Memoirs – To Write or Not to Write?

Mental Health @ Home - Memoirs - to Write or not to Write? - photo of person typing on a laptop

I’ve seen other bloggers working on or publishing memoirs, and I had decided a little while back that it was something I’d be interested in doing too.  I even started working on writing it.

Except I’ve started wondering if I should reconsider.

There’s a lot of work that would be involved in writing, publishing, and promoting a book.  But is it worth directing that much time and energy in that direction if other people aren’t going to read it?

The reality is that I’ll only get so many readers from the online community.  With a non-fiction book that’s okay, because by running ads on Amazon I can get my book out there to the world.  The dollar value is nice, especially since my income from work is minimal, but as an author what you really want to know is that people are interested in what you’re putting out there.  Seeing a steady stream of nothing in your sales stats is not the most pleasant feeling in the world.

I don’t see a memoir doing that well.  It’s not that I don’t think I could put together a good book with a fresh perspective, but I just don’t think there’s much of an audience out there in the broader reading world for self-published memoirs written by random (as in not publicly known) people.  There are a ton of memoirs out there, so the chances of the average reader even stumbling across my self-published book would be extremely slim.  Thinking in terms of advertising keywords, I don’t see an ad campaign working well for that kind of book.

I could try to find a publisher.  The idea of getting something as personal as a memoir rejected isn’t very appealing, though, so I would only consider submitting to a mental health publisher.  There are two that I’m aware of, and I’m not really sure either would be a great fit.  I’m not interested in going with a hybrid publisher.

Another blogger/author recently commented that she’s decided to focus on blogging because it was more fun than writing books that don’t get read.  That was actually what got me thinking enough to write this post.

It’s not a question of lack of confidence.  I know I’m capable of writing a memoir, and it would probably turn out fairly well.  That’s not what’s holding me back.  The reality is, no matter how good it ended up being, the chances of other people a) noticing it, and b) buying/reading it, are low.  In the broader world out there, (a) will be the primary issue, and judging by past experience, in the online community (b) would be the bigger issue.  And that’s totally fine, but if I were to go ahead with publishing a memoir I would need to go in expecting those two issues would come into play.

I don’t want to stop writing.  But blogging feels good, whereas putting a lot of work into a book that just a few people will read would feel not so good.  It’s not really about deciding not to share my story, because I’m already doing just on my blog, and it’s not as though there’s anything I’m deliberately holding back from my blog.

I’m just not sure how useful it is to do in book form at this point in time if it’s just going to end up being a hit to my confidence, and I find it hard to imagine how it would end up being anything but.  So I think I’ll shelve the memoir idea for now.  Maybe I’ll trot it out again in the future, maybe I won’t.  But I will definitely keep on blogging and sharing my story.

 

You can find more posts about writing on the Blogging & Writing Tips page.

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42 thoughts on “Memoirs – To Write or Not to Write?

  1. Paula Light says:

    Agree. The only kind of memoir I could write that would be interesting would have to be done completely anonymously, which would eliminate the handful of readers I already have.

  2. kachaiweb says:

    I am going to be honest and let you into my head. My first impression of your blog, your knowledge and persona was that (this is just my imagination!) you could be an very good speaker in the MH-world. And I imagine you doing that, also promoting your books, slip in parts of your story (off course). And out of that a beautiful book would be born because you would know your audience and the demand would grow naturally. Those were my feelings and thoughts while discovering your blog. I can imagine that is not helpful in any way 😀

    • ashleyleia says:

      Thank you! I actually express myself better in written rather than spoken form. I used to do some mental health-related public speaking when my illness was in remission, and it was okay, but now my brain wouldn’t be able to maintain the pace that would be needed for public speaking.

  3. BeckiesMentalMess.wordpress.com says:

    I really enjoyed reading this, Ashley. It’s funny with the timing of this post. For the last few weeks, I’ve debated if I was actually going to write a memoir. (Heck, I always dreamed of doing it, but who am I to anybody out there?)
    As recent as three weeks ago, I’ve been jotting down notes as to what I would want to write, how to write it, but incorporate mental illness into the storyline.
    The reasoning behind my sudden change of heart is based on “Legal Releases” of names involved in my real memoir. This is something that can take years to accomplish as well as denials that I know fully would be received, especially from family.
    There is a lot to consider… And, boy, oh boy… I’ve been writing notes, researching, etc… When it comes time to take on the challenge of writing a real book I can call my very own.

  4. Meg says:

    Oh, yeah, there’s a lot to dwell on here. Lack of sales is depressing as all heck! I’ve been turning over ideas in my mind lately: try a different genre (and find an agent with that genre)? I don’t know. I definitely like blogging as a way to write memoirs, because whenever I have a weird memory, I can blog about it, and there we go! Whereas if I were to write my memoirs, I might be forcing my mind down dark territory when I’m not in the mood to go there, which is often a bad idea. (This issue is worth considering for anyone who has dark memories, ’cause opening a Pandora’s box can’t be undone.)

    Ohhhh, now it makes sense. Let me apologize in advance, because this is seemingly completely irrelevant. I had a therapist once who accused me of being suicidal, when I was actually quite happy, hypomanic to be exact. (Not remotely suicidal, not by any stretch of the imagination.) But now I understand what happened. He kept spending the hour trying to get me to tell him bad memories, and I kept deflecting and saying I only wanted to talk about happy things, ’cause I was hypomanic, you know? So when our session ended and I said, “Oh, by the way, I have the solution to all my problems. But we’re running out of time. I can tell you about it next time!” (My solution was to meditate more often.)

    And he said, “I bet I know what your solution is. You’re going to kill yourself.”

    I stared at him, horrified.

    He doubled down. “You’ve attempted suicide before, haven’t you?”

    My happy high was deflating rapidly. “Uh… yeah? But I was never happy.”

    “You’re happy now because you’re going to be dead soon,” he postulated with a smug grin. [Huh. Maybe I should write my memoirs.]

    But anyway, now it makes sense. He was punishing me for refusing to tell him unhappy memories that hour, because my brain wasn’t oriented toward abuse stories.

    Sorry! 😮 I know, we were talking about memoirs. Hmm… Yeah, you know, the life of the self-published writer isn’t built on sales, but you should consider writing yours. All of us would buy a copy, and that’s a lot of sales! Besides, the thrill of creative expression is priceless. And your first two books have been smashingly successful, so I bet a lot of those buyers would come back for your next book!

  5. Joshua Shea says:

    I did the memoir thing. Found a real publisher, although that relationship was only for one year and now I’ve republished on my own with an extra chapter. I should have self published from the start, because yeah, the rejection from nearly 80 agents and 150 publishers hurt. They’re not just rejecting any story, they are rejecting YOUR story, almost invalidating your life. But, I knew a real publisher would open a few doors, such as getting into libraries, which ended up being a big market for the book. With roughly 1,000 sales, libraries were 250 of them. A self published book is much harder to get in a lot of libraries.

    That book led me to doing dozens of podcasts, radio shows and tv shows. Money was never my goal. Educating people about porn addiction was.

    I know having a book with a real publisher and all of those appearances helped get my second book deal much faster. I only sent it to about 10 publishers before it was accepted with a company I felt comfortable.

    Maybe someday there will be some real money with it, but I figure it’s just part of the overall mission. Maybe some day I’ll be invited to speak at conferences and make a few bucks. Those will only happen if I keep writing and talking about this horrible addiction.

    I enjoy your writing, and can say I might buy a book, but a lot of people say that and never do. You can’t write for the money or the hope others will embrace it. That said, you can’t keep it inside. You’re considering all the right things in figuring out the best venue for your words. Best of luck.

  6. Hannah Celeste says:

    100% support you whatever route you decide to go! I would absolutely read your memoir, but I also respect your decision not to do so. I’m just glad you’re writing and sharing your experiences/knowledge!

  7. Michael A. Kuch says:

    I’d say write your memoirs. Whether or not you publish and ultimately market the finished product may be anticlimactic to the euphoria and relief experienced by simply releasing and recording your most treasured thoughts, moments and experiences. The process and journey through reflection alone is a great gift to self and far too valuable not to share. We all live of purpose and worth.

  8. eirlysgwenllian says:

    As much as I would love to read your memoir if you wrote one, what you write here makes total sense and I agree that writing a memoir doesn’t always pay off, and it doesn’t seem as fun as writing a blog and documenting your story on the go, without all the publishing dilemmas and having to put loads of conscious effort in promotion.

  9. Johnzelle Anderson says:

    Great post! I love reading memoirs; however, as I thought on and off about writing a book, are usually come back to the conclusion that my blog is my memoir and smaller bursts. That allows it to evolve over time. I think you’re smart to consider the profitability of such a time-consuming venture

  10. lostinmyhead07 says:

    I actually was thinking about having someone help me write a memoir.. but I ended up changing my mind because I felt the same way you do about it. I think you are different than me though. Since you are an author.. maybe more people then you think would be interested in you. It might take time to get your name out there.. but with time your name will be out there. That’s what I think anyway. You could always start writing it and not get it published until you are ready.

  11. dalegreenearts says:

    My own blog started as a way to showcase my artwork but it quickly turned into a memoir. Those are the posts that people connect with the most. I’m thinking of putting them together into a memoir of sorts but I’m struggling with publishing as well.

  12. Margaret Byrne says:

    I loved the honesty of this post. I am completely new to the blogging world and did things the other way around – my memoirs will be published this month. Perhaps if I had discovered this outlet first things would have been different…Thank you for such a beautiful, true-to-heart read and for giving me another viewpoint on things. I’ll be following your future posts 🙂

  13. taskerdunham says:

    I’ve been writing a memoir bit by bit in blog form for around 5 years (anonymously so as not to get into trouble). Must be nearing 150,000 words by now but so far I still have lots of ideas. I wasn’t at first expecting many readers, it being mainly for my own amusement, although lately it does seem to be getting more, and also more comments. A self-published print book might come later but for now I’m happy with how it’s going. Keeps me going.

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