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The Key to Self-Publishing Your Memoir: Be Confident with Your Story!

03/03/2014 01:56 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2014
  • Dorit Sasson Memoirist, story coach, radio show host and creator of Giving Voice to Your Story - www.GivingVoicetotheVoicelessBook.com

If you asked me about confidence as a writer a year ago, I'd say confidence equates publication. I had written more than 100 drafts for each of my little academic books, which took six years while struggling to support a family on a part time teacher income. I tried to make each book the best it could be. I wanted my buyers to know that my books were worth purchasing because I had done my research and wrote what I thought were "stellar" books.

Soon after, I discovered the world of creative non-fiction, and realized I was up against a totally different league with other memoirists. I started writing a memoir about my years serving in the Israeli Defense Forces as an immigrant from New York City -- a story that had boiled inside for more than twenty five years. Although I wrote my story with passion, I found it hard to speak about it. The voice of my story kept getting stuck in my throat. Other self-published memoirists talked about their books with a tremendous voice. Confidence simply oozed from them.

I wanted to be one of those confident writers, too. It just seemed though I was a long way off. When I wrote my two little books for an academic publisher, nobody cared how long it took for me to conquer the writing daemons and gremlins who tried tell me whether I was qualified enough to write these books. But in the self-publishing world of memoir writing, confidence is everything!

Nowadays, the topic of "a writer's confidence" is such an internal quality that nobody is really talking about -- publishers and agents included. Add to the fact that there are tons of ways to get one's story out there in the world in the fastest way possible, that nobody really seems to care.

For memoirists in particular, this means gaining immediate access to online and social media platforms to get additional fans. This pressure can be a confidence-killer. Those memoirists who are truly successful however, have undergone healing and learned as much as they can from the masters about writing a good memoir -- two elements which are great confidence builders. But there are also two inside-outside things you will need to do as much as possible so your memoir can fly to the world.

Feel Good with Your Story

While writing the early scenes of my memoir, I found myself struggling to get in touch with that insecure eighteen year old who joined the Israeli Defense Forces. I could feel my body shake. I was afraid for those early memories who soon take hold of me after working so hard for so many years for my own inner peace and stability.

It is hard to feel that early confidence as a writer when the story is still developing or if one is undergoing healing. But once the story gets underway and the themes of one's story are crystal clear, it's time to see the author as a character in a movie. Write scenes bring one closer to that character's pain and what's at-stake for her/him. When I distanced myself as writer and protagonist, the more comfortable I felt about talking about my story. I shared bit and pieces of the writing process on Facebook writing groups and blogged about it. Talking about your story is healing.

Create a Following or Online Presence

To speak about your story with confidence, you also need to know who's listening to you.
At the early stages of writing a memoir, writers need a plan of how to spread their book around. One cannot just throw a book around "to see what happens" expecting the book to sell itself. Writers cannot afford to throw a book out unless they have a bit of a sense of how well it will do.

This is where having a social media presence, a website, followers and fans come in as a way to sell oneself as an expert and to sell the products, books or services you have to offer. According to Dr. Deborah Siegel, a writing coach and co-founder of SheWrites.com, the editor's definition of a writer's platform is "qualifiable proof that you're the person to write this book and quantifiable proof that you have the ability to promote it."

In today's world of self-publishing, an author needs to speak about his/her memoir with confidence, otherwise, it will be just that much harder to garner publicity and fans and broaden one's network. In this way, authors need to be their best promoters and platform builders regardless of the format of how they are publishing.

One of the more savvy marketing moves I could do to build confidence in my story earlier on in the writing was to host my own radio show, "Giving Voice to Your Story" via Blog Talk Radio. I talked about the lessons I got from writing and the writing process. I talked about various writing strategies like point of view or how to write about difficult subjects.

Internet radio is quickly becoming one of the fastest and most popular ways to speak about one's story and message even before the book is published. Having a radio show allows authors to be heard and "felt" more deeply than they could with a newsletter. An author's influence is a lot stronger than with text-based methods.

To self-publish a memoir requires heavy doses of self-confidence. Invest in your own self-confidence before self-publishing. After all, the old cliche is true: One only gets one chance for a good first impression.