book review: Memoir Revolution

In the twenty-first century, memoirs have exploded from a specialized niche into a central feature of our literary and popular culture. Aspiring memoir authors fill writing classes, and published authors appear on talk shows. We’re in the age of the memoir. This book reveals the roots and importance of the trend, and the value it can have in our individual and social lives.

Jerry Waxler's Memoir Revolution is notable, first and foremost, for its energy. The energy radiates out from the text and soaks into the reader like sunlight.

It's funny: if someone were to ask me if I ready memoirs regularly, I'd say "no". I've never much been one for any type of biography. And yet I've read many of the books which Waxler uses as examples (and there are many examples — the bibliography makes a great reading list). His thesis that memoirs are taking centre stage in culture is strong based on the sheer volume of bestsellers which are associated with the genre.

Memoir Revolution is a mix of Waxler's own memoirs, a survey of the form, and thematic groupings of many different example memoirs. One thing I really appreciated was the use of the same example memoirs for exploring different aspects of the genre in different chapters. Instead of the pigeonholing that's so common in surveys, the examples are held up as rich, multifaceted works. One finishes the book with better understanding of how diverse and well-rounded memoirs can be.

On our journey from infancy to adulthood, all of us must construct our stories. First we learn from our parents, community, and teachers. Then we try things. We play sports, explore sexuality and relationships, earn diplomas and degrees, get jobs. After each experiment, we decide if we want to continue along this line or try something different. From the very beginning, we gather this information into a story about who we are and how we fit into the world. That story continues to direct us for the rest of our lives.

In Memoir Revolution, memoirs aren't just memoirs: they're opportunities for all of us, writers and readers together, to connect, learn from each other, expand our understanding. It's heady, thought-provoking stuff, sourced directly from the 1960s American college scene Waxler experienced first-hand. That positivism, and the looking-inward-becomes-reaching-outward worldview that goes with it, has receded so much from the cultural discourse that when found in this book it felt fresh again.

Above all, this is a book which encourages one to think critically about story-telling. For those interested in writing a memoir, it is a wealth of advice and examples, and a great tool with which to start community-building. For those who enjoy reading memoirs, it's a way to read a memoir while learning to appreciate the genre even more.

About the Author

Jerry Waxler teaches memoir writing at Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, PA, online, and around the country. His Memory Writers Network blog offers hundreds of essays, reviews, and interviews about reading and writing memoirs. He is on the board of the Philadelphia Writer's Conference and National Association of Memoir Writers and holds a BA in Physics and an MS in Counseling Psychology.





About the Book

Memoir Revolution is Jerry Waxler’s beautifully written story as he integrates it with his deep and abiding knowledge and passion for story. In the 1960s, Jerry Waxler, along with millions of his peers, attempted to find truth by rebelling against everything. After a lifetime of learning about himself and the world, he now finds himself in the middle of another social revolution. In the twenty-first century, increasing numbers of us are searching for truth by finding our stories. In Memoir Revolution, Waxler shows how memoirs link us to the ancient, pervasive system of thought called The Story. By translating our lives into this form, we reveal the meaning and purpose that eludes us when we view ourselves through the lens of memory. And when we share these stories, we create mutual understanding, as well. By exploring the cultural roots of this literary trend, based on an extensive list of memoirs and other book, Waxler makes the Memoir Revolution seem like an inevitable answer to questions about our psychological, social and spiritual well-being. 




Guest Post by Nina Amir: How to Evaluate Your Book for Marketability

How to Evaluate Your Book for Marketability

I talk and write a lot about business plans for books. The reason for this is simple. Publishing is the business of selling books. Indie publishers are entrepreneurs. Traditional publishers seek viable products to bring to market. No matter how you publish, you have to produce a marketable book.

I’ve never much liked writing book proposals, but I wanted to get one (or more) of my books published by a publisher. For that, I needed to write a fabulous book proposal.

I write nonfiction, and nonfiction is sold off of a proposal, which serves as a business plan for a book. A nonfiction book proposal contains just a few sample chapters, not the whole manuscript. Fiction proposals tend to be requested after submission of the whole manuscript, although these days more and more agents ask for a fiction proposal with sample chapters as well.

I also have self-published a number of books. These days, however, I write a business plan—a proposal—for my self-published works as well.

Every Book Needs a Business Plan

Actually, I believe every book needs a business plan, which is why I wrote The Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books That Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, and Self-Publish Effectively. The process of writing quite a few book proposals sparked the idea for this book, which is my second traditionally published book. I noticed that each time I completed the process, I experienced a moment when I knew I had created a great book idea. By that, I mean a marketable idea, or one that would sell to readers if I could get it to market. Also, at that moment I felt ready, excited about and confident to write the book.

Experience Precious Moments

I call that my “precious moment.” However, there are many smaller precious moments that happen as you write a book proposal or business plan for a book. You experience them when you analyze the market, for instance, and discover that you could angle your book a bit differently to target a larger number of readers. You might experience one when you analyze the competition and realize that another author has left out some information in his book and you could include it in yours. Or you might have a precious moment when you discover your book is a bit too close in subject matter to a few already published titles, which requires you to retool a bit but sparks a new idea and makes your book more unique and beneficial to readers.

How to Succeed as an Author

My precious moments made me realized that every author needs to have this experience to produce the best possible book—a book with the potential of selling the most copies. So I wrote a book that explains how to write a business plan for your book and use it as a tool to evaluate the marketability of your idea as well as your own ability to help your book succeed in the marketplace. In The Author Training Manual I explain exactly what needs to go into each section of the business plan and how to see that information through the same lens use by agents and acquisitions editors, who see book ideas as “products” as well as creative ventures and know how to determine if they are viable. The book even includes sample plans reviewed by agents and editors, which allows you to train yourself to see through their eyes and “training exercises.” When you put all of this together—the business plan, the sample plans with reviews, and the training exercise, you get a manual that takes you through the necessary steps to train to become a successful author and to write a successful book.

Self-Published Authors Need a Plan

While those who want to traditionally publish must go through the process of creating a business plan for their books, it is all the more important to do so if a writer wants to self-publish. Indie authors don’t have agents or acquisitions editors to offer feedback on the marketability or viability of their “products.” Instead, as publishers, they must make that evaluation themselves. The only way to do so is with a business plan and the ability to see their own work through the same lens used by publishing professionals.

So, like it or not, taking the time to produce a business plan provides the means to that precious moment when you know you’ve created a marketable book idea. And it provides you with the opportunity to write a book that sells, which means gets read.

About the Author

Nina Amir, author of How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time and The Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books That Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, and Self-Publish Effectively, transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs. Known as the Inspiration to Creation Coach, she moves her clients from ideas to finished books as well as to careers as authors by helping them combine their passion and purpose so they create products that positively and meaningfully impact the world. A sought-after author, book, blog-to-book, and results coach, some of Nina’s clients have sold 300,000+ copies of their books, landed deals with major publishing houses and created thriving businesses around their books. She writes four blogs, self-published 12 books and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.

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