How to sell more copies of your memoir

There is one goal you need to keep your eye on when positioning your memoir for sale: make others care.

As this is a ginormous topic that has been expertly covered by massive numbers of professionals, allow us to list a number of questions to get you thinking about ways to get others to care.

When answering these questions, consider groups, podcasts, social media influencers, journalism, websites, etc. that would be interested in knowing more about you:

1. What sets you apart? (A characteristic? An event? A series of events? Your sexuality? What are your spiritual beliefs? Who you’re related to? Is there an aspect of your personality that is unique or remarkable?)
For example, you are a survivor of a cult.
2. Where do you live? (Are there groups related to any of the above that are location-based?)
For example, you have juicy stories to tell about life in Fancy City.
3. What do you do for a living? (Are there groups that specialize in your field?)
For example, you’re an athlete.
4. Where do others like you congregate? (Online, in person)
For example, you struggle with addiction.
5. What kind of lifestyle do you live?
For example, you’re in an open relationship.
6. What is your age group?
For example, you have knowledge to pass on to the younger generation or share with a similar generation.
7. Which networks are you already a member of?
For example, in the business world you belong to groups that would relate to your story.
8. What do you do in your spare time?
For example, your story would appeal to the fitness world.
9. Who are your friends and family?
For example, do you have a large network of people willing to spread the word?
10. What struggles have you overcome?
For example, have you overcome abuse, trauma, religious oppression, health challenges?

Now it’s time to do your research. Find out where your people are. Contact them and let them know you can provide content for their group, podcast, social media page, event, etc. Let them know you’ve written a story and you want to share your experiences with their audience.

Good luck!

Why you need an outline for your memoir

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” – Lewis Carroll

Everything has a structure. Our planet. Different countries. A house. A city. Even your DNA.

When writing your memoir, the first thing your ghost should establish with your assistance is a solid outline.

Why?

Let’s face it. When you have a good connection with an experienced listener, you’re going to want to talk. Even the shyest clients open right up with an empathetic ghost listening. But if those heart-to-hearts aren’t leading somewhere specific, you could be facing a long haul of unnecessary work.

Endless writing.
Endless revisions.
Endless deletions.
Endless editing.

Every ghost has had a client who wanted “to let it flow.” Sounds great in theory, but it’s a very sloppy way to deliver a finished manuscript anytime soon. Out of 62 books, we’ve had two clients who were difficult to reign in. They had one idea. Then halfway through the book, they decided to change lanes. Or they became comfortable enough to deliver some pretty big reveals we needed to know at the beginning.

You might think that outline means to include all the details of your life from start to finish. That would be an autobiography, while a memoir can be any slice of your life. Regardless of which type of book your ghost is writing for you, there must be structure and it must have some entertainment value.

Does that surprise you?

Consider the outline (autobiography or memoir) to be the DNA of your story. To make it entertaining, let’s look at a typical entertainment outline. It may sound counterintuitive to follow a “Hollywood” example. However, as consumers of knowledge and experience, we are subconsciously conditioned to expect the following outline from books, TV series and movies:

Three Acts
Five Turning Points
Six Stages

Your ghost should know this, and draw your story out according to this structure. The acts, turning points and stages should become your table of contents.

Let’s take Imaginary Client, Liz, and prepare a typical entertainment outline for her memoir. Liz wants her ghost to write out Liz’s childhood to the age of 18.
Stage One: family is intact

Act One: Dad dies.

Chapter One: Age five. Dad dies, Mom inherits a huge life insurance policy (turning point)
Chapter Two: Living circumstances begin to change dramatically. Life becomes upscale.

Stage Two: massive change is life circumstances

Chapter Three: Moving to a mansion (turning point). Owning horses. Lessons: music, riding, tutoring.

Act Two: Mom remarries.

Stage Three: new family members

Chapter Four: Age seven. Mom remarries (turning point). New stepfather. New siblings.

Chapter Five: Adjustments. Struggles with how to allocate money.

Stage Four: Drama (this is the high point of the story)

Chapter Six: Stepfather and new family is… not so good.

Stage Five and Act Three: Mom loses all the money.

Chapter Seven: Through nefarious means, new family jilts mom out of money (turning point).
Chapter Eight: Divorce. Moving from mansion. No more lessons (turning point).

Stage Six: Mom and Liz learn how to survive.

Chapter Nine: Life goes on. Mom and Liz survive.

Chapter Ten: Liz earns a scholarship and prepares to go to college.

Epilogue: Tie all the loose ends together.

You must plan how your book is going to sell even before it’s written and this comes down to the outline, the most important part of the book.

Have questions about how to structure your memoir? Contact us!

How Writing as Personal Therapy Can Lead to a Memoir

No doubt you’ve heard it before:

“You should write a book.”

When I was a child, I read a book by Richard Bach in which he said the only way for the creator of the universe to experience all there was to experience was to create enough people to live out all the varieties of possibilities. One person and one lifetime wouldn’t be enough to do it all, see it all, live it all. The concept stuck with me all these years, coloring the way I look at the things people do, as well as the things that just happen.

Since we’re all living different lives and experiencing different ways of being, we like to know the stories of others: this is how we experience humanity. It’s obvious how stories help a reader, but how does sharing our stories help a writer?

In many ways, I’ve discovered.

From the age of 10, I was a diarist. My adult writing led to a more in-depth analysis of my personal experiences. My posts then became noticed by others who could relate. This led to friendships, deeper self-analysis, refined writing skills, noticing my part of humanity, and the subsequent desire to transcribe crucial parts of my life into a book which became Overlay: A Tale of One Girl’s Life in 1970s Las Vegas.

Alleviating Loneliness
The paragraph above took over thirty years to happen. The relevant part of this article is that writing was a form of personal therapy for me, which led to a career in memoirs. Writing was the only therapy available to me as a child. My diary was where I confessed everything I could not tell another. On the pages, I poured my feelings about my life and my hopes and dreams for a better existence than the one I was living. Putting my thoughts and feelings into a collection of words made it real: this happened, this is how I felt, and this is how I wanted things to be different. I didn’t need another human to hear me or read my words. Creating the diary entries was enough. I felt great relief after each scribbled page. The pages were proof of my existence and how I learned to tell a story.

Analyzing Confessions
My childhood diaries morphed into teenage journalling. The stakes grew as the self-analysis went deeper. The choices I made as a teen took me from the victimhood I felt as a child subjected to my parent’s choices to the realization that my teenage choices were my own – with subsequent consequences. As a teenage journalist, I learned to see how those choices played out in my life. Rereading the journals was a great way to keep me on track. That choice didn’t work out so well, I could later see as I promised myself to do it differently next time. Patterns became more clear in reviewing what I’d written, including my patterns, as well as those of other people. I learned to be honest. There was no sense in confession and subsequently analyzing cause and effect if I wasn’t honest with myself.

Shared Understanding
With the internet came the opportunity to create a blog. Blogging became a powerful way for me to discuss my experiences publicly. With each post grew the ability to interact with others. These others were strangers, and we learned we had things in common. We were of different ages, genders, and nationalities, but they could relate to what I discussed on my blog. Then they began sharing their experiences with me. Together we realized we were not alone in our struggles. No matter the written confession: abuse, neglect, addiction, single-parenting, divorce—there was someone out there who understood. In fact, there were many who understood, and far more than I could have imagined.

When I heard/read ‘you should write a book’ enough times, I wrote one. I spent three weeks writing feverishly until I’d completed the first draft of my memoir. All my earlier training as a diarist, journalist, and blogger shaped and honed my ability to write a compelling memoir.

How?

My time spent easing my childhood loneliness taught me how to express my feelings. Rather than keep them inside, the pouring of my thoughts and emotions onto a page trained me to discuss what was troubling me. There was no sense in hiding my thoughts and feelings from myself. Years of journaling helped refine my skill at self-analysis. By learning how to examine where my choices led me, I could write a memoir that did not indulge in self-pity or recrimination. I simply told a story exactly as I remembered it.

My years of blogging and interacting with others endowed me with an insight into what others might think and feel about similar experiences. This knowledge helped me shape my final draft of Overlay into a form I felt would appeal to others. I believe this appeal is because I spent so much time writing as personal therapy. I could craft a memoir that was straightforward and lacked pity and blame. I’d worked all the feelings, emotions, thoughts, and blame out years before in prior writing. Overlay can now exist as a powerful story that stands on its own, rather than a whispered, unsure confession of the not-yet-healed.

Should I write my own memoir?

The quick answer is no.

Unless you’re a professional writer.

The most important step in writing a memoir will differentiate the story everyone has inside them from a professionally written memoir: hire other professionals to do what they do best.

Start the process by imagining your memoir, thinking of the draft you will prepare as the fun part of planning a memoir. It’s where you get to present your ideas about how you think your story will progress. Think is the key word, as you will undoubtedly make some changes along the way.

Consider this mental draft a rough sketch of how you plan your story to be. Don’t be afraid to dream: your draft is your private playground where no bullies exist, and you will win every game, run the fastest, and be chosen first for every team. This is your field of victory, so be wild, go big and lay it all out there.

Next, hire professionals to fine-tune your work of art, including:

Interviewer/writer
Developmental/content editor
Line editor
Proofreader
Cover designer
Formatter
Publisher
Marketer

Each professional on the list above specializes in their field. They know best how to design and package the material that makes up your life story. Chances are that you’ll only write your memoir once, so you may as well go for it and hire the best.

We are happy to write your book for you—soup to nuts—or provide the specific professionals above as needed. Reach out and let us see how we can be of service!Partner-With-Birthright-Books-To-Write-Your-Story-Your-Way

Story Structure

Every story has five primary ingredients. While you may hear this for the first time, you know
via conditioning by Hollywood what to expect to see in a story.

1. Character: a protagonist and an antagonist;

2. Conflict: what would happen if …

3. Scene: the setting where the action expresses the conflict;

4. Overall Structure: 3 acts, which include the beginning, the middle, and the end;

5. Theme: the point–which is usually deduced at the end.

Let’s briefly dive into each element of story structure.

First, you must have powerful characters which include a sympathetic protagonist and a
challenging antagonist.

Today’s stories usually include an ally for each, and a love interest for the protagonist.
I generally introduce the protagonist right in the beginning, and it’s around this character that you
will build all the action.
Your protagonist is your hero who performs the actions and undergoes the experiences that
create the story’s conflict. Your audience needs to know what the protagonist is about,
understand their motivation, and experience their growth as they move through the story.
You also need a challenging and worthy antagonist to act against the protagonist, as the conflict
created between the two moves the drama forward and keeps your reader engaged. As with the
protagonist, your audience also wants to understand who and what the antagonist is and
experience their changes as the story progresses.
The antagonist does not need to be a specific villain.
In Overlay and Angela’s Ashes, for example, the antagonist is
alcoholism or addiction, and secondarily, poverty and mental illness.
I expressed the antagonists through the characters, as there were several primary alcoholic
characters such as my father, mother, stepfathers, etc. as did Frank McCourt through his father. Tim Green’s antagonist was being parentless and growing up in foster care and how he developed specific survival patterns to survive.

The second element of a story is conflict.

Expect to see some level of conflict in every scene. There are two key questions to ask to see
how you are expressing conflict:

“What would happen if X or Y happened?”
“What would happen if the person in my book faces a crisis?”
In Overlay, the young protagonist, me, faces the crisis of her parent’s continuing alcoholism, and
the variety of problems created by their addiction. The protagonist versus the family alcoholism
is the conflict, and all the other conflicts are just the myriad of awful misfortunes because of the
primary conflict.
The same pattern is in Angela’s Ashes.

Third, you must have scenes, rather than one long vomit.

We need difficulties to keep us engaged.
The scene is where the action expresses the conflict. Scenes can also be called ‘the stage within
the stage,’ where conflict occurs between characters.
Each scene, or unit, should ideally follow a specific pattern:
● Set in a particular place which is essential to dramatizing the story;
● Has a beginning, a middle, and an end;
● The beginning places a character in a setting with an obstacle;
● In the middle, the character deals with growing complications of the obstruction;
● We extract the character from the scene with a hook to the next scene.
The adage for constructing a scene is:
Act one, get your character up a tree
Act two, throw stones at them
Act three, get them down.
In Another Hill, author Tim Green must confront the reality of his second foster home, which
places him up the tree. The stones thrown at him are the various challenges of living in foster
care with a revolving door of 14 brothers and sisters. Getting down from the tree is aging out of
the system and moving on to college. Each scene must have a beginning, middle, and end.

Fourth, you must have structure throughout the entire story as well.

The logical structure that must exist in a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, or what we
often call the three acts. Again, this is the structure of the book itself.
Act 1: Introduce the protagonist and their weak spot, which should hook the reader. Some
authors start with a flashback. The Glass Castle opens in this way as the adult protagonist,
Jeannette Walls, is in a taxi and looks out the window and sees her mother digging through the trash. She then transitions into telling the story of her childhood.
The first act should get our attention immediately, as you establish your protagonist in a forward
direction and an antagonist who will become the obstacle. Bring them together in a scene that
turns the protagonist away from his obstacle. In Overlay, I established myself as a young child in
a home with a mother who doesn’t pay attention to my drunk father or me.
Act 2: The setup is complete once you hook the audience into the protagonist’s situation. Next,
you challenge the protagonist with a mission–which all too often in a memoir is to survive the
antagonist’s obstacles.
The mission includes all the crazy-making that happens in a memoir — the roller-coaster ride of
mayhem and stuff that children in unstable homes experience. Act 2 ends when you’ve brought
your characters to the climax point–where all is resolved.
In Another Hill, Tim Green, after having lost so many dear friends to AIDS, accepts his HIV
status and begins medical treatment.
In Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt has finally saved enough money to get the heck out of Ireland
and moved to New York City.
Act 3: Conclude the mission decisively in a satisfying way. Note: this does not mean a happy
ending, but it should be interesting.
This climax should satisfy the audience’s expectations for a conclusive ending, whether happy or
tragic.
In Overlay, my parents do not stop drinking, so the antagonist isn’t beat. However, my character
leaves home and moves to California, and that’s where the story ends. Same with Angela’s Ashes,
as Frank McCourt ends his memoir having moved to New York.

Finally, you must have a theme.

The theme is the moral or the takeaway from the story, which is revealed once we know how the
story ends. There are the typical themes that are revealed once you resolve the conflict. We
expect happy endings, but most of us know that won’t be the case.