Among Christian writers and bloggers, we all likely know someone whose book proposal—whose personal story of struggle and second chances—has been rejected by publishers. We’ve seen their disappointment and frustration from the lack of interest.
As a friend, I try to offer words of encouragement. That it might not be the right time. That if it is supposed to get published, it will. I remind her there are a myriad of reasons a book might not find a publisher.
But as someone who sifts through book ideas and book proposals on a frequent basis, I’ve come to believe memoirs are a somewhat dubious venture. (This is not to say they can’t be beautifully and successfully done.)
For one, there aren’t very many memoirists—people who write repeated memoirs. Of course, there are the Donald Millers and Anne Lamotts, the splendid exceptions. But how many of us live interesting enough lives to write more than one memoir? (I’d argue that even celebrities don’t. It’s uncanny that someone like Justin Bieber could write two memoirs before the age of 18.)
Additionally, some Christian publishing insiders think memoirs can be—but not always—hard to sell. Is this because they don’t have a good place on the bookshelf? Or because Christian book-buyers tend to prefer Bible studies and non-fiction?
These personal curiosities jostled when I read Dani Shapiro’s article “A Memoir is Not a Status Update” in The New Yorker. In the piece, Shapiro, author of multiple books (three of which are memoirs), laments the effects of social media and today’s me-culture on the memoir.
She describes how the slow-drip of 140 character tweets and status ...1
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