Written by: Alice Sullivan, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
From 2008–2016, the world knew Michelle Obama as the First Lady of the United States, a woman mostly eclipsed by her husband's presidency. While she was reasonably popular in this role, her own star didn't fully rise until 2018, when she released her ghostwritten memoir, Becoming.
While some book tours involve a smattering of poorly attended readings at small bookstores around the country, with maybe a handful of books signed and purchased, Michelle sold out entire arenas. She visited twelve American cities and charged up to $3,000 for a meet-and-greet backstage. Her superpower? “To create intimacy at scale,” Vox Media declared.
Memoir Creates Intimacy with Your Reader
This is the magic of memoir.
If you open up the social media account of one of your favorite celebrities—or even just a friend or acquaintance—you’re bound to get hit with their highlight role. You’ll see them enjoying a vacation or finishing a marathon. You won’t often see the menial, mundane steps they took along the way. You won’t see the restaurant meals they skipped to afford their big trip or the torn ACL that cost them six months of physical therapy and lost training time. And so, while you may respect or admire these people, they remain at arm’s length.
Memoir pulls back the tightly curated facade of our accomplishments and allows readers to see the hurdles we overcame to arrive at those shiny accomplishments. If you want to build an innate trust with your reader—and your potential customer—you need to let them see the in-between moments alongside the triumphs.
No one knows your story unless you tell them.
Memoir Helps You Build a Platform
For authors who aren’t (yet) household names, writing a memoir can serve as an introduction—and a launchpad into fame, for some. J.D. Vance was already a successful venture capitalist when he wrote Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir that chronicled the challenges of growing up in an economically depressed town in the rust belt. The book quickly rose to the top of bestseller lists. Seven years after its publication, Vance was elected as senator for Ohio.
Memoir Allows Readers to See How You Arrived at Your Successes
Those who saw Michelle Obama attending state dinners in a glittery, floor-length gown or delivering remarks about nutrition on the White House lawn might not suspect she grew up working-class. But Becoming reveals that Michelle lived in one floor of a tiny house on Euclid Ave, in a blue-collar neighborhood of Chicago. It discloses that her dad had multiple sclerosis and was shut out of gainful employment because of his race. It reveals that Michelle and Barack's daughters were conceived through IVF after Michelle faced infertility.
These struggles reveal the person behind the public persona. They make us feel as if we know Michelle. The same thing is true of Prince Harry, Trevor Noah, or Tina Fey. Their memoirs give us a window into the reality of their backgrounds and day-to-day lives.
Your reader may not share the same struggles as you. But loss is loss. Grief is grief. Hardship is hardship. Sharing your story gives your readers a blueprint for navigating their own struggle, and solidifies you as a trusted sojourner in the process.
Your Own Memoir Lends Instant Credibility
Human beings are innately wired for story. It’s why we itch for resolution when an episode of our favorite TV show ends on a cliffhanger. It’s why we lean closer when we hear the couple seated next to us at the diner begin to argue. It’s why we stay up too late when we’re reading a psychological thriller. Story—the quest of a protagonist who wants something and fights for it—resonates with us on a primal level. And when an author allows us to come alongside them on their journey, we begin to innately trust them.
You may not be able to sell out arenas with your memoir, but having your own book affords you instant credibility. Instead of giving out your business card at conferences, you'll be able to hand them your entire encapsulated story. And that "intimacy at scale" is a currency you can use to further your brand, increase your visibility, score sales conversions, and turn leads into true believers.
As a ghostwriter, I’ve helped countless authors reach their audiences by penning a gripping memoir. Want to harness the power of memoir for yourself? Reach out to me today. I’d love to help you tell your story.
Alice Sullivan, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Alice Sullivan is an award-winning ghostwriter, collaborator, and 11-time New York Times bestselling editor. A natural-born storyteller, she’s written 60 books and edited over 1,300 titles. She specializes in nonfiction—specifically memoir, self-help, and personal growth. She helps clients identify their goals and messages while creating engaging content to connect with their target markets. Her favorite projects are those that challenge her point of view and expand her knowledge.