You’ve written your life story. You’ve edited and assembled it into a compelling narrative. Now a family member or friend is encouraging you to take the next step. Get your story published so the world can read it. Is that possible? Does an outside market exist for an ordinary person’s life experiences? Would anyone beyond your immediate circle be interested enough to pay money to read it? Would an agent or publisher be willing to take a chance?
In the good old days of publishing, the first priority was a great story, something that would resonate with the average reader. It was easy to browse bookstore shelves and find autobiographies and especially memoirs, often by not-so-famous people. That’s no longer the case. The majority of titles are celebrity driven. Just check any tabloid front page—these are the people who get their stories told. So, how do you get yours out there?
One time-tested solution stands above the rest: You start small and aim higher. Break up your legacy into bite-size chunks; each story is the perfect length for submission to any number of local or regional newspapers or online news magazines. Take the time to research the possibilities, find out which editors or publishers are willing to accept human-interest stories, and start there.
Personalizing Your Author Platform
If you are serious about building your readership, here are three steps to consider.
- Begin by localizing. You need to become a player in your community, someone with name recognition. The logical way to do this is to become an expert in your field and to get that message out. What are you an expert in? You’ve written your life story, and that makes you an expert in life. You are a survivor, and so is everyone else. You can assume a leadership role by telling your story through the local media. Newspapers, radio, and television are always open to human-interest stories, especially during family-oriented times such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Take a look at your life story. Would others learn from it? Does it strike a universal chord?
- Contact local clubs and community agencies for speaking opportunities. Rotary, Kiwanis, and Chamber of Commerce groups are often looking for people to talk about relevant topics.
- Create a social media presence. This includes developing an e-mail list, writing a blog, contributing to other blogs as a guest, creating a Twitter account, and using Facebook and similar applications and platforms. None of these alone will create the spark you need to become recognized. Combine them with lots of old-fashioned promotional footwork—and you might have a winning strategy.
Check the Internet for lots of free material on creating your own author platform. Or read Tim Grail’s How to Sell Your First 1,000 Copies and Create Your Writer Platform by Chuck Sambuchino. Both are published by Writer’s Digest Books and are two excellent books worth their weight in gold. To learn how to become media savvy, set aside time to read Step Into the Spotlight!: A Guide to Getting Noticed by Tsufit, published by Beach View Books.
Richard Campbell obtained his M.Ed. (Adult Education) in 2002 and teaches Life Story Writing to continuing education students in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He also teaches the Writing Your Legacy concepts aboard transatlantic cruise crossings. He is a professional writer who has done freelance work for Canadian newspapers and CBC Radio. He runs his own business, Guided Life Stories.
Dr. Cheryl Svensson has been involved in the field of aging since she graduated from the first Masters in Gerontology program at USC in 1977 and later completed her Ph.D. at the University of Lund, Sweden. Cheryl works closely with Dr. James Birren, founding Dean of the Davis School of Gerontology at USC, and is the Director of the Birren Center for Autobiographical Studies (www.guidedautobiography.com), an organization dedicated to research and development for older adults to write their life stories.
She currently teaches at USC and has taught Guided Autobiography at UCLA and several universities, libraries, and senior and assisted living centers. For the past five years she has taught a live, interactive Internet webinar training course to teach students worldwide how to become Guided Autobiography instructors.