Everyone has a story to tell, but does that mean it’s a book? I get many queries for personal memoirs, but I am the most selective about memoirs because the puzzle pieces falling into place have to be so much tighter. This is because of the success of memoirs in the 2000s: the market was flooded with everything from mis-mem (misery memoirs) to business. Now health memoirs have reached saturation. Editors are still open to memoirs, but they have to have terrific writing and a personal story that will inspire, intrigue, and entice consumers to purchase.
So how do you know if your memoir is right for commercial publishing? These five factors:
- An interesting story to tell *that the mass market would want to know about*
- Excellent writing (or celebrity status)
- Actual plotting, pace and characters that readers can invest in and care about their outcome — I know it’s true, but it has to read like a novel.
- Stories of redemption, loss, love, unbelievable happenings, that tie into current events, the underdog, cultural/political conflicts, humour, sports–you’ll notice that family sagas aren’t on this list and it’s because family saga isn’t a sales point on its own, it has to be tied into another hook.
- Did I say superb writing?
Unfortunately, the stories told around the dinner table aren’t the right taste for a memoir. A memoir has to be able to generate buzz upon release, garner news articles and have the appeal of a novel, except what happened was true. The expectations are high in this genre, but there is opportunity for success if you think about the general reading public and the kind of stories that appeal to the human condition.
Image via Judith Barrington