Here’s How to Distinguish Your Personal Memoir in a Flooded Market

Though it arrived late to the literary party, personal memoir has made up for lost time. The genre has always existed, of course, but authors like David Sedaris, Mary Karr, Joan Didion, and David Foster Wallace helped make it a market force. Suddenly, you didn’t have to be an ex-president, a retired general, or a celebrated musician to write about your life—rather, you could reflect on your day-to-day successes and failures, from standing in line at Wal-Mart to mourning the death of a loved one. As Harvey Pekar once famously said, “Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.”

Now, agents, editors, and publishers are flooded with personal memoir manuscripts about dysfunctional families, adolescence, love, the suburbs, and addiction, to name just a few common topics. While these stories can be greatly instructive and cathartic for the readers who find them, as far as the publishing market, supply seems to far outweigh demand. Everyone has a story, as they say, and almost as many people are trying to tell theirs.

Therefore, if an agent or editor comes across the words “personal memoir” anywhere in your book proposal, much less the manuscript itself, what they actually read is Please toss this aside.

So if you’ve been writing your own memoir, should you just burn those pages?

Thankfully, no. There is a way in for your book: Your personal memoir just needs to turn its gaze slightly outward—which is something a certified ghostwriter does expertly.

For example, if your memoir is about your painful divorce, consider reframing the book as a self-help manifesto on how to deal with loss—framed around your own experience. If you're writing about leaving your job as an investment banker to teach high school math, then provide some insight into why you felt that move was valuable not just to yourself, but to your students and the community. The book could then be marketed as a work of educational theory, economics, or social activism.

Bottom line: Publishers need to know your book can be marketed as something other than a personal memoir—even if it's very clearly a personal memoir!

A certified ghostwriter can help you focus your book so it gets the serious consideration it deserves in the marketplace. This help extends beyond the actual writing and into marketing, where your certified ghostwriter will tailor your book proposal with a detailed marketing plan that shows publishers your book has a place in the ecosystem of the market.

For more insight into your personal memoir’s place in the publishing market, or to start discussing your project, call (800) 717-3314 or email As always, consultations are free.

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