Everyone has a story to tell. Sometimes that story can make a fantastic book. If you’re writing a memoir, one of the greatest challenges you face isn’t writing the story, but the feedback you receive after others have read it. When the stories are personal, any negative feedback can feel like a punch to the gut.
For this reason, many fantastic memoirs have been written, but never published. If you’ve written your memoirs and would like to see them in print, then here’s how to publish them so people besides your family and friends will be able to give them a good read.
#1. Give your memoirs one more once-over to correct anything.
There are three factors that make up a good memoir today. The voice you use in your story must be distinctive. The events of your life, the characters you’ve included, and the key scenes with the right voice will stand out. You’re not just telling people about yourself. You’re creating a memorable event for a reader so they can’t put the book down.
This means there must also be a premise to your memoirs. They must stand out from all of the other life stories that have been written in some way. Make your story unique and compelling.
Then you need to have a platform. There must be some way for a reader to be able to draw a connection to you. This doesn’t mean you have to be famous. You just need to have some life component that has common ground with the reader, like where you work, where you live, or even the hobbies you enjoy.
#2. Put as much focus into your query letter as you do into your memoirs.
Whether you’re contacting a literary agent or you’re contacting a publisher directly, the query letter must be as fresh and unique as your memoirs. Put your personality into that letter. Make it come to life. Be aggressive and confident, but don’t be egotistical and arrogant. Create a short description of your memoirs so that it makes people pay attention to what you’ve written because they’ve gotten a sense of who you are and want to read more.
#3. Never assume that people know who you are.
Even if you are famous, there are going to be people who don’t really know who you are. Remember: everyone who has written a memoir feels like their story is interesting and deserves to be published. People don’t know your background. People might not want to hear a detailed description of everything that has happened to you. Give your queries some definition by inserting the same kind of story arc that you did within your memoirs.
#4. No one wants to know to whom you’ve given your memoirs.
When making a query to a publisher, don’t discuss who has read your memoirs already. Many will talk about how the local book club has reviewed their story or how a teacher is using the memoirs for students. Publishers don’t know these people. They don’t know that you’ve actually given your memories to these people. It has no meaning to them and could cause them to reject the idea of publishing a memoir.
#5. You’ve been rejected by a traditional publisher… now what?
You’ve written query letters to an agent or a publisher and received dozens of rejection letters. Now what? You can decide to self-publish your memoirs. Assuming the above steps have already been taken, this process is about as easy as finding the right publisher to meet your needs. You’ve got several options available to you today. From print-on-demand to boutique printing, you can put your memories into print in a way that allows you to sell things on your level.
Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of companies that are engaged in the self-publishing business. You can also search for local companies or publishers that specialize in printing memoirs if you prefer.
#6. Finalize your plans.
Whether you get a publishing deal or you decide to self-publish your memoirs, the final step of the process is to finalize your book. Go through all of the proofs to sign off that everything meets your standards. Give your story another edit if you can [or request the publisher give it one] to limit typos that might be present. Clear your schedule so that you can begin promoting your book. Coordinate with your publisher to attend events as needed.
Publishing your memoirs, after all, is just the second step in the process. Writing your memoirs was the first step. Selling your memoirs is the final step.
Knowing how to publish a memoir means writing a good query letter if you approach literary agents or publishers. It means having a polished story. It means finding a self-publisher that meets your needs if that is that path you wish to walk down. When you follow these steps, you’ll be able to put something into print that many are going to enjoy reading.