Can you get a publisher for a memoir? Yes. Yes. Yes. Memoirs sell. There’s nothing quite like a bestselling memoir and publishers are still looking for them. Competition is fierce, though.
When my friend and colleague Literary Agent Regina Brooks told me she just signed a contract with St. Martin’s Press for her new book, How to Write, Sell and Market Your Memoir, I asked if she’d share a few insights pre-publication.
She generously agreed. So here are the 3 things Regina said every memoir needs:
1. A Strong Hook: What’s the book about? Can you couple two disparate subjects together in a surprising way? Does your book offer a fresh perspective on an evergreen subject? What will make readers grab it off the shelves and say, “I have to read that”?
2. Incredible Writing: Read your book aloud several times to hear nuances. Every sentence, ask yourself, “Am I making it real for my reader? Am I being specific enough?” Get readers in your target market to give you feedback. Definitely hire an experienced editor to help you polish your book. Even veteran writers hire editors–it’s hard to edit your own work.
3. Author Platform: Ugh, I know. Authors often feel despondent when they hear this one. “How will I ever create a platform?” Plank by plank–you can and will. Many of my clients start out stomach clenched and end up falling in love with this part of the business–after all, the more you reach people with your message, the more impact you’re making with it.
Regina says, “I’d like to dispel the myth that good writing requires a solitary life. On the contrary, I believe, the memoirist should engage with the public and drum up interest in the book’s subject. Far from serving as a distraction to the work, it can heighten an author’s enthusiasm and creativity.
“Building a platform is about learning to conceptualize and strategize campaigns that cause buzz, dramatically fueling word-of-mouth and boosting your chances of attracting attention in the publishing world and beyond. With eyes focused on the bottom line, today’s agents and editors look for authors who not only write well and have great ideas (hooks), but those who come with an established audience too.”
The good news? Regina says that if you get two of these three down solid, an agent oracquisitions editor is often willing to help you with the third. So, where are you starting?
If you’d like a chance to get feedback on your memoir, how-to or other nonfiction book, or you’d like to pitch your book idea to top agents, there are two great opportunities coming up:
1. If your book is related to health, medicine, psychology, well-being or related issues, consider joining Regina and me at Harvard Medical School’s CME publishing course: Publishing Books, Memoirs and Other Creative Nonfiction on March 30-April 2 [Editor's note: the class is March 14-16 in 2013]. Regina and I will be there along with several acquisitions editors and other top agents.
2. For a greater variety of genres, try the International Women Writers Guild’s Meet the Agents event on April 17, or get there on April 16 for Susan Tiberghein’s workshop, “Memoir and Metaphor: Illuminating Your Life through Writing.” Despite the name of the organization, men are welcome.
Have any questions about your memoir? Regina and I will answer your questions here when you post as a comment.
And if you’re interested in writing a book for Young Adults, you may want to check out Regina’s book WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS.
Update: Regina’s latest book, You Should Really Write a Book: How to Write, Sell, and Market Your Memoir, is now available and I highly recommend it!