In a much-shared article titled “Why Your Memoir Won’t Sell,” former Writer’s Digest editor Jane Friedman listed the things that will trigger an agent or publisher to reject a memoir by a non-celebrity.
A lot of people working on memoirs have been pretty discouraged by it.
But you don’t have to be. Jane was simply saying that you need to learn what makes a compelling memoir and what doesn’t.
It is true that memoirs are problematic. They’re devilishly difficult for a new writer to do well, but they’re what newbies usually write.
The urge to put our own life story on paper is the most common reason people start writing. Adult education programs and senior centers everywhere offer courses in “writing your own life.” And there’s the old adage that says everybody has a book in them—their own life story.
That means there are a whole lot of memoirs out there, and most of them are written by newbies. Agents and editors cringe when a memoirist approaches them, because they’ve seen so many amateurish ones.
But here’s the thing: there’s a BIG market for entertaining, well-written memoir.