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View Full Version : Blogs, reality TV... why not memoirs?



JennaGlatzer
08-08-2005, 04:51 AM
Was just thinking, with all the interest in watching reality TV (peeking into "real people's" lives) and reading blogs (peeking into "real people's" lives), why not an upsurge in the public's interest in reading memoirs?

I have a guess, but I want to see what others think first.

mommie4a
08-08-2005, 05:50 AM
The first thing that came to my mind was...because they are edited. By which, I think I mean, they're edited by a profit-making company (aka publisher) for maximum sales potential. Access to most blogs is free, so why pay for edited, cleaned up or hyped up personal dishing?

I don't really know. Looking forward to what you and others think. Plethora of reasons?

Dawno
08-08-2005, 06:50 AM
I don't know any statistics about this (not even sure where to look) but since Jenna says, "why not an upsurge in the public's interest in reading memoirs?" I'll work from the premise that there hasn't been any.

I think the demographic who are fond of reality tv believe what they are watching is "real" and unscripted. They're getting to see things without censorship, etc. A memoir wouldn't appeal to them because they couldn't believe that it hadn't been cleaned up and spun to make the subject look good.

Not so sure the same demographic makes up the majority of blog readers. I can only speak from my own experience that I find a blog I enjoy because it was mentioned somewhere else that I enjoy. (the exception being my friends community at Live Journal) Thus I read "Making Light" because Uncle Jim mentioned it here. From "Making Light" I get links to to other blogs that link me to yet others.

There are also the blogs of a few AW members that are fun to read. These blogs and the ones above, are less about revealing the behind the scenes 'dirt' on the blogger and more about being part of the conversation (comments) by really smart or funny people. That just can't happen in a book. So maybe, like me, that demographic is having more fun with a dynamic flow rather than a static memoir? :Shrug:

JennaGlatzer
08-08-2005, 08:23 AM
Valid thought. Here's my guess...

The premise is based on money, of course. We want to take peeks into people's lives, but we don't want to pay for it. But then why are we willing to pay for other sorts of books?

The general sentiment I've heard from agents and editors is that memoirs from unknown people are so difficult to place because no one's going into a bookstore looking for a memoir from an unknown person. Fair enough. But why? I think it has something to do with the range of the category.

When most people think about their favorite types of books, they can tell you, "I like science fiction," or "I like historical romances," or "I like literary novels" because all of those categories have some kind of expectations... some kind of "rules." Memoir really doesn't.

You don't know if someone's going to piss you off with their religious beliefs or foul language, or whine on for six chapters about something you'd consider minor, or tell a story you can relate to in any way beyond superficially. And they don't lend themselves well to cover descriptions. Sure, you can find out that a memoir is about recovery from alcoholism or a child's death, or whatever, but what counts in the memoir is more in the writer's telling than in the plot.

So because of that, I think people much prefer to satisfy their quest to understand strangers by reading personal blogs and such, which are free and don't take up any space on the bookshelf or require any real time commitment-- if they think someone is whiny, *click!* Onto the next.

My other part of the theory is that we don't all like to admit that we like this "peeping Tom" behavior... It's like it's okay if we just watch a little reality TV about a guy trying to lose weight or read about the mom whose son is in prison on the computer, but to actually shell out money for stories like these, we're admitting that we value peeking into other people's lives, and that may even bring up guilty feelings that harken to the "never read someone's diary" rules. Even though the "diary" is clearly meant to be read, and we're being invited to read it.

Sometimes I feel like I'm being nervy when I read personal stories... like I'm a paparazzi photographer hiding out in the Dumpster behind someone's house. Like I've gone into territory I shouldn't be allowed into.

I do read memoirs-- more than a lot of people, I'd guess-- but generally on recommendation. I've rarely wandered into a bookstore and sought out the memoir section just to browse. Maybe the recommendation makes me feel like it's okay. Maybe that's the "invitation" I need.

I'm musing on all this because I actually want to read more memoirs, and I want other people to read more memoirs, because I think they're important and I hate that agents and publishers are so reluctant to take them on.

Wait, I have another theory.

Maybe it's the association people have with the word memoir. Maybe people assume that memoirs are all about sad people writing about all the horrible things that happen to them.

Maybe one day I'll write a book titled "Hi: I'm a Happy Memoir."

Okay, more thoughts, please. ;)

OneTeam OneDream
08-08-2005, 09:10 AM
I'm musing on all this because I actually want to read more memoirs, and I want other people to read more memoirs, because I think they're important and I hate that agents and publishers are so reluctant to take them on.



Okay, more thoughts, please. ;)


Hey Jenna, as soon as I can get over that reluctant agent/publisher hump, I'll help you in your goal to read more memoirs, I'll send you a free copy of mine. :hi:

JennaGlatzer
08-08-2005, 01:38 PM
Cool! Ya promise?

Nateskate
08-08-2005, 06:31 PM
I'm re-writing my answer, because I think I misunderstand the question? Are you refering to a memoirs forum or just the general subject of interest in the topic?

I think the subject in general is of interest to everybody. As far as the reality t.v vs memoirs, one format seems to work extremely well, while the other is inconsistent- that's a great question.

My guess is that in t.v, given the situations or combinations of people, the viewer is certain they will find drama.
"The sureal life" has no topics of interest. They just choose potentially explosive personalities, and create situations to cause combustion. But you also have a remote control in hand in case you are bored.

With a book, you are investing money that could go to another book, so you need to know up front, "What sets this life apart from others?"

That's why the memoirs of famous people do better, especially the story of controversial people. Their lives are drama,and people want a to hear the dirt, or the behind the scenes stuff.

I didn't care about Howard Hughes' story until I saw the movie. Now, I find him very interesting.

But some people have "A story", like as in "Reader's Digest"- "My day on the Colorado River..." vs. People whose life is a story. But of those who have "A life story", only a relatively small percentage know how to tell it, or they are working out the last chapters much of their life, "Okay, I have a story, but what's the point?" - how I became whole; paying back the abusers...etc.

OneTeam OneDream
08-08-2005, 06:50 PM
Cool! Ya promise?

absolutely, i can't send everyone at AW one, but this would be my way to say "thanks" for all the help i've gotten at AW

Dawno
08-08-2005, 07:43 PM
Jenna said:
*snip*Memoir really doesn't.

You don't know if someone's going to piss you off with their religious beliefs or foul language, or whine on for six chapters about something you'd consider minor, or tell a story you can relate to in any way beyond superficially. And they don't lend themselves well to cover descriptions. Sure, you can find out that a memoir is about recovery from alcoholism or a child's death, or whatever, but what counts in the memoir is more in the writer's telling than in the plot.*snip*

This is very true but it won't stop me from buying memoirs from a certain type of writers. I'll come out and confess that as a Star Trek fan I've bought several of the cast memoirs. Some are fun to read and have great behind the scenes stuff. So with these I sort of know what to expect but the downside is that sometimes the author has used the memoir as a vehicle to ***** and whine about how unfairly they were treated. I have one that is just plain weird. I got the feeling the author was off his meds.

If a SF author wrote a memoir I'd be likely to read it but a 'life story' by an unknown, probably not.

Nateskate
08-12-2005, 05:36 PM
Valid thought. Here's my guess...

The premise is based on money, of course. We want to take peeks into people's lives, but we don't want to pay for it. But then why are we willing to pay for other sorts of books?

The general sentiment I've heard from agents and editors is that memoirs from unknown people are so difficult to place because no one's going into a bookstore looking for a memoir from an unknown person. Fair enough. But why? I think it has something to do with the range of the category.

When most people think about their favorite types of books, they can tell you, "I like science fiction," or "I like historical romances," or "I like literary novels" because all of those categories have some kind of expectations... some kind of "rules." Memoir really doesn't.

You don't know if someone's going to piss you off with their religious beliefs or foul language, or whine on for six chapters about something you'd consider minor, or tell a story you can relate to in any way beyond superficially. And they don't lend themselves well to cover descriptions. Sure, you can find out that a memoir is about recovery from alcoholism or a child's death, or whatever, but what counts in the memoir is more in the writer's telling than in the plot.

So because of that, I think people much prefer to satisfy their quest to understand strangers by reading personal blogs and such, which are free and don't take up any space on the bookshelf or require any real time commitment-- if they think someone is whiny, *click!* Onto the next.

My other part of the theory is that we don't all like to admit that we like this "peeping Tom" behavior... It's like it's okay if we just watch a little reality TV about a guy trying to lose weight or read about the mom whose son is in prison on the computer, but to actually shell out money for stories like these, we're admitting that we value peeking into other people's lives, and that may even bring up guilty feelings that harken to the "never read someone's diary" rules. Even though the "diary" is clearly meant to be read, and we're being invited to read it.

Sometimes I feel like I'm being nervy when I read personal stories... like I'm a paparazzi photographer hiding out in the Dumpster behind someone's house. Like I've gone into territory I shouldn't be allowed into.

I do read memoirs-- more than a lot of people, I'd guess-- but generally on recommendation. I've rarely wandered into a bookstore and sought out the memoir section just to browse. Maybe the recommendation makes me feel like it's okay. Maybe that's the "invitation" I need.

I'm musing on all this because I actually want to read more memoirs, and I want other people to read more memoirs, because I think they're important and I hate that agents and publishers are so reluctant to take them on.

Wait, I have another theory.

Maybe it's the association people have with the word memoir. Maybe people assume that memoirs are all about sad people writing about all the horrible things that happen to them.

Maybe one day I'll write a book titled "Hi: I'm a Happy Memoir."

Okay, more thoughts, please. ;)

I don't see it as "Peeping", except on reality t.v. I can't understand why some people want to show the world they are obtuse, but they love that minute in the spotloght. But a Peeping Tom is someone who ignores a person's boundaries. They are uninvited.

When you have someone telling their life story, they are actually taking you into their sacred space. They are inviting someone into their house, into an inner room, and saying, "I want to tell you my story."

It's sort of like the "Fried Green Tomatoes" woman in the nursing home, who wanted to tell her story, and was glad to find someone who cared.

We all protect our private thoughts and moments to a degree, and it's a risk to tell the world your secrets, and a certain risk for the world to step into your life.

This may sound weird, but when I was sharing elements of my life story, I knew I was risking the embarrassment of standing naked before the school auditormium. And none of us like that feeling. So, you move into motivation. My motivation was never to bare my heart to the people who might snicker, and think, "What a loser..."

Rather, I pictured that small percentage of people who might benefit from my life experience. For their sakes, it was worth the risk of being exposed.

But then I suddenly felt cold, and too exposed, and etch-a-sketch, pulled the story off. But I got feedback in PMs that it did touch some people.

For some a memoir is a cry for help, or a desire for "pity". However, I think for others it's a testimony of hope, and for others it's a mentor/protegee feeling. I feel my life and my experiences count for something, the good and the bad, and I was put here on this world to make a difference.

There's no other way to say what is important to me outside of a context, and that context is the life I've lived.

Richard
08-13-2005, 02:18 AM
Here's my view:

People read blogs, but that's a massive market. Very few people read individual blogs. Unless you're a celebrity already (Neil Gaiman or whoever - 1,944 subscriptions on Bloglines, although that's only a tiny sample), you're probably dealing with a maximum readership of about 500 people. For the most part, personal blogs are quick, easy, and current - they talk about what the person was doing that week, not their experiences growing up, or anything else that memoirs cover, and they're forgotten almost immediately. I really don't see any connection between the two, save that they're both nominally about the writer's life.

Nateskate
08-31-2005, 03:24 PM
Here's my view:

People read blogs, but that's a massive market. Very few people read individual blogs. Unless you're a celebrity already (Neil Gaiman or whoever - 1,944 subscriptions on Bloglines, although that's only a tiny sample), you're probably dealing with a maximum readership of about 500 people. For the most part, personal blogs are quick, easy, and current - they talk about what the person was doing that week, not their experiences growing up, or anything else that memoirs cover, and they're forgotten almost immediately. I really don't see any connection between the two, save that they're both nominally about the writer's life.

Blogs are in their infancy, but I think it's like cellphones and chats for young people. I haven't visited a lot of Blogs, but I visited one, and saw it was linked to dozens of others. Suddenly I found myself intrigued. It's different than telling a life story, because you have them sharing their diaries, and they post pictures. It is more voyueristic because I'm guessing Bloggers are presuming this is for friends and family, and don't realize they are undressing (metaphorically) in public.

Shwebb
09-08-2005, 08:55 PM
I've always been a bio junkie--ever since I was old enough to read a book without pictures. And I've read bios that were really great that were not about famous people. But I'm not that into blogs at all, with few exceptions. (I confess to checking in on Miss Snark's blog from time to time.)

On a side note: would any of you consider David Sedaris to be a memoir writer, and essay writer, or a humor writer?

three seven
09-09-2005, 12:54 AM
Have you considered the possibility that people watch so much reality tv because they're too lazy and/or stupid to read a book?

Dawno
09-09-2005, 01:00 AM
(I confess to checking in on Miss Snark's blog from time to time.)



Me too! She's a hoot. Agent007 is also good to read. And our own Andy Zack has a blog as well, he posted the link in the Ask the Agent thread.

MadScientistMatt
10-08-2005, 12:11 AM
Well, with blogs, I don't normally enjoy reading the sort that are all about details of someone's personal life who I don't even know. I usually find that sort of blog pretty tedious, and I'll bet many of the blogs out there probably have readership levels that would be disasterous for a book.

On the other hand, there are some blogs that I do read on occasion. Usually, it's for insights into some particular business or sort of project. Some others have mentioned Miss Snark's blog - that's one I enjoy reading, along with Agent 007, Torgo's Honest Critiques, and TNH's comments about the book world. Blogs can also be interesting to go to if I want to hear political opinions from virtually any end of the spectrum. However, I suppose most of the blogs that I read are the sort that wouldn't be memoirs if they were in non-fiction - they would probably be in the Business, How-To, or Current Events section at the local bookstore.

expatbrat
12-27-2005, 10:45 AM
People are not reading: born here, lived here, schooled here, first kiss, first boyfriend, first sex, first job, marriage date… boring on and on. Because that is dull.



People are reading plenty of short events and company histories: behind the arches, losing my virginity, Mr China, The Unforgiving Minute, Into the Void, Hi my name Lon you like me, Phar Farang, Lost in Transmission, Holy Cow, Fool in Paradise, Don’t tell mum I work on oil rigs, Beijing Babes are just a few that spring to mind. People love these books.



These memoirs are about a voyage, obstacle or adventure in a short-interesting part of an otherwise normal person’s life. There are huge sections of book stores dedicated to this type of book. But these do not appeal to your reality TV audiences.



If you want to appeal to the reality TV audience who are into “big brother” etc then you need to think about what they want. Look at what they are getting out of reality TV and then ask yourself “how can they get that same feeling/result from a book by me?”



Reality TV is not just looking into normal people’s normal lives. It is putting people in a situation where they (contestant, housemate, D-grade celebrity) are under pressure and blow, make fools of themselves and have trouble coping. Viewers love to hate and love to love their favorites. They love to cheer on those they like but if their favorite stuffs up – cool… they are just as happy to laugh at their fav along with everyone else.



I think a book for the reality TV audience should be like a McDonald’s burger; more fun than good, cheap, fast, and disposable. These viewers are the millions who purchase all the gossip magazines every week (because accuracy is sooo not important). Reality TV requires zero concentration, absolutely no need nor reason to focus. Bit like getting drunk at a party really. Writing targeting these people should be damm easy to read drunk, it should be funny, have lots of pictures with funny captions and it should require zero concentration.

Well that's what I reckon anyways.

DonnaReed
02-03-2006, 01:51 PM
Well there are soap opera junkies, reality tv, junkies, court tv junkies

Junkies being the operative word. They don't have much time for reading.

And there are definitely internet junkies who can't get off the computer long enough to read anything that's not on it.

Then there are folks like me who will do a little memoir-reading, watch the Amazing Race, then get on my computer...*smile*

I'll tell ya...I think if more non-celebrities could get publishing deals, more folks would read them.

Too often the celebrity memoirs are ghost-written (athelete, entertainer).
For example, NY radio celebrity Wendy Williams often refers to herself as an author and she didn't write anything. Karen Hunter wrote her memoirs.

Well, she actually made the NY Times Bestseller list, although I thought the book was extremely dull. I think mainly because it wasn't in her voice.

I love reading about people's lives...just Karen Smith or Joe Blow...
Those work for me.

But there aren't many of those out there, publishing being the classist, sexist, racist industry that it is. We miss a lot of good stuff under the guise that "it won't sell".

So we're stuck with celebrity scandalosity type memoirs.

So to answer your question -

Who knows?

But thanks for allowing me a minute to vent.

:)