Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book Review: You Should Really Write a Book

When I began to consider drafting a memoir instead of a novel for my 2014 Nanowrimo efforts, I sought out books about writing memoir. I was thrilled to find that my own library had a copy of a book written by Regina Brooks (author of another writing book I enjoyed called Writing Great Books for Young Adults). Brooks is one of New York's top literary agents, working with Serendipity Literary Agency. If you're looking for an expert on writing, selling, and marketing a memoir, you can't do better than advice from an actual successful agent.

You Really Should Write a Book is an excellent source for the basics on memoir. Its goal is to take you through the process entirely so that at the outset you will think "big picture" rather than merely writing a tale which might appeal to interested family members and friends. You must write with your mind centered on the selling and marketing aspects of a book if you expect to achieve anything significant with your manuscript.

I appreciated that the book highlighted several key memoirs and evaluated their marketability. This is the bird's eye view offered from someone within the machinery of the publishing process. This taught me to think like an agent about my manuscript, while I was in the process of writing. The book emphasizes the importance of building an audience and a platform prior to seeking publication. Doing this guarantees more success when approaching agents and publishers.

The book is broken into three parts: 1) An introduction to the popularity of memoir; 2) An outline of the major memoir categories (I only skimmed the ones which didn't pertain to my manuscript) with advice for each sub-genre; and 3) Advice for contacting an agent (a necessary step in this day and age when publishers refuse to accept unsolicited manuscripts). This final section was the most productive part of the book for me. It offered advice on preparing the query, the proposal, and the verbal pitch. Most people don't realize that you cannot simply sit down and write an absorbing story and immediately end up with a book deal. You have to master the difficult steps of pitching and marketing your finished work. For me, that has always been the greatest challenge (a mountain I cannot seem to climb).

As I've said before about other books on the craft of writing memoir, I don't know if this is the absolute best book on the subject. Moreover, my own experience with the book was difficult to peg because I started the book several weeks ago and left off for a span, then picked it up to finish it only a few days ago. This interruption may have detracted from my take-away from the book. However, if you are looking for a book about memoir, especially from the perspective of the bottom line (marketability), this is certainly a good place to start.

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