WRITE THEIR STORIES:
Developing the Biography, Part II
WHEN I became interested in writing Biographies (sometimes called Memoirs) I had no idea how to find a client who wanted their stories told. So I filed away the best idea resources I’d collected for that genre and got busy writing other projects. About a year later I received a phone call from the editor of a small newspaper. I’d sent a brief “thank you” note to her applauding their cover story about a local woman linotype operator and how a neighbor was helping her write a book about her life. This editor informed me that my note would appear in their “Letters to the Editor” column the following month. She would also be including my business website and contact information because “we need more people like you who will help folks write their life histories.” WOW! Such a nice surprise; it still warms my heart when I recall the exchange.
That one contact led to eleven (11) queries. Although only one became an actual client that year, I am forever grateful for being nudged into the biography-autobiography-memoir writing business. Until you’ve experienced it yourself, it is difficult to understand the depth of joy and satisfaction it brings to the “writing assistant.” And, that is what we become: writing coach and editor, research assistant, creative storyteller, hand-holder and friend/brother/sister/counselor.
SO…how do you set yourself up as a writer of biographies?
I much prefer the personal contact avenues—as you might guess from the example above. However, if you’ve considered writing “for” other people, you’ve probably created a website and may be a member of one or more Facebook writing communities. Other ideas are:
- Research FREELANCE WRITING sites where you can submit your resume for FREE.
- Consider your own interests while asking yourself “What makes a person famous enough to make the effort to write a biography?” Do you have biographies on your bookshelf? I have several biographies of authors I admire. Is there an author you admire who doesn’t have a biography (or autobiography) out in the world yet? Might be worth it to contact them.
- Look at a variety of Literary Agencies that specialize in biographies (or other genres you enjoy). If you’ve ever talked with an agent, you already have an idea how many queries they receive from people who need help. Send them your resume with an excellent cover letter.
- Check out your favorite traditional and self-publishers and query them about becoming part of their ghostwriting team. You will need to read every word in their “contractor agreements” then decide for yourself if that is what you want. They are an excellent resource because people who need professional writing assistance will contact their favorite publisher for advice.
IF you are just beginning to test the waters of biography writing, you may need that surprise one-on-one meeting that leads to signing a client. Someone recently mentioned to me that they found their first biography client in a college library. The peaceful and intellectually stimulating environment allowed her to become acquainted with several staff librarians and one of them handed her the contact information for someone “needing help to write their grandfather’s biography.”
For me, biography/memoir writing is a very personal experience. It is the respect we have for the individuals we write for that makes the pages come alive. Our lives will be quite different than those we’re writing about and it’s critically important not to “put a modern-day spin” on what they’re sharing. Through this process we become better writers and—I believe—better human beings. As you connect with each new biography client, may the leather of their shoes and the ground along their path bless you with new insights. ⚓︎
ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.
Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.