You have a powerful and important story, and I know how badly you’re yearning to share it. Many of you have written personal, vulnerable stories centered around pain.
There’s no getting around pain. It’s valuable, instructive, and true to life. And it’s an enormous undertaking to even get the words down after enduring a hardship, so please know how much I respect and honor your efforts.
But pitching your memoir to a publisher becomes quite a different challenge, because this effort requires distilling why your story brings an audience with it and how it will also engage thousands of readers who don’t know who you are.
To sell your memoir, you’ll also require writing that sings on the page.
There are 4 reasons we see for why first-time memoirists, writing on the subject of illness or trauma, often do not receive positive, or any, response to their work:
1) They are not professional writers, and that becomes readily apparent to an industry gatekeeper. This is why an outside edit can be so important;
2) In focusing upon themselves as the leading character, they neglect to consider a greater theme or takeaway for readers;
3) …Or how action, scenery, and characters beyond themselves must drive a narrative forward in surprising ways;
4) That ultimately, it cannot just be about the experience of pain. When readers connect with an art form, they’re looking to learn or be inspired. There has to be a bigger picture.
As you consider preparations to submit to agents and editors this spring, make sure you’re not making these all too common errors – this is why an outside edit can be so important. If you find something beautiful, others will too, but you need to make sure your work shines with the elements the market is seeking.