printing memoir books

Writing and Printing Memoir Books

Ann O'Brien

September 1, 2022

Writing a memoir can be an interesting creative exercise. It uses your personal experiences to tell a story other people can relate to. Here is a guide to writing and printing memoir books.

What Is a Memoir Book?

The word “memoir” comes from the French word for memory. It is a personal account of a life, experience, or event. A memoir might tell what it was like to live through a certain historical period or witness a certain famous event. It might tell the story of how you found religion or conquered a lifelong fear of flying.

A memoir is a historical, personal account of a story you want to share because of its deeper meaning or relevance. It’s your story, and you can tell it best in your own words.

Reasons to Write a Memoir Book

Writing and printing memoir books is a favorite among first-time writers. Memoirs are also popular among people who don’t view themselves as writers but feel they have an interesting life experience to share.

Some reasons to write a memoir include the following:

  • To celebrate your family’s history. A memoir can tell the story of your family going back generations. This can be a fun project that involves family members who share their stories to contribute to your family memoir. This family record makes a wonderful gift to share with later generations.
  • As inspiration or spiritual guidance to others. If you experienced a spiritual awakening, got free from an addiction, or had some other inspiring conversion, you may want to share it with others who are going through a similar life change. They may find comfort and guidance in your book.
  • To share a specific skill. Have you built your own home by hand or become an accomplished bowler? If you know how to do something that other people want to learn, your personal experience is valuable. Combining a memoir with a how-to approach can create a useful book.
  • To get your story in print. You have the right to tell your story from your perspective. Printing memoir books gives you a voice. It gets your viewpoint down on paper where anyone can read it.
  • As a creative writing exercise. You may be looking for a new creative project. Writing a memoir is a good choice because you don’t have to invent a story or characters. You already have the story and characters from your own life.

How to Write a Memoir People Want to Read

1. Keep it brief and focused

You’re writing a memoir, not your autobiography. Avoid the temptation to share unimportant details or spill family secrets your family may not be comfortable sharing.

Some memoir writers try to tell their entire life stories instead of limiting themselves to the major events that should be the focus of the book. This is unnecessary. You can share snapshots and key events of your life, but trying to cram everything in it will make the book long and unreadable.

Keep your focus. If you find you have more to say than you originally thought, you can always write a second book.

2. Show the bigger picture

The experience you had is significant because it relates to larger themes and issues that are universal. If you write about your world travels, for instance, you can share what you learned about people in other cultures. If your memoir is about living through a particular event, show how it was part of a larger historical trend or what it was like to be there in person.

Share what the experience taught you. People read memoirs to get a sense of how one person’s life story can teach them about something deeper. What was the reason you decided to write your book? Was it to educate, inspire, or entertain? Keep this goal in mind as you write.

3. Write honestly

The best memoirs are authentic and honest. They share details that bring the story alive and put it in a wider context. If you approach your memoir in a spirit of honesty, your authentic voice will shine through.

Total honesty can be difficult because your honesty may lead you to reveal unflattering aspects of the people you write about or even of yourself. While you shouldn’t betray secrets, you shouldn’t let these considerations keep you from giving a true, detailed account of the events.

4. Keep it vivid

A good memoir is engaging and readable. Use the same rules of storytelling you would use to write a fictional book. Set the scene, and then describe the inciting event that started you on the personal journey your book is describing. Create images and sensations that let the reader feel like they were there with you. Describe settings and people in colorful detail.

The best memoirs are like novels. They invite the reader into a new world that is uniquely told by someone who experienced it personally.

5. Approach it professionally

You may not intend your memoir to go beyond a small circle of family and friends. That doesn’t mean you should treat it as a second-rate book. You may be an amateur writer, but your book should be high-quality and professionally produced. Hire a graphic artist to design the cover, get it proofread by an expert, and use a professional printing service. Your memoir is a lasting testament to your life story, so make it as high-quality as possible.

Don’t Expect High Memoir Book Sales

Although some memoirs have become best-sellers, don’t write a memoir expecting it to have high sales. Memoir book sales are usually low compared to sales of other books. There are several reasons your book may not sell that well.

1. You’re not famous

Unfortunately, memoirs only tend to sell well if they’re written by famous authors or celebrities. Books by politicians, famous athletes, and Hollywood actors often sell well, but even those books have a short shelf life.

2. It’s not well written

A memoir is often an author’s first book. Like all skills, writing improves with practice. In most cases, the first book you write isn’t as good as your second or third. Many memoir writers don’t even consider themselves writers, but they feel they have interesting experiences to share.

Writing isn’t easy, even for experienced writers. If your memoir is your first book, it may have faults common to many first-time books.

That shouldn’t keep you from writing it, however. Telling your story can be a wonderful experience, even if your memoir doesn’t climb the sales charts.

3. Memoir books get dated

Most top-selling books are perennial, which means people continue buying them years after they hit the shelves. These books and authors can count on repeated, continued sales.

Memoir book sales, however, are short-term and usually related to news events or historical occurrences. There may be an initial flurry of sales, but once the story is known, interest tends to die down. Keeping this in mind when printing memoir books.

Here are some top-selling memoirs:

  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
  • The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed

There are several reasons these memoirs became best-sellers. First, the writers were experienced, established writers. Second, they tapped into something truly unusual or noteworthy.

In Krakauer’s case, for instance, the memoir was his account of one of the most famous mountaineering tragedies in history. Krakauer was climbing Everest with two of the groups involved in the disaster and happened to be on assignment from Outside magazine. Nobody could have predicted this combination of factors that led to a bestselling book and two movies.

Can You Increase Memoir Book Sales?

There are some tactics you can use to increase awareness of your book and pump up the sales figures.

  • Focus on your hometown audience. Your local bookstores and libraries may be receptive to a local writer.
  • Market it to others who share your experience. Find online groups of people who have shared your experience or have an interest in the subject you’ve written about. Let them know your book is available.

Get Professional Help When Printing Memoir Books

Are you ready to write your memoir? At Publishing Xpress, we can help you design and print your memoir. We specialize in helping first-time authors create beautiful books.

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