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When your story is not the one a publisher wants to tell

Words by Vanessa Potter

Let me get one thing out of the way straight away. Your story is very important; it matters. It matters a whole lot, because it happened to you. It’s really crucial to say that – and I mean it.

Everyone’s experiences are unique. Experience shaped the person you were, the person you are now and the person you will become. And, what’s more, we learn from our experiences and when we tell our stories, others learn from us.

But, here comes the tricky bit; the proverbial fly in the ointment. Your experience, which may have been life changing, life affirming, sensational or traumatic, may not be one a publisher wants to tell. That is the hard, unfriendly truth. However, whether a publisher chooses to publish your story often bears no relation to the importance of what you have to say.

Having penned a memoir and trodden the precarious path to publication, I have compiled five reasons why you might choose to publish a memoir, and five reasons why you might chose not to. This may sound a little negative, but writing a memoir is no easy feat.

It’s worth really thinking about what is involved and how the process might impact you and your life. I also want to separate out the act of writing from the business of publishing. No-one can tell you not to write your own story and if they do, ignore them.

Writing – expressing how you feel and what you have learnt – is always your choice. This can be cathartic and a profoundly beneficial part of processing a serious illness for example. I am merely focusing on what to consider, should you want people, other than your own family, to read your story.

Five reasons not to publish a memoir

1. Because no-one will read it. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s the first question you must ask. Is your story one that people want to hear?

If you shout indignantly, yes of course it is! ask yourself the question again. But my mum cried when she read a bit and my friends say I should do it! Yup, that still isn’t reason enough.