Thinking of self-publishing a memoir or autobiography? Sarah Juckes of CompletelyNovel offers top tips on how to give it the professional edge and gain marketing advantages.
At CompletelyNovel, I’ve recently seen an influx of writers publishing memoir and autobiography. With Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk winning not only the Samuel Johnson Prize but also the Costa First Book Award in 2014, there is really potential for widespread appeal. Here are five things to remember when publishing your autobiography in print.
1. You might need two book titles
As narrative nonfiction, biographical writing almost straddles fiction and nonfiction, and you’ll often see this mirrored in their titles. In fact, many autobiographies have two titles – one ‘literary’ and one ‘explanatory’.
● A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier – Ishmael Beah
● Don't Worry, It Gets Worse: One Twentysomething's (Mostly Failed) Attempts at Adulthood – Alida Nugent
Top tip: Your title doesn’t need to be profound – match it to your sub-genre. If your book is funny – write a comic title.
2. You don’t need to put your photo on the front cover
Minimalist covers that will look striking as a thumbnail image for online bookstores, are all the rage right now. A lot of popular memoirs at the moment similarly feature striking illustrations or motifs on the front, rather than a picture of the author.
Top tip: If you’re not sure what the central motif is to your story, why not release the first few chapters and ask your readers for their ideas? It’ll all help when it comes to marketing, later.
3. Know who you’re writing for
Like all books, autobiographical writing needs to have a target readership. It isn’t enough to say ‘this book is for all readers’ – knowing exactly who they are is essential to branding your book ready for promotion.
Boy: Tales of Childhood – Roald Dahl (autobiography aimed at young readers)
Top Tip: If you think the majority of people who will appreciate your autobiography are tied to a local place, then include a reference to this in the title or cover design.
4. Be clear about images before you include them
All images included in your book need to be high quality – at least 300dpi. You should also think in advance about what images are going to add to your book – this will define where you place them in the book. You can insert images around text (which can be a bit tricky if you’re using Word to typeset), have them on opposite pages, or as an insert.
Under the Bridge Backwards: My Marriage, My Family, and Alzheimer's – Barbara Blanch Roy – black and white photos added to half page.
Top Tip: Colour printing costs more, but as this is charged per page not per image, it might work out more cost-effective to group your colour images together.
5. Price it competitively
Price your book at the lower end of the price spectrum for what’s expected of memoir/autobiography. This will largely depend on the number of pages you have if you’re printing on demand (you can find your POD print price using CompletelyNovel’s calculator here), but try to price it alongside other books in your genre.
The majority of current business autobiographies are priced between £10-£20 ($15-$30), so a good price for yours if possible is £9.99 ($14.99).
Top Top: Spend some time researching prices in other currencies to your own – pricing structures for your genre may well differ in other countries.
OVER TO YOU Any more tips to add? We'd love to hear them!#Selfpublishing a #memoir? Top tips on how to present it by @CompletelyNovel Click To Tweet
- Writing Memoirs: Telling the Truth in a Beautiful Way – by Elaine Pereira
- Why I Wrote About a Taboo Subject – by Taylor Fulks
- How to Turn Your Life into a Novel – by Helena Halme