, professionally, and with minimal demands on your time.
- A memoir writer’s objectivity will help make your book better.
- Memoirs, in particular, tend to be quite concise, so a memoir writer will help you identify the parts of your story that matter most.
- Their experience of writing for different audiences will help your memoir writer ensure your book speaks to your audience, however big or small that is.
- You can draw on your memoir writer’s help to self-publish your book.
About my memoir writing services
The people I work with find that writing their life story or memoir is just easier with someone to help them.
I’ll ask you the right questions to bring out some fresh perspectives, making for a bolder, more insightful story. And I’ll work hard to convey all of the drama, humour, and meaning that will really bring your book to life.
If you’re thinking about publishing, I’ll give you my honest opinion on whether your book might attract a publisher’s attention.
It’s a flexible service. Usually, I interview my clients and write their story for them. Here’s a guide to my ghostwriting prices for manuscripts, memoirs, and biographies.
I can also provide editing and structural advice on anything you’ve already written. Or I can mentor you through the writing process, giving you feedback, help, and advice along the way.
Are you looking for a memoir writer?
I’ll be delighted to help you write your memoir or autobiography. Book a half-hour memoir writing consultation, and we’ll discuss next steps…