by Emma Crosby
Memoirs 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
The 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.