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Is your memoir publishable? How? Nancy Baxter discusses the possibilities of putting pen to paper and letting your life flow out. . .

We have talked about some of the essentials of memoir writing: first, including some scenery and history or chronology to set the stage of your memory story(ies). Then, focusing on a few key scenes in the life you are writing about which awaken in the reader experiences of the five senses: dwelling, in other words, at a few key moments on re-creating a scene or two you recall.

We’ve also said little moments can be important if they are treated with a writer’s skills and a view “through the keyhole.” Photos can be helpful in this visual age.

But what will you do with your memoir once it is completed? There are several routes for you, and you’ve probably already considered what you will do with your memoir from the first moment you decided you wanted to record memories. Here are some options:

  1. You are writing only for your own family and possibly friends. This means you can prepare the story, attach any photos you wish, and take it to UPS to duplicate either for stapling or putting in an attractive spiral binding.
  2. Even if it is a private printing, you may wish to consider having it edited and bound as a paperback (or hardcover?) book. Printers now have special departments to handle your manuscript completion process, providing final copy editing and doing digital printing quickly and for a small number of books. Price? About $5 to $10 a book depending on pages and how complicated your book will be. One suggestion: Thomson Shore Printers in Dexter Michigan. They are employee owned, helpful and reputable.
  3. Some memoirs can be published for a wider audience. If your subject would be of state or national interest or the figure you are writing about is known or should be known, you may interest a small press to pick up your book —or a larger one. You can consult Jeff Herman’s Guide to Literary Agents, Editors and Publishers in America, which guides would-be authors on the paths to book publishing companies. If you capture a publisher’s interest, they may offer you a royalty contract and put the book out to sell to their part of the book market.
  4. If you are writing about a certain area, town, county or city or state and have some writing experience, for instance if you have written for the local newspaper or believe those in your community will be interested in the memoir, nostalgic or personal, you can also put it out yourself for sales through your own author appearances and talks on the subject at clubs and organizations and libraries and church groups. Develop your own little book-selling business! Get it reviewed and generate interest!

Are there any pitfalls? Yes. Beware of self-publishing companies who offer too many services  for sale that you don’t need and don’t provide quality control. Read the blogs about them and investigate.

Be sure in all cases to think about the people you are writing about in your memoir. Are these relatives who will be startled or unhappy or even hurt by what you are telling? Better avoid that. Is anyone treated with a frankness that could get you into trouble? Keep the writing positive if it involves those still alive. And beware of the true difficulties in involving a process of creative non-fiction in your memoir. That is a yawning cave of troubles for you to fall into, I say and have seen the difficulties. Just tell the truth and write it well.

Nancy Niblack Baxter Senior Editor Hawthorne Publishing. Her books are featured on this website.