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Three Types of Memoir That Sell

This article by Kelly Notaras provides some basic info about memoir that sells. She is

Category #1: Celebrity Memoir

Category #2: The “Trial or Triumph Trainwreck” Memoir

This is the category into which fall memoirs of unspeakable childhood abuse, terrifying rescues at sea, and death-defying heroics mere mortals cannot imagine. In other words, human stories so unusual and compelling that we can’t put the book down.

Many of my authors have devastating stories to tell of childhood trauma, the loss of a partner or child, or a difficult divorce. Others have inspirational tales of healing from disease, against all the odds.

These narratives are central to the author’s life—and to many readers’ lives. But the themes they rest on are common enough that the competition is fierce. Unless the story is extremely unusual, it is unlikely to catch the attention of distant readers.

I say “distant readers,” because these stories are often very compelling to those who already know the author. Every one of us is a “mini-celebrity”—famous within our own circle. If you have a growing audience, self-publishing your story of trial or triumph may be a great way to engage the audience you already have.

But unless your story is so dramatic it’s made the local (or even better, national) news, my experience is that you’ll have a hard time finding a home with a big publishing company.

Category #3: The Novel-Like Memoir

Bestselling Examples:

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander

The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah


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