Before You Write a Memoir
Memoirs and biographies have always been popular genres. There is fascination in someone else's story, whether it's personally relatable or vastly different from one's own life. Biography usually refers to someone famous, while memoir is an unknown person.
As publishers of memoirs in our Tell Your Story series, we have learned a few things to keep in mind as you write your memoir or life story.
Protecting Privacy. Your story will feature other real people, who may or may not want to be named or even written about. But you can't tell an honest, compelling story without them. To avoid libel claims, think about changing names, which means you have to keep track of everyone with a table or spreadsheet. Or write the story with the real names, and go back and change them all before it's published. Either way, you'll need a system to keep track of who's who.
Permissions. Getting permission from everyone in your story is ideal, but that's not always desirable or possible. It's best to keep them unrecognizable, change the names, and not say anything in the book about them that isn't true and isn't derogatory. You may need legal advice if you're not sure if you're being libelous.
Decide whether to use pictures. You should get permission from anyone in a picture before using it, as well as permission from any professional photographers, and give them credit.
Poems, songs or other quotes should be thoroughly cited and permission granted, unless in the public domain. Internet and website searches usually give you this information, or your editor can help direct you.
Book Structure. Plan out your structure in advance, such as time sequencing. Will the book jump among several time periods, or tell the story from beginning to end? Book coaches and developmental editors can help with this.
Purpose. What is the purpose of telling your story? For your own catharsis? To leave a legacy? To help or inspire others in similar situations? To make money or create a platform and name for yourself or a related business or cause? It will help to know your purpose before you start writing and marketing the book.
We are here to answer any questions about memoir writing and publishing.
Patty and Lonnie
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