The Rising Popularity of Memoirs: Could Your Journal Become a Memoir?

by Emma Crosby

msayocac_fcMemoirs are continuing to increase in popularity amongst the book-purchasing public. In fact, Mark Singel’s memoir, a Year of Change and Consequences became the Sunbury Press Bestseller for November 2016. As interest in pop culture and the cult of celebrity continues to fascinate, it stands to reason that the memoirs of the famous and other public figures will attract mainstream attention. But it is not just the memoirs of the famous that have the potential to hold attention: the personal nature of written memoirs appeals to the natural voyeur inside most of us, and if you have an interesting story to tell, and are prepared to share your first person perspective and insights with a plethora of hungry strangers then it is likely that you will find an audience that want to discover that story. America craves confessionals, and the written memoir appeals to this desire, making it a market that is ripe for would-be writers to explore and make their mark.

Why Are Memoirs so Popular?

We live in a society where conspiracy theories abound, where scandals break in the mass media on a daily basis, and where there is a constant undercurrent that the American public is being lied to: the raw honesty of memoir serves to counterbalance this, and it is thought that this is why the market is growing at such a rapid rate. Ironically, the demand for memoir has become so great, that many novelists are now positioning their fiction to appear as memoir in order to capture an already captivated audience (thus infiltrating a market built on honesty with the perception of unintentional dishonesty) making those producing genuine memoirs in even greater demand.

Making a Memoir

tjcl_fcThe key to writing a good memoir is that it must be authentic and that it must be true: true to your story, true to your voice, and to where you have come from. Memoir enthusiasts can generally tell the difference between a story that is being told in truth and one that is being exaggerated, and for that market a simple truth will always be more appealing that a convoluted lie. Many memoirs begin life as journals that were never necessarily intended to be read by others, which is an interesting dimension shift. Memoirs that begin life in this way often have a raw realism that appeals to the audiences desire for true confessionals: to become a part of someone else’s reality. There are many benefits of writing a journal, besides the potential to turn that journal into a memoir and step onto the path towards fame and fortune.

Journal writing can be a cathartic experience and is often chosen by teens and young adults as a way to express themselves and deal with the confusion of growing up. Other groups use the cathartic nature of journaling, and well as its emotional disengagement, to help them process their thoughts and feelings: individuals in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse, for example, as well as those building a new life away from abusive or damaging relationships. Whilst your journal is unlikely to be publishable in its current form, a journal can be a very useful base for a memoir as reading it can help to jog your memory about your thoughts, feelings and experiences, as well as providing a useful timeline of events for you to continue to refer back to. Journal writing is also a useful way to hone your writing skills and to find your own unique voice: it is recommended as best practice for all would-be writers who have visions of creating their own memoir or other non-fiction work.

As publishers of memoir we have a unique insight into both how and why its authors choose to tell their stories, as well as into what the memoir reading public are looking for from their next bestseller. Memoir is about connections: the reader connects with the writer by understanding their story, building empathy for them, feeling that they have entered their world. In a society where are lives are so busy, and these connections are often left unmade in the wider community, these hair thin bonds become stronger and more important than ever.

Trends in Independent Bookstores Following the Borders Closing

by Emma Thomas

bordersWhen Borders closed three years ago, newspapers like the International Business Times stated that the reason for lack of profit was that “bookstores had become park-like for many, a place to relax and look.” Active buying, it seems was lacking, especially with the e-book boom, which seemingly made reading far more affordable and space-saving (at least while the boom lasted). Stores like Borders, comprising large spaces in prime real estate areas, simply couldn’t afford to stay open unless they were supported by public funding. Just when all seemed lost for book stores, however, a new trend began: the rise of the independent bookstore, some in areas like Manhattan’s Upper West Side, described by Head of Global Strategy at Envestnet, Zachary Karabell, as a former “retail book desert”.  The phenomenon led the New York Times to declare, “Print is not dead yet—at least on the Upper West Side”. The American Booksellers Association, meanwhile, notes that the number of independent books stores has risen by 20 per cent.

Karabell notes that Borders and Barnes & Nobel failed on two accounts: they sold shares publicly (which forced them to pursue high profits) and they aimed for high growth (innovation, disruption), which forced them to compete against Amazon. In fact, they should have specialized in fulfilling the demands of selective audiences, as independent bookstores have been doing so well.

Trends and Breakthroughs

Some of the trends we are seeing which are enabling independent bookstores to stay ahead of their game include:

  • A focus on children’s and young adults books: Many parents are discouraged by news reports stating that in the US, children spend up to 90 per cent of their time indoors, attached to electronic devices such as tablets, Smartphones, etc. Independent book stores are attracting these markets through incentives such as teen book clubs and the sale of both new and used books, which appeal to parents keen on fostering a love of reading in their children.
  • Wine bars: ‘I Know You Like a Book’, a small book store in Peoria Heights, Illinois, is an example of an independent book store that is seeing a rise in customer numbers and in sales. Store owner, Mary Beth Nebel, told the press that she believes it has something to do with the unique sensation offered by books, but she also prides herself on her store’s ‘unique spirit’. ‘I Know You Like a Book’ has a wine bar, the meeting point for book clubs and an ideal venue in which to share a love for books with new people. Other stores are offering coffee and healthy treats, a major trend for indie shops across the U.S.
  • Focusing on Local books: Books specializing in local subject matter make great gifts, with independent stores reporting that they sell especially well during the holiday period. Independent book stores are an excellent venue in which to highlight local authors and subjects.
  • Profiting from Hachette booksThe current Amazon-Hachette dispute means that independent book stores are able to offer low-priced Hachette books, since Amazon is currently offering no discounts on these books.
  • Getting people together: Independent book stores have tapped into the power of books to bring people together, by offering workshops, classes and author reading events, not only at the store itself but in community venues.
  • Language book storesThe French Embassy’s  Albertine Books, which shares two floors of the Beaux-Art Payne Whitney mansion, has tapped into the demand for a dedicated French book store, containing everything from fiction and non-fiction work to graphic novels, kids’ books (in English and French) and more, at prices “as reasonable as they are in France”. The new store will also be a meeting point for those learning French, featuring festivals and conversations in French on literature and science.
  • Well curated content: The profound knowledge of indie book sellers in literature (both old, classic works and new releases) allows them to craft a fine selection of books that appeal to their customers. Indie book sellers are able to tune in to their client’s needs by conversing with them, finding out what type of content they are after and ordering books in accordance. The pressure for a high turnover faced by companies like Borders meant that their focus was on new releases, which led them to ignore the constant demand for popular classics from past centuries. Statistics indicate that sales at independent book stores have risen by eight per cent since 2011, their profits offsetting the costs of rent and the purchase and protection of books through stock insuranceWithout an excessive pressure to sell, independent stores are able to specialize, offer quality service and adequately protect stock of a manageable size.