Book marketing your memoir: deciding how hard you want to work

Unless you are a celebrity, your memoir may be hard to sell. Do you want to sell it to strangers, or is making a gift for your family enough? Why would strangers want to read it? These are important questions to determine before spending a bunch of money on publishing. Can you tell I just attended a book marketing workshop? (This one with Judith Briles, The Book Shepherd)

Selling to strangers is a business, requiring much more professional diligence and know-how, including about the dreaded marketing. If you don’t get out there and tell the world of strangers about your book, they won’t know it exists. If you are lucky enough to find a traditional publisher for your book, don’t expect them to put much effort into publicizing either. Times have changed. Check out all the famous authors on Twitter or Facebook.

What makes your memoir stand out? Are there others like it? If so, how is yours different? What angles will you use to promote interest in it? Is it worth paying for a good editor, cover designer, and interior formatter if you don’t want to mess with marketing? Assuming you have a decent story decently written, self-published books generally fail for two reasons: unprofessional appearance (including lack of editing), and/or a lack of marketing—or not knowing how to market effectively. Many traditionally published books fail, too, mostly due to lack of marketing. Let’s face it, there are millions of books out there to compete with.

What would be your definition of failure? For many memoir writers, just getting the book created is a huge success. Congratulations, you actually did it, you and your family should be thrilled! That’s no small feat to finish a project like that. How many books would you need to sell before you feel successful? Breaking even financially would be nice, but unless you know what you’re doing in the publishing and marketing department, you very well may not. If you expect to make lots of money on your book, you will probably be very disappointed.

IMAG3414So think twice about whether to publish just for family or whether you want to spend money to perfect your book and then actively market to strangers. Book marketing is an art requiring learning from experts, and knowing how to write your book so that it can be marketed easily is another learned skill. I see a lot of authors on social media who are merely annoying – nothing but buy my book, buy my book. Don’t be that author.

There is no shame in realizing you don’t want to put on a business hat and learn how to be a publicist. Your family should be proud of your accomplishment. You should be proud of your accomplishment. If you want to go family-only, you can relax and just enjoy the journey and bask in that glow of doing something truly worthwhile. If you want to sell to strangers, get your hat on and start learning now. Bask in the glow later.

How much does the average author earn publishing their book – Derek Murphy
(Serious author-publishers, check out Derek’s website, CreativIndie)

Some other book pros and book marketing experts you should know:
Joanna Penn
Joel Friedlander
Penny Sansevieri
Sandra Beckwith
Jane Friedman


About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
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4 Responses to Book marketing your memoir: deciding how hard you want to work

  1. Rocksruby1 says:

    Very informative post.

  2. Excellent information. So happy to hear you sticking up for the modest, attainable goal of writing for family!

  3. Zenta Brice says:

    Well, I would love to add my 2 cents here. Memoirs and marketing.
    Memoir writing from the beginning. You must be be able to determine right from the beginning to whom you are writing. For family you can include every minute detail, every insider’s joke – they will love it. Strangers – not so much. So work hard on your story line, keep on track about what your memoir is about and why it might appeal to general public. Try to answer the question – about what my memoir will be, in one sentence. Not your whole life (if you are not a celebrity and then you probably already have a professional ghostwriter contracted for the job). About what then? About one of your amazing travels? About that horror DIY house you bought as a project? About your personal drama? Pick and choose, but keep it simple – one story at a time. (and I will tell later why only one story is a clever trick).
    Professional finish is simply a must. There are no ifs and buts. Double editing, or, if you are a really good writer (I, for example, am not) – editing and proofreading. It’s basic and no cutting edges here.
    Cover design. Do not ask your nephew to create a cover (if he is not a professional book designer). Cover design is what sells the book. Hire a professional – it’s not that expensive these days, you can find bearable covers of a 5 bucks on Fiverr.
    Blurb – blurb is the second most important thing after a cover. It sells the book.
    So now you have more or less professionally looking project on your hands. You format and press publish.
    Marketing starts long before that. You can plan it all ahead. Create a web page and start collecting people, who might be interested in your story. If you will have 100k followers, there is a big chance that an agent might be interested in your memoir and so will a publisher. If you have 100 followers – sorry, go self publish.
    Right now FB ads are very poor value for the money, and so are ads on Amazon. If you can afford, I would say Amazon ads are better value for money, but it will be hard work to adjust to the right keywords (There are several good books on market how to do that). Most realistic, and the best (but again – hard work) approach is to seek groups and blogs about your choice of the story. Interact, write, discuss, and at the end you will be able to plug your book there. If you will try to do so right from the beginning – most likely the response will be negative.
    Now, when you did press the publish button, your next job starts right away. To sell your memoir No1, it’s highly recommended to write No 2, No 3 and so on. (Remember I told you one story at a time? Here is the trick – one book of one author never sells well. When you have 3 or 5, selling them all becomes much easier than selling that one.) You can even earn the bestseller ribbon for a while. (It’s not that hard on Amazon, by the way). And you must write fast. In 2 years time your reader will forget about your existence. Optimal gap is 3 mo between the books. Hard work, but doable.
    To publish your memoir, you will need about a thousand to pay for editor and for the cover. If it’s done right, you will get your money back to invest it in the second book, and most likely your third will bring some profit.
    I published my No1 two 2 weeks ago and with minimal marketing it seems that my expenses will be covered by the end of the first month. So – it’s doable. Chins up – you can do it!

  4. Thank you for your on-the-mark comments, Zenta. There’s a lot to learn about marketing effectively, and fortunately many helpful people and free resources online.

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