I wanted to thank you for your blog post addressing my question about ageism in publishing. There are a few examples of successful books that are one-offs by older folks, but as you say, a very hard sell in an ageist climate. So I just have to ask: What if the book is ABOUT the fact that you're older? My current WIP is a memoir about being an aging mom to two adult kids with disabilities. And service dogs. And not a lot of resources. Caught between the twin impossibilities of bringing them to a point of independent living, or magically living forever myself. I wrote about it for a couple of years for the online journal Literary Mama in a column called "Senior Mama," which is in itself a dead giveaway that I'm already past my sell-by date.
I recently read a BBC article about "the phenomenon of continuing to throw good resources (time and money) after bad, hoping for things to improve when there's no good reason to believe they will." Not surprisingly, they conclude that's a bad idea. Your advice for writers always falls on the side of perseverance, but I wonder, in this case is it time to pack up my publishing aspirations and slip quietly back to, say, crocheting?
Well, I'm always looking for a comfy afghan when the winter winds begin to make themselves known again (47° this morning!), However, while lots of people can crochet, no one else can write YOUR book.
You'll hear "memoir is a tricky category" when agents and editors are asked about this.
They say that because many memoir writers focus solely on what happened. But, a compelling memoir isn't just what happened, it's why those events mattered, and more importantly, why they matter to people NOW.
And if you think it's easy to figure that out, please set up shop as a memoir coach and help the thousands of people who need it.
It's not a matter of will anyone buy your book, it's can you write a book that will be more than "I lived through this and survived."
Deb Vlock's book about parenting kids with mental health challenges could have been structured as a memoir, but we very specifically chose to make it prescriptive non-fiction instead; a guide to dealing with the problems mental health parents face, often told through the lens of Deb's personal experience.
One thing that helped us was to ask "what are the questions we want this book to answer?" Another was "who do we want to help?"
Example: "my kid just got sent home from school for saying s/he wanted to kill herself. What do I do now?"
Those questions, which you will need to really think about (Deb and I spent weeks on this) are a key element to "why should someone read this book now?"
A good place to start is asking yourself who do you want to help?
Motivational and inspirational stories are important. I'm working on one of those now. Those aren't prescriptive. They give you hope, not a list of tips or strategies.
If your book is motivational or inspirational, you're going to need a really big hook if you want a trade publishing deal.
But let me say this again cause it's so very important: often the stories people tell about their lives are NOT suitable for trade publishing but they are essential candles in the dark. You don't have to sell 10,000 copies to be a life changer for a lot of people.
Smaller presses and self-publishing may allow you to reach the 500 people who are desperate to know how you managed challenges they are now facing.
Helping 500 people is nothing to sneer at.
Helping 10 people isn't either.
Only you know the answer to the question of whether you should keep on with this project. What brings you joy? Who do you want to help?
I hope you'll find your answers and see your path clearly.
Let us know, ok?