In my last post I discussed some tips for getting your memoir down on paper. Today I’d like to talk about how to increase your chances of getting it published.
First, I’d like to say that these tips can apply to either self-publishing or mainstream publishing. In many aspects, the rules of the game are the same. Even though you don’t have to beg and fight for a publisher to get your work into print if you self-publish, either way you’ll find yourself doing the majority of the publicity for your book.
1. Find your book’s unique hook . This is similar to determining how to differentiate your memoir from all the others that have your same theme as you’re endeavoring to write your book. But when it comes to presenting your memoir to a publisher or marketing it after it’s published, it’s essential that you are able to pinpoint how and why your book is different from your competition. Otherwise, you have no way of making it stand out on the shelves or on the pages of Amazon.com. Again, find the unique angle your book has, and market toward that. Make sure your potential audience knows exactly why your book is different–and better–than the others as they read the back cover.
2. Make sure it has universal appeal. While on one hand your memoir needs to have a fresh, unique angle and hook, at the same time it must contain a universal theme. If your story is so different that only 1% of the population could relate to it, publishers will know that sales will be slim. Here the key is to hone in on how your unique story can be made to appeal to a variety of readers.
If you’re having a hard time locating its universal theme, keep backing up from your story to determine how best to generalize it. When you boil your story down, what is it really about–what’s the root? Is it a divorce story? Is it a get-rich-quick story? Ask yourself what underlying currents are in your story that a majority of people can relate to. Then, make sure this comes through in your proposal, or in your book’s marketing material, if you’re self-publishing.
3. Plan ahead for a platform. An author’s platform is the buzzword in book marketing nowadays. Because memoirs are personal stories, unless your readers already know you (or of you), who would be interested in hearing your story? It’s your job to create a buzz not only for your book but also for yourself. You do this by establishing a platform for yourself (and therefore your book) long before the book gets published.
You can do this through websites, blogs, writing articles about your topic, or having speaking engagements. The more people you can get in front of on a regular basis who represent your target audience, the better chances you have of catching a publisher’s attention. But platforms don’t magically materialize overnight. It takes time to build a platform for yourself, so start early!
4. Get objective critiques. No matter what you write, you should always have it go through a critiquing process. I believe memoirs should be subjected to even more rigorous critiquing than other work. Because you are so up-close and personal with your memoir, it can be very difficult to look at it objectively. As writers, we tend to see what we want to see–especially when the story is about us! Many people who write a memoir will show it to their family and friends to get their opinion. This is fine, but definitely don’t stop there. Because they know you, they’ll be as subjective as you are!
Take your memoir to people who don’t know your personal story. Find out if you really have a story to share. Make sure it’s interesting to those who don’t know you. And determine if you’ve done a good job at telling your story. Only then will you know if it has any potential with publishers; or, if you’re self-publishing, if people will actually buy it.