Writing & Selling Your Memoir: Bonus Materials

Check out bonus material from Paula Balzer's Writing & Selling Your Memoir.
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by Paula Balzer

In my work as a literary agent, I've found that some writers tend to let everyday obstacles get in the way of achieving their goals. You had great success with This Isn't The Story You Think It Is even though you were busy raising a family in Montana. What advice do you have for writers who still need to hold down a full time job and may not live in a place that has a tremendous amount (perceived anyway) of opportunities for writers such as New York City?

If you are truly a writer, if you live at that intersection of heart and mind and craft, if you know the obsession and can’t NOT write…then you will do it wherever you live and no matter what’s going on in your life. I’ve written five-eight pages a day since 1988 in all kinds of situations—urban, suburban, rural—when I worked three jobs, with small children, and even on the road doing book promotion. It is my practice, my meditation, my prayer, my way of life, and sometimes my way TO life. My advice is simply this: if you are a writer, write.

Your story is an incredibly personal one. What advice do you have for other memoirists who are apprehensive about sharing their stories? Was there a certain point during the process where you realized telling this story was going to work out okay? Did you have any reservations?

If you write with responsibility and compassion, you can write about anything. I have had little to no criticism from family and friends about sharing my personal story. When in doubt, tell the truth and tell it with all your heart. You are a writer. You mine your life. That’s your job. Let go of the rest.

I always tell clients and other writers that the actual writing of the book is really only half of a writer's job. The other half is publicity. Did you find this to be true? What do you do to keep your book moving off of the shelves?

I feel that the real work is the work. The writing work. After that, yes, it’s a business, however I haven’t been in the position until a few years ago to hone this side of my life as a writer. It’s important to know yourself on the page and have that balance deep in your core before you start sending out books. I’m glad my publishing success didn’t happen until my forties. I have that balance in my life now, so I’m ready to do promotional work. I love that the trajectory is finally being met. I work hard to connect with my readers on the internet and in person, and it’s all very natural. It has to be. When it’s natural, you know you are doing what you are meant to do.

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