Monday, June 20, 2011

Submissions: Agent Insight - A Memoir is not the Story of Your Life

Wonderful clarification from Katie Shea of Caren Johnson Literary Agency on what memoir is not: a story of your life (that would be an autobiography). Here's her answer regarding memoir manuscripts from the May 26 interview at Guide to Literary Agents:

GLA: Where are people going wrong in their memoir submissions to you?

KS: One of the worst things I see with memoir is when the writer starts from the beginning of their life to where they are now. Memoir should be only a chapter of your life. I have been pitched memoirs that could be divided into three books!
     For memoir writers, choose your strongest or favorite theme and then work from exactly when it started to exactly when it ended. Do not include the before and after. I do not want to be reading a book from when you were two years old up until you are 43. It just doesn't work.


  1. Yes, and hopefully when someone writes a memoir they will try to inspire someone else with their story.

  2. Wonderful clarification! And thus Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" is a memoir because it just focuses on his time in Paris in the 1920s. It is simply a snippet of life- with a theme running through it.

    Thanks for sharing this bit of information- so simple, but so important to know.

  3. I've heard this before. This fascinates me because I currently have a memoir manuscript. But I have decided to self-publish, primarily because of impatience. Starting a writing career at the age of 54, I don't want to spend the next four years trying to get my first book noticed and published. I have other books in my mind that I want/need to get to.

    Do you know anybody who likes to review memoirs?

  4. The Desert Rocks - that would be the idea.

    Anjuli - A Moveable Feast is one of my favorites.

    CMSmith - welcome to my blog and good luck in self-publishing. I hope you'll keep me updated on your journey.