In this day and age, publishing a memoir is a tricky business. Amidst the fall-out of authors such as Margaret Jones, James Frey, JT LeRoy and others, the industry has become somewhat jaded with memoirists. In other words, the proof is no longer in the pudding…it’s in the recipe.
The challenge for memoir writers lies in every stage of the game. From writing to editing, publishing to promoting, authors must go through extensive lengths to prove the validity of their life stories.
Take Rob Mitchell
for example. Abandoned by his parents at age 3, raised in the American orphanage system and homeless at 17, Mitchell is now one of the country’s top financial advisers. He knew that if he ever wrote a book about his life, he’d have to make an extra effort to show skeptics that the events of his life were true to the core. And that’s exactly what he did.
In his memoir, Castaway Kid
(Tyndale), Mitchell relives his troubled childhood as one of the last “lifers” in the American orphanage system. He spent months researching his personal time-line, digging up official documents to support his memoir. He even produced a website
to prove its validity. The site includes documents from his case file at the children’s home; psychiatric reports on him, his mother and father; letters from people involved in his life; and recorded interviews.
As Mitchell's publicist, I think this was a wise move. Recently, I was pitching Mitchell
for an interview opportunity on an NPR program to talk about his life growing up in an orphanage. The producer immediately responded to my pitch expressing her genuine interest in the interview, but she also said she couldn't help but feel weary about having a memoir writer on the program in light of all the negative attention swirling around falsified memoirs.
Thanks to Mitchell's research on the front end, I was able to offer his website, http://www.amillionlittleproofs.com/
, as a resource to secure the producer's interest. She requested the book along with a press kit, and I'm still awaiting word on a follow through.
For those authors out there interested in writing a memoir, I'd advise you to take my client's lead. You never know when you'll be asked to prove it.
Labels: Castaway Kid, James Frey, memoirs, publicity, Publishing