So what memoirs get picked up?

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RunWrite

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I know its all about the writing, unless you are a celebrity, and I can't edit my life, but memoirs seem so popular and yet so difficult to land. Are certain topics more popular? Certain experiences?
 

veinglory

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As a reader it seems to me that the memoirs that get picked up are mainly those of people who had very interesting lives, whether they are famous or not.
 

sense

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I know its all about the writing, unless you are a celebrity, and I can't edit my life, but memoirs seem so popular and yet so difficult to land. Are certain topics more popular? Certain experiences?

Just my impression: seems like abuse/dysfunction/bad luck stories that get picked up are written with a lot of dark humor where the writer is simply wickedly funny. it helps to be relevant to a particular current event or social issue that is "in vogue." seems people like adventure/travel/foreign culture aspects. finally, there's that one where the little kid almost died and swears he saw the light and met jesus or something.
 

shaldna

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I know its all about the writing, unless you are a celebrity, and I can't edit my life, but memoirs seem so popular and yet so difficult to land. Are certain topics more popular? Certain experiences?

There are two main groups of memoir that do well - celebrity memoir and tragic lives.


Just my impression: seems like abuse/dysfunction/bad luck stories that get picked up are written with a lot of dark humor where the writer is simply wickedly funny.

Not really.

There are some which are written that way, but many aren't. Mainly because most people don't find abuse funny.
 

RunWrite

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I'm seeing a number of agents who say on their websites no abuse memoirs. Mine isn't about abuse, so it doesn't affect me, but it does make me wonder about such categorical trends. I see plenty of memoirs in bookstores in which nothing much happens either than "growing up in the 70s," or something like that.
 

Bubastes

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For a while, I saw a lot of "1-year stunt memoirs" (like eating local for a year, not buying anything made in China for a year, testing happiness theories for a year, etc.). I'm not sure if that trend is still holding, though.
 

sense

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Not really.

There are some which are written that way, but many aren't. Mainly because most people don't find abuse funny.

I wouldn't say those books are poking fun at abuse. I would say the humor is medicinal.
 

shaldna

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I'm seeing a number of agents who say on their websites no abuse memoirs. Mine isn't about abuse, so it doesn't affect me, but it does make me wonder about such categorical trends. I see plenty of memoirs in bookstores in which nothing much happens either than "growing up in the 70s," or something like that.

Abuse memoirs, or 'tragic lives' as Waterstones calls them, are a huge part of the memoir genre, so much so that they often have their own sections in bookstores - they usualyl have a white cover, and commonly there are photos of children and teddy's with sad, reflective titles.

memoirs in generally are a pretty hard sell unless they fall into the abuse or celebrity category. That said, these things come in waves and sometimes memoirs about certain things become popular - there was a phase for holiday rep/seasonal worker memoirs a couple of years back, and as someone else said upthread, experimental memoirs were popular for a while.

But generally most people just aren't interesting enough for other people to want to read about their lives, which is why you usually have to be someone famous or have a really, really great and unusual story to tell.

EDIT : I'm seeing a growing trend in spiritual /enlightment style memoirs and also a lot of 'hope' memoirs about overcoming personal hurdles too.
 
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Ruth2

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And then there are travel memoirs, which may be a different fish altogether.
 

Bushrat

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Mine is about living in Canada's wilderness, and I found an agent for it very fast. Still haven't got a publisher, but only two rejections so far - it's not "adventurous" enough (I refuse to feed the myth that living in the bush is terribly dangerous and that bears are out to get you).
 

Bushrat

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Mine is about living in Canada's wilderness, and I found an agent for it very fast. Still haven't got a publisher, but only two rejections so far - it's not "adventurous" enough (I refuse to feed the myth that living in the bush is terribly dangerous and that bears are out to get you).

I finally found a publisher for it :D The funny thing is, they actually approached me--I write for one of their travel magazines (they've only expanded into book publishing now), and a few weeks ago they emailed me and asked if I'd be up to writing a book about living in the bush; they'd like to publish it.

So I was able to whip out my slightly dusty wilderness memoir--and they love it :snoopy: It'll come out next fall with a few new chapters and lots of colour photos :partyguy: *faints*
 

Siri Kirpal

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Wow, Bushrat! That's wonderful! :hooray:

You're something like the third memoirist I've heard about this year whose sold a book directly to a good publisher, who tried the agent route and didn't make it that way. Looks like there's hope for us all!

:)

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Bushrat

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Thanks so much :) There's totally hope out there--I sure know it feels like everybody else is getting contracts while your own manuscript starts growing mould and fungi, and things begin to look bleak and hopeless.
I wrote this sucker over three years ago (and actually took it off the market for the past year and a half), but in the end it "only" has to hit the right desk at the right time. Keeping my fingers crossed for everybody else!!!
 

Siri Kirpal

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Thanks. I'll definitely take those crossed fingers!

Let us know when the book comes out.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Literateparakeet

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Congrats Bushrat! That's terrific!

RunWrite, I have one word for you "platform". It's not all about the writing, at least not with non-fiction. If you don't have a decent size platform (one agent says at least 1,000 followers of some sort). The writing won't matter. I've seen many agent guidelines that mention that platform as a must, and even those that don't mention it appear to prefer it.

Notice that Bushrat, writes articles for a magazine, that publisher produces. I've read that for a non-fiction writer, writing for magazines is a great way to establish a platform.

Another writer her (can't think of her name, real or screen name) but she writes non-fiction parenting books. I think she has a huge platform (especially compared to mine) and she has been told that her platform isn't big enough. :(

Platform, platform, platform.
 

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