If you have ever thought about writing your memoir, Do It. Don’t do it to get rich, I can almost guarantee you it will cost more than you’ll receive in royalties. But each of us has had unique experiences that are worth sharing. And even if some of those experiences are very similar the way we reacted to them and how we prioritize them is even more interesting. And sharing those things can make us better not only as individuals but as a society.
I have learned from writing mine and reading a lot of memoirs that we all have a story to tell. And that story is often uplifting, inspirational, and provides a certain sense of comfort in the fact that we are not alone. Sometimes it just helps to read how we all have struggles throughout our lives. Your experiences and missteps can often help guide someone you probably don’t even know to a better path. Many of our stories are similar, but how we prioritize them and tell them are unique. And because of that, they will impact different readers in varying degrees and ways.
The advent of Amazon, first and foremast, as a book seller changed the dynamic of getting a book published overnight. It made it possible for anyone with a few hundred extra dollars to join the ranks of published authors. I am sure there are some “published” authors who look down their noses at my efforts and those of other self-published authors. But the old way, of a few publishers deciding who was worthy, created this new industry through the pent up demand to be heard. And when I realize what it would have meant to me if I could have read a book my great great grandfather had written, I am thrilled with delight thinking of future generations of grandchildren, hopefully several times over, distant nieces and nephews I might touch with my book.
I read a lot of memoirs, and recently finished reading two self-published memoirs, “Nike-From Trauma to Triumph” by Nike Greene and “My Million Dollar Journey” by Pasty Wurster. Along with Chasten Buttigieg’s” I Have Something to Tell You”. All three were unexpected in style and content and riveting reads. Ms Greene’s book takes you , surprisingly very clinically, though a young bi-racial girl’s more often than not tragic childhood to become a Pastor, Licensed Family Councilor, and founder of an innovative nonprofit that helping young women of color see the brighter future Nike’s story offers.
I chanced on Ms Wurster book because of a family connection, it’s also the story of a troubled childhood, but is much more graphic in describing the painful events that traumatized her and her journey out of the hole they created. That journey was led by her faith and she does a truly remarkable job of guiding us through all the steps that lead her to a meaningful life.
You may recognize Chasten Buttigieg’s name, he’s Secretary of Transportation and Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg’s spouse. I am sure Chasten got a sizable advance to write the book, not because he was an accomplished writer but because he is well known. Being famous doesn’t mean you’re a better writer than someone else or that your story is more interesting. But it does make it easier to sell books. I don’t know about you, but I have started some mind numbingly bad memoirs by celebrities. That’s just one example why there is nothing to be ashamed of by self-publishing. That said his book is fascinating, it is a frank and honest look at what it’s really like growing up gay in Middle America. The trauma we inflict on ourselves and on those that are different than us is heart wrenching. He’s not nearly as eloquent a writer as Michele Obama but the raw honesty is truly remarkable and moving.
These are just a few examples you might want to consider before you start telling your story. And there are thousands more out there waiting to inspire you. But the most important thing is tell the world and the next generations how you made your life work.
Finally, a few words about the self-publishing process. You’ll be amazed at the size of the industry out there. Some of them are really trying to help newbies; others are only in it for the buck. There are three types of help you may want to consider, editors, technical help, and promoters. As for the editors, I hired one, but I really needed the help. If you have a couple of friends who read a lot between the two of them they can probably do a very respectable job. There are errors in almost anything printed and it’s not the end of the world if your story has one or two mistakes. Even with an editor I managed to go to print labeling my introduction as a “Forward” instead of a “Foreword”. It probably didn’t help in any contest I entered, but it does serve as a plausible excuse why. It had no effect on the story I was telling, or how many copies I sold.
My advice is stay away from anyone who tells you they can help you sell a lot more copies, it’s not going to happen. If it was going to sell enough copies to make a difference in your life, they would buy it from you and publish it themselves. Some will promise to make you a number one seller on Amazon for a very brief period. It will be for a few minutes, and only be in a specific category, and their trick is the more obscure the category the better your chances of hitting number 1. If that makes your socks go up and down, weigh that against the cost. I have a screen shot of “Going Full Circle” going top 5 for a brief moment. Looking back it wasn’t worth the $1500.
I have grandchildren in college so it is understandable that I am not a techy. Designing the cover and inputting the book into the publishing programs was also something I paid to have done. I suspect my children and grandchildren would save those fees by doing it themselves. People also, create websites for their book and record videos, but the truth is the chances, if you have to pay for them, of them having a positive return on that investment are pretty slim.
Finally, instead of just using Amazon to sell the books I thought I might sell a lot of copies in the town my story took place (I sold a handful in the local book store), and maybe directly through book signing and other promotions. So I also went to the expense of having a book publisher print my books. It was a waste of money. For what it cost I could have paid Amazon retail for the books I actually sold that way, and still saved money. My advice is to ask friends and family for help and do it as cheaply as possible. Because the truth there are an awful lot of pretty good books being created every day, and not that many book readers or buyers. But in the end if you ever get discouraged about the process think of the wonderful smile you’ll put on the the face of a future young child when they discover a book about and written by someone they are actually related to.