11 Memoir Predictions for 2011 from Women’s Memoirs

by Matilda Butler on January 1, 2011

catnav-news-active-3Post #49 – Women’s Memoirs, News – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

11 Memoir Predictions/Tips/Prompts/Books/& More for 2011

Welcome to 2011 from WomensMemoirs.com. Last January 1, we posted 10 predictions for 2010. This year, when Kendra and I talked about launching the new year, we decided to have 11 special posts for 2011. Beginning today and continuing through January 11, we’ll feature 11 lists for memoir writers, each with 11 items. Be sure to visit daily and get your memoir writing year well started.

To be parallel with last year, we’re beginning with a list of 11 memoir predictions.





memoir-writing-2011

Memoir Prediction #1: Number of Memoirs Published will Increase, But…

Some of the fascination with memoir is gone. Probably not by readers but by the gatekeepers, publishers. The number of memoirs published in 2011 will continue to grow over 2010 but they will remain a smaller percentage of the overall Biography and Memoir category than in the peak years of the mid 2000s. Here are the numbers from previous years:





memoir, memoir writing, memoir predictions for 2011

Memoir Prediction #2: Memoirists Will Consider Ebooks Because…

Ebooks have been growing in popularity for a number of years. Because we just sold our home, I’m all too aware of the footprint (shelf-print) that paper books create. I just gave away more than 1500 books, almost half of my collection. In the new home, most of my book collection will be put on shelves in a partition of the garage we’re calling “the library.” Only the few books I need for current writing will be in my office.

Does this mean that people won’t read books? Of course not. Books both in print format and in electronic format will be read. But the prediction here is that ebooks are still early in their growth curve and will continue to generate significant sales in 2011 and on. Some predict that ebooks will soon be 25% of total book sales.

Therefore I predict that memoir writers will consider ebook only versus ebook and paper versions. The decision to have a paper-only memoir will significantly decline.

memoir-ebook-sales, memoir prediction, memoirs

Memoir Prediction #3: Memoir Writers Will Search for Ebook Price Point

Big publishers don’t want to cannibalize their paper products and therefore prefer to price both the print and electronic versions about the same. Amazon and other online retailers have forced electronic book pricing that is significantly lower than publishers like. Some small independent publishers and self-publishers don’t have to be limited by that problem. Expect experiments in ebook pricing in 2011. Not only will ebook versions be priced lower than print books, expect experiments that include $1.00 per chapter and other variations.

I predict some memoir authors will self-publish the ebook version first and judge sales to see if they should invest in a print version. By the way, don’t forget that layout is just as important for an ebook as for a print book.

Memoir Prediction #4: Audio Memoirs Will Grow

2011 is the year that a small number of memoir writers will begun to consider an audio version of their memoir. Sure some big publishers and even some academic publishers already invest in an audio version of a published print book if sales are high enough.

I predict that more memoir writers will begin (we’re early in this curve) to release self-published audio versions of their memoirs in 2011. Others will wait to see what it takes to do this and how much money can be made. Some of these memoirs will have already been published in print format, but not all. Authors can produce an audio and market it aggressively without the need for a big name publisher. Costs for an audio are higher than an ebook, but still costs can be kept fairly low.

Memoir Prediction #5: Multimedia Memoirs Will Increase in Number

No, I don’t mean your memoir is likely to become a 2011 3-D movie. (Although that is possible.)

2011 is still an early year in the revitalization of publishing. The old publishing model no longer works and everyone is looking for a new model. Part of the formula is likely to include multimedia elements.

Memoir authors already understand the importance of photographs. What about other multimedia elements including audio (as distinct from a reading of the entire memoir) and video?

I predict in 2011 that we’ll see some early experiments with multimedia memoirs. No major sales because the platforms are still coming along (e.g. iPad sales), but it will happen.

Memoir Prediction #6: Interactive Memoirs Will Be Seen (But Faintly) on the Horizon

I’m not sure this is a legitimate prediction, but here goes anyway.

As multimedia memoirs grow in number (and sales), the opportunity to add more information will prove to be irresistible. Imagine a memoir on your eReader. The author has just returned from Bursa, Turkey after living there for 12 years. The memoir is about her life after she returns, but you’d certainly like to know more about this place where she lived. An interactive memoir would let you click on the word Bursa and find additional information that the author has included. This isn’t a second memoir, just some background information that may help you understand more about the experiences she has had without slowing down the rest of the memoir. Another reader would just keep reading or might want to click over to a video taken by the author in the last couple of months before she returned to the US. Or how about an audio of Turkish music.

These cutting edge, interactive memoirs allow the reader to easily find more information that enhances the reading experience. Consider: history surrounding the times of the memoir, history of the place, recipes, etc. The growth of Apple’s iPad and other devices will influence the type of platform for such memoirs.

Memoir Prediction #7: Make Way for More Drawings

There are few graphic memoirs, but I predict there will be more as those who have artistic talents write about their lives. This will never be a big category just as graphic novels will never be. But if you have drawing talent, consider telling your story in that way.

I’m one of those with no talent — can’t draw a straight line in a way that you’d know what it was. I’m envious of those with that that ability. If drawing is your forte, go for it.

Memoir Prediction #8: Fewer Advances Will Be Made and More Guarantees Will Be Required

The big name authors will continue to get advances, even large advances. But don’t expect an advance if you are a first time author seeking publication. If you get one, be head-over-heels happy. Just don’t expect it. The large publishing houses have overheads that need to be met and their safest bet is more books by established authors. They are willing to pay advances to established names because that guarantees that they publish the books that are most likely to sell in large numbers.

Small publishers are the most likely to take on new authors and they usually don’t have money for advances. If they do, expect a small advance. Remember, of course, that an advance is just that. Sales have to earn the author more than the advance before the publisher pays again.

There are, of course, exceptions. If you are famous, then you can negotiate for an advance because there is a more likely guarantee of sales from people who know of you. Similarly, if you have established a platform, even if you are not famous, a publisher may take you on and consider an advance.

This is similar to the way that we say “show, don’t tell.” Show a publisher that you have a large potential audience, don’t tell the publisher that everyone will want to read your story.

Memoir Prediction #9: Increasing Use of Clever Devices for Memoirs Will be Seen

Literary or conceptual frameworks, sometimes called structural devices, will grow in both popularity and creativity among memoir writers. The epistolary novel is an accepted form and applies well to memoir. Not only are there actual letters, but the device of future letters to an unborn grandchild can be used.

A recent novel, Save as Draft, is based on emails (both sent and unsent). A memoir could also be done in this way. One memoir uses the mix-tapes that the author and his wife gave each other. Another memoirist told her life story through the cars she and her family owned over the years. Food courses and even recipes have also been organizing frameworks for memoirs.

The straight-jackets are off. In 2011, memoirists will just “for go it,” letting their creativity shine.

Memoir Prediction #10: More Life Stories Will Be Written as Self-Help or How-To Books Rather Than Memoir

As more memoirists realize how difficult it is to market their stories, they will turn to other genres with the same story facts. Readers are always hungry for self-help or how-to books. Think through the life lessons you have learned and reshape them into steps others can replicate. This is a different focus when you write. You can’t just take a memoir and then call it a self-help book.

However, with your primary focus on one of these other genres, you can work in your personal stories, your vignettes. Then draw out the lessons for the person, showing what he or she could do in a similar situation in order to be successful.

Memoir Prediction #11: Recognition of Importance of Telling One’s Story Will Increase

A life story not told disappears when the life ends. Maybe not a cheery way to end these predictions, but true none the less. Women in particular have thought that their stories don’t matter.

But that is changing. More women are recognizing that their stories are important and want to share their lives with the family or more broadly. An organization like Story Circle Network offers encouragement and online classes to help women learn how to tell their stories.

If you need help at the editing stage, Story Circle Network has a number of editors who have worked with women and are available with several levels of editing assistance.

Yet not everyone wants to take the time to write. There are individuals who can help you write your story. For example, you can find highly qualified writers as members of the Association of Personal Historians The organization’s website maintains a list of individuals that will help you undertake recording your story.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for our next list of 11 in 2011.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Hoye January 1, 2011 at

Thank for for a fascinating list. I am looking forward with great interest to seeing where we go in 2011 with respect to multimedia and ebooks! Your #11 was my favorite though. The older I get the more certain I am that everyone has a fascinating story of some sort that deserves to be shared and preserved. Thank you for all that you do to help women do this. Happy 2011!

Kate Farrell January 1, 2011 at

How exciting! Thank you both so much for your crystal gazing into 2011 for women memoirs. I agree with just about every prediction and see many possibilities opening for this genre in particular. Another opportunity is the women’s memoir anthology and its unique, collaborative contribution to women’s stories. I’m thrilled about the timing for Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother to be published Oct. 2011.

Tricia January 1, 2011 at

Happy New Year! Plan to try #5, multimedia memoirs with my daughter. (She’s in her 20s and very creative.) These predictions have me thinking of ways to add to my ‘words only’ approach. Thanks!

Donna January 1, 2011 at

very enlightening Matilda…I am working on #10 myself through my blog and have been encouraged to self publish it….life lessons through my garden experiences…so here’s to 2011 and continuing the writing and the journey..thx for your encouragement!!

Diane January 1, 2011 at

Appreciated the great list of memoir predictions. They helped me rethink some key areas of my memoir in progress, Mending My Life One Stitch At A Time, a story about rebuilding my life after the death of my husband. Struggled with self help versus personal narrative. Staying with the personal story hope it works. Encouraging to hear that women’s stories are still valued. Thanks for the inspiration!

Kendra Bonnett January 1, 2011 at

Donna…I think it’s great you’re thinking of turning your gardening experiences into a book (self-published or otherwise). I have one bit of advice for you. Start now thinking how you can separate your blog content from your book content. In the early days of blogs, publishers thought they had found a gold mine (a built-in customer base) in popular blogs. They started giving huge advances to bloggers who turned their blogs into books because they were convinced they could sell lots of books.

But they didn’t. People happy to read the free blogs were not willing to PAY to read the same material. I don’t want to dissuade you–quite the opposite–just help you think about two different content threads. Hope this helps.

Linda Thomas January 1, 2011 at

What a delightful list! Thank you for sharing it with us.

I’m already accomplishing #6 and #7 by slowly blogging through my memoir (published last February). The book is a compilation of letters I wrote to my granddaughter during my first 4 years in Africa.

I’m not re-telling all the book’s stories, but I am adding materials to enrich what’s in the book. For example, within individual blog posts I’m including links to websites and YouTube videos on places (the trip from Nairobi to Lake Naivasha) or activities (such as eating grubs). I recently learned that with my Google account, I can create my own customized Google maps and I plan to incorporate one or more into my blog soon. I’m also writing blog posts on selected topics in which I go into more depth than I did in the book, as well as telling stories on the blog that didn’t make it into the book. Guest bloggers, interviews with former coworkers, and follow-up stories on people or incidents in the book also enrich the content of the book. In blogging my way through the book, I’m actually creating an even larger book. Somehow I’d like to print out blog posts and include them in the books that my grandchildren now own. Any ideas along that line?

For #7, the blog allows me to incorporate photos, maps, illustrations, etc.

Thanks again for your informative list and your inspirational blog!

Linda Thomas

Carol Kunnerup January 1, 2011 at

I am very excited about your predictions. They opened my eyes to the possibilities. I am writing one short vignette at a time and in the very early stages. I also am writing for my children and letters to my eldest who passed away 3 years ago at 18. I love the idea of multimedia memoir. I have been ‘looking’ for a way to go more deeply into the story. very exciting.

Amber Starfire January 1, 2011 at

Great list of predictions … it’ll be interesting to hold onto this list and see how accurate it is (I’m guessing you’re right on with these). Thanks for a great start to the 11 for 2011 series!

Jamuna Advani January 1, 2011 at

Oh I am so glad to find this start up for the 2011. Thank you Matilday and Kendra. Looking forward to these predictions.

Annie Payne January 1, 2011 at

As an Australian personal historian (member of APH since 2006) I was delighted to read your list of predictions for 2011, which included using a personal historian. The difference between being interviewed by a family member and by a profeesional personal historian is one of “assumed background knowledge”.
All interviewees, when being interviewed by a family member, assume that their interviewer has a vast store of family knowledge and so many important, funny, secret or serious matters are not spoken about at interview and are omited from the memoir or biography.
Do consider using a professional for this vital component of preserving your personal or family story.

Shirley January 1, 2011 at

Loved Memoir Prediction #4: Audio Memoirs Will Grow
When I saw that, it was a real head slapper! Put me right in my comfortable red chair (or pillowed car seat, for that matter) listening to something like old time radio. I could so identify with how the vignettes I’m shaping up would fit that venue, and how much I would enjoy hearing others’ readings. Wow. Warm and digital at the same time.

Matilda Butler January 1, 2011 at

Thanks everyone for your comments. I am especially pleased that these predictions seemed to resonate with so many of you. I look forward to hearing from you during the year as you make your own progress.

Happy New Year.

Karen Fisher-Alaniz January 1, 2011 at

My memoir will come out this year. Wow! That’s the first time I’ve been able to say, THIS year. It is about my quest to figure out why my father, a WWII vet, started having flashbacks 50+ years after the war. I would love to do some kind of memoir for my mother’s life now. Your idea of recipes seems like it just might work for her. Our lives, our celebrations, are built around food. So, it seems like it might be a good foundation. Thanks for the great information here!

Dianne Harris January 2, 2011 at

Thank you for reporting on trends in the marketplace. I am in academia which requires a different style of writing and have always loved a good story. I want to learn how to use storytelling to inspire and to instruct as a a coach and consultant. This is the best site that I have found about writing.

Dianne Harris, MS Leadership Coaching

Julie Robinson January 2, 2011 at

Hi Matilda–
I just found your blog and I couldn’t be more thrilled to read your predictions for 2011.

Similar to Donna, I’m writing my memoir in a manner that links it to #10–where memoir becomes self-help or a how-to book. I’m writing my first book length narrative non-fiction manuscript, and while many of your predictions work quite well for my writing ideas, I am disappointed to hear that advances are not likely. Oh well! I’ll have to just keep on teaching while I write.

I look forward to reading your blog regularly.

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