Do people care about the life of someone they don't know?

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Paula

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Hello fellow writers.
I've written a book that collects a groups of stories from my life, from childhood to adulthood. All the stories are about relationships with men, be them relationships that actually happened or relationships that "almost" happened or were mostly imagined. They are a series of humorous, sad, insane stories, that I wrote as a memoir.
But I've been putting it off, looking for publication for this one, because I just don't know: will people buy and read memoirs by "regular folks" (= not famous)?
Authors like Chelsea Handler, Jenny McCarthy, Tina Fay sell like hotcakes, but I believe it's not only because they're funny ladies, but because they're famous and we want to know more about them.
My question goes out to all of you: Do you think agents take on memoirs by people who are not famous, if they are well written and funny/gripping enough?

Thank you all.
Paula
 

itsmary

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Have you ever read Angela's Ashes? Great example of a memoir written by someone who wasn't famous when it was published but became well-known because of it.
 

rebekahmichel

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There are plenty of examples of this. I personally have read memoirs from people who were unheard of before they were published and enjoyed them just as much as the ones from famous people. Some examples? Augusten Burroughs has a series of memoirs he wrote about his strange childhood. Jeanette Walls has a book called Glass Castle about her father who dreamed of building a glass castle and dragged their family across the country pursuing his dreams. I find them fascinating. Maybe because I can relate.

That said, the market is saturated right now with memoirs, it certainly isn't easy to get published if you are a nobody (like me). I've sent query letters to hundreds of agents, got a few requests for sample chapters and then heard nothing back. I'm not giving up hope though!

Good luck with your book:)
 

DarthPanda

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Hello fellow writers.
My question goes out to all of you: Do you think agents take on memoirs by people who are not famous, if they are well written and funny/gripping enough?

Thank you all.
Paula

Two words: reality television


There are dozens and dozens of reality shows out now about non-famous people. Exterminators, alligator hunters, small town security officers, aspiring actors/artists/musicians/dancers/cooks/designers/whatever, floozies and drunks, pretty people, ugly people, wannabes and has-beens, people buying wedding dresses, people going to court for smashed maillboxes or late rent, people getting divorces, teen moms, pageant moms... Think of all the dating shows that have been on in the last 20+ years.

Yeah, if it's entertaining enough, people will be into it.
 

Meaganmm

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I think more than entertainment, though, a memoir has to have a connection to the reader. A theme, like overcoming adversity, getting over the death of a parent, finding a new love after your husband dies, getting sober -- things that will connect with real people.
It's not enough to say that you grew up in a suburb, learned to ride a bike, worried about getting into college, lost your virginity, waited tables for a while and then got married and had two kids. Who cares? Everyone has been through similar things. What makes it difference is the story of what you learned: What did you take away from all of those things that makes the journey worthwhile?
That's what the whole point of a memoir is: A small slice of your life, usually a short timespan, where you went through a hardship, overcame it, and learned a lesson that applies to everyone.
Otherwise, it's just a diary.
 

Purple Rose

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I think more than entertainment, though, a memoir has to have a connection to the reader. A theme, like overcoming adversity, getting over the death of a parent, finding a new love after your husband dies, getting sober -- things that will connect with real people.
... That's what the whole point of a memoir is: A small slice of your life, usually a short timespan, where you went through a hardship, overcame it, and learned a lesson that applies to everyone.
Otherwise, it's just a diary.

Exactly this. I wrote a memoir, believing it to be a good story. No one in the US was interested, although all my US editors thought it would sell. Although it is largely based in Singapore, there were many references to make it relevant to an American audience.

I finally found a highly regarded indie publisher based in Singapore who thought it was well-written and a great story. He will launch the book later this month.

Although it is a memoir about my struggle with bipolar disorder while leading a seemingly charmed life, he is categorizing it as Self-help/Depression because that is more likely to sell in the Asian market.

So yes, there are people who will read it for relevance but also because they believe it is a good story. I just hope they will not be disappointed!
 

Jamesaritchie

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Sure, we care, but the story, and the writing, needs to be extraordinary.
 

Ken

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... if you can get an agent or editor to laugh fairly often while reading your memoir you've got a good chance, I'd say, no matter who you are. G'luck with your project. Sounds neat.
 

Lavinia

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In a word...yes. It must be a compelling story and very well written. But yes, publishers and more important, readers...will read a story about an unknown. When I was writing my memoir, which is largely based on my father and his experience as a code breaker during WWII, he kept saying, 'Oh nobody wants to read the stories of an old man.' He was wrong. Thank God...LOL. Sourcebooks took on my book and it has had great reviews. While it's not a NY Times Bestseller, by any means, I'm told it is doing very well for a debut author who is unknown.

I'd say that the writing has to be excellent - even moreso than a celebrity tell-all. Then, the story itself has to be unique. It has to stand on it's own. Finally, you just need to put yourself out there to find the perfect publisher. It can be done. Believe me! ~Karen
 

profen4

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It needs to be really compelling stuff. I want to read something by someone who has lived a life that you could imagine a movie being made about. That, or someone really famous who you just have an interest in where they came from.
 
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profen4

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When I was writing my memoir, which is largely based on my father and his experience as a code breaker during WWII, he kept saying,

Now that sounds compelling. Adding it to my list. Totally off topic, but have you read TAMAR by Mal Peet? It is a novel about a WWII code breaker. I loved it.

*okay back to topic.*
 
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khobar

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It needs to be really compelling stuff. I want to read something by someone who has lived a life that you could imagine a movie being made about. That, or someone really famous who you just have an interest in where they came from.

There are exceptions, of course. For instance, "Angela's Ashes". Long, long, long book about nothing in particular except poverty in Ireland and the way things were. Hardly compelling subject. Protagonist overcame this by - moving to America. Again, hardly compelling. It might as well have been about the struggles of waking up in the morning and getting out of bed. But - and it's a huge but - the writing makes all the difference in the world.

And then some joker made it into a hack of a movie. Argggg...

;)
 

profen4

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There are exceptions, of course. For instance, "Angela's Ashes". Long, long, long book about nothing in particular except poverty in Ireland and the way things were. Hardly compelling subject. Protagonist overcame this by - moving to America. Again, hardly compelling. It might as well have been about the struggles of waking up in the morning and getting out of bed. But - and it's a huge but - the writing makes all the difference in the world.

And then some joker made it into a hack of a movie. Argggg...

;)

I've heard Angela's Ashes referenced a number of times, but I haven't yet read it. I'll have to remedy that.
 
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Ruth2

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I just picked up Expecting Adam by Martha Beck. It's about two Harvard grads learning they will have a Down Syndrome child. I got solely for the writing style. It's funny and upbeat and a joy to read.

If you can write well, you can live a totally mundane life and people will read your lifestory.
 

Timmy V.

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Hello fellow writers.
I've written a book that collects a groups of stories from my life, from childhood to adulthood. All the stories are about relationships with men, be them relationships that actually happened or relationships that "almost" happened or were mostly imagined. They are a series of humorous, sad, insane stories, that I wrote as a memoir.
But I've been putting it off, looking for publication for this one, because I just don't know: will people buy and read memoirs by "regular folks" (= not famous)?
Authors like Chelsea Handler, Jenny McCarthy, Tina Fay sell like hotcakes, but I believe it's not only because they're funny ladies, but because they're famous and we want to know more about them.
My question goes out to all of you: Do you think agents take on memoirs by people who are not famous, if they are well written and funny/gripping enough?

Thank you all.
Paula

I solely read celebrity and historical biographies and autobiographies until I was forty. I ended up not liking the people very much after I finished. I loved Jeanette Walls and the other regular people memoirs after I finished them.

You have a great idea going there. I'd read it. I'll look for it if you submit it to Share Your Work etc. Good luck.
 

khobar

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I've heard Angela's Ashes referenced a number of times, but I haven't yet read it. I'll have to remedy that.

I had avoided it mainly because I wondered how writing about poverty in Ireland could be worthwhile. I finally broke down and began reading it and what struck me was how easily it transported me back there. Of course the story took place at a much different time to when I was there, but it didn't matter. The voices, inflections, smells, sounds. Perhaps I enjoyed it so much because I had a definite frame of reference.
 

DragonWing

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Good advice already given. Mine would be better define your question.

Do people care? Yeah. The better question might be, would they pay money for it?

That's the one the agent and publisher have to answer.
 

Lavinia

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Profen4 - No, I have not read it. But I'll look into it. Thanks!

Also, a side-note: While I was interviewing my father, I had no idea that's what he did during the war. It all came about because of the process - not the other way around. ~K
 

veinglory

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The memoirs I have read about non-celebrities were by people who had extraordinary or interesting events in their lives. Perhaps what you have is a book about relationships or a self-help book?
 

Leroy

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There are exceptions, of course. For instance, "Angela's Ashes". Long, long, long book about nothing in particular except poverty in Ireland and the way things were. Hardly compelling subject. Protagonist overcame this by - moving to America. Again, hardly compelling. It might as well have been about the struggles of waking up in the morning and getting out of bed. But - and it's a huge but - the writing makes all the difference in the world.

And then some joker made it into a hack of a movie. Argggg...

;)
good point
 

lastdefense

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I think that when people are looking for a memoir they are looking for a story that relates to them - not necessarily if the author is famous or not. I've read a lot of mental health memoirs because that's an issue that's close to me. None were by a celebrity.

I also agree on the writing quality. That, of course, makes a difference too :)
 

names

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Of course since people encounter problems in every step of their lives. Plus, the content doesn't always sell but other factors such as how well written the piece became. I think you'll need to check to see if it works just by having someone earnest read your work, that's the best answer I can come up with. You need experience writing first, showing the results of your working on whatever subject that you decide to you write on. Most people aren't famous or well known. They work to get known through their writing skills. By the way I like memoirs and I think they have a use as a good teaching aid.
 

gingerwoman

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I think that when people are looking for a memoir they are looking for a story that relates to them - not necessarily if the author is famous or not. I've read a lot of mental health memoirs because that's an issue that's close to me. None were by a celebrity.

I also agree on the writing quality. That, of course, makes a difference too :)
Mental health, disability and child abuse memoirs have an audience. If it's not about those things and it's a regular person then.... I dunno. I think you have to at least have a regional flair about it. I think the setting is important here. As someone said Angela's Ashes transported them to Ireland. I think you need to have a very strong setting in addition to funny stories and good writing to hook an agent, but that's just my opinion. There needs to be some additional hook there I suspect.
 

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