October 2017—Memoir continues as a hot seller for the main body of book buyers in America: women. For the first six months of 2017, BookScan reported sales growth in the category Biography/Autobiography/Memoir—up 8% over sales figures for the same period in 2016. This is good news for writers; interest in personal narratives remains strong.
However, as a simple search of “memoir” on Amazon will show, the field also remains flooded—nearly 150,000 titles as of this writing. Consequently, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish yourself and your story. The five big publishers in America continue to lean toward celebrity status for memoir. Some of the biggest deals to date came just this year. Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, and James B. Comey are just three.
Most memoir writers must then focus their attention on smaller publishing houses, or embrace self-publishing, both of which are excellent options. But no matter what route you choose to publication, you still must find ways to make your story stand out.
Here’s one idea about how to do that: Consider linking your experience to current events—for example, scientific or environmental issues. If you can tell the story of both the larger issue, and your experience, then your memoir becomes about more than just you, and it will draw a larger audience.
Consider this posting about memoir and science writing published on NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos & Culture blog that looks at three memoirs published in 2017, which combine science related issues—”fat, cancer and gender,” as the author Barbara J. King says—and a parallel personal story.
Or, check out these recently published titles that are as much about the environment and the natural world, as they are about the writer—Fire in the Heart: A Memoir of Friendship, Loss, and Wildfire; or Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone.
What a careful look at your life experience can reveal, about the conundrum of publishing, is that there is more than one way to skin a cat, or . . . publish your memoir!
Can you find links to larger cultural issues for your memoir? Let me hear about them.