What would make my memoir stand out to a publisher?

First, it’s important to know that a memoir is not your life story (that’s an autobiography). Your memoir is a piece of your story, centered around a particular time or event in your life that sent you on a different trajectory.

Make sure you know your theme. Is it a coming of age story? Dealing with loss? Overcoming adversity? Or is it about something you had to persevere through to achieve one of your greatest goals? Be clear on the theme, and write your story in such a way as to convey the theme without ever crossing over to “teaching.”

A memoir that stands out is written in such a way that it completely captivates the reader. There are very few unique stories, so you can’t count on the uniqueness of your experience to sell the book. Thousands of others have overcome adversity, beat cancer, escaped an abusive relationship, or defied the odds to find success despite massive hurdles — and they’ve written about it. So your story has to be told in a way that is vibrant, page-turning, and evocative.

It’s always hard to put your memoir out there, because it’s so personal. Remember that if you don’t find success immediately, it’s probably because so many people are writing memoirs. You’d be surprised how many people are writing about experiences similar to yours. If you don’t find a traditional publisher, self-publishing can be a viable option.

Happy writing!

If you should decide to invest in some personalized counsel, I offer coaching for unpublished authors here: My Coaching Services


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Neurotic Workaholic on May 23, 2021 at 11:24 AM

    I’ve always liked reading memoirs; my bookshelves are full of them. Do people prefer memoirs with happy/optimistic endings? I’ve noticed that most of the memoirs I’ve read seem to end on that note.