To create a successful business of helping people to write their memoir, you must be familiar with the memoir genre itself. Being a good fiction writer or a poet or an essayist is not enough. You must have read many memoirs and have written in the genre. Your clients will rightfully expect no less from you than you be expert at both memoir writing and the theory behind memoir writing.
Immerse Yourself in the Memoir Genre
- If you have not done so yet, immerse yourself in a serious program of memoir reading. Read memoirs of famous people. These are the memoirs your clients will have read and they will ask you about these books. Read memoirs of not so famous people. Your clients will not be famous people and it is important that you be aware of how good some of these books can be. These are models for the books your clients will write.
- As you read, practice reading as a writer. How does the author lead into the story? How is the character developed? Is the pacing appropriate? Has the plot been reinforced with any foreshadowing or suspense? (It’s as if you were a detective trying to solve a mystery.) Whenever you read something you like, ask yourself how the author achieved that effect.
- Read about memoir writing. While you will develop your own takes on such topics as narrative, point of view, theme, etc., in the memoir genre, you can jumpstart your knowledge by reading what others have had to write about these elements. Just as different professions have their vocabulary that helps people to talk to each other within the field, so too with memoir professionals and their clients.
- Write your memoirs—the long and the short of your lifestory. It is always stunning to learn that someone who is launching a memoir writing company has not him/herself written a memoir. Before or in the early stages of your memoir business start-up, it is to your advantage to write a memoir. Even a piece so short as 50 to 75 pages will teach you much about writing and will be a useful credential for you. Generally speaking, your clients will not care whether or not your work was published or not by a commercial press as most of them are not seeking commercial publication. Short pieces can be posted on your website as samples of your writing style.
Your clients will expect no less from you than you be good at the practice and theory in the memoir genre. Your skills and experience will allow you to flourish as a teacher and mentor.
Do You Have a Showcase Product?
Many of your clients will expect you, as a new business person, to demonstrate your expertise to them. This is why a showcase product is so important.
This is why a lecture is a good business development opportunity. The public gets to meet you and assess your knowledge and ability to communicate it.
The same is true if you wish to co-author a memoir, make a DVD of someone’s life, etc. Once you have a product sample, you can mail it to a client. Alternately, you can present a lecture at which you pass your product around.
There is, of course, another reason why you need to have a showcase product: a professional must model commitment to his/her medium. If you have “walked the walk and talked the talk,” you are in a much sounder position to teach, coach, edit, produce, etc. You will speak with authority when you have yourself created a product you are proposing to help people produce.
Whether your product is a book, a CD, an audio tape, a piece of fiction, etc, it is not necessary to have a full-length version. Your clients will be reassured, for example, with a 50-page memoir of your childhood or of your mother’s life. That will be enough to have them perceive you as a “real” professional.
Is your writing, filming, or other experience strong enough to persuade a client? It is the foundation upon which you will build your business.
You must be good at your medium—clients expect it.
Good luck setting up your memoir or writing-based business.