Memoirs are a special kind of writing

I am currently writing a memoir entitled: The Inside Story –  Memoirs of the Otago Microbiology Department. I was reminded of a blog post from Bookbaby that had a list principles of storytelling that one should adhere to when writing a memoir. A memoir is not an autobiography – it doesn’t cover an entire life. A memoir is about a particular phase of a life, one with its own beginning, middle, and ending. A memoir is akin to fiction in its being a story; but it is a true story.

It is a collection of memories and the meanings attached to them.  My story is about the unique NZ academic experience that is different, but also shared by other academics around the world that worked during the period 1970 – 2010.  It is about the character and esprit de corps of the Department and the personalities that loomed larger than life.

Even though they are facts, memoirs have an element of design, a condensed version of real life, that should adhere to the same principles of great storytelling as fiction does.

There are several challenges associated with writing a memoir. Deciding how to cope with each challenge before you begin to write your memoir will greatly aid the process of getting your story down on paper (or online).

More details from Bookbaby

1. Decide which span of time you are describing

What is the opening and what is the ending? This is the same as a novel; all good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an ending that contains a climax and brings about a resolution.

2. Decide whether you are sticking with pure fact, or whether you are going to embellish

Embellishment might only mean changing the names of those involved to protect privacy. Deeper changes might involve the omission of key events, changes in the true chronology of events, or slight changes to help focus the story. For example, two people who helped you along your way might be merged into a single composite character to help the “plot” and the reader. Fiction has a similar balance, but it is often in reverse. Pure imagination is inspired by aspects of the truth. For example, a fictional character might be based on a friend.

3. Decide how personal you are going to get

The whole purpose of writing your memoir might be to air out everything that happened, especially if your experiences might help someone else know they are not alone in what they are going through. On the other hand, you might be willing to share certain aspects of your life, but not others. Decide where to draw the line and how it will impact the story. Of course, this applies to everyone in your memoir as well. While you might be willing to share details of events and actions that took place, the real people involved may not be, and you’ll have to deal with this. Fiction has a similar aspect in that each author puts some personal experience and a private world view into any work of fiction, it’s just a matter of degree, and what is private is never explicitly defined.

4. Decide the message of your memoir

What was the purpose of taking the time to write the memoir? How is this message specific to you but universal? How can others relate and what can they draw from it? This is where the power of personal narrative lies. This spirit of the memoir is the magic of the genre. Leave out the mundane details and focus on what makes this a story different from anyone else’s.

You may discover new angles to the story you’re telling. As humans, we grow and learn constantly. Writing your memoir will likely change you as a person. You might be surprised as you dig deeper into your story, and especially as you get feedback from others, that you see things differently from how you first saw them.

It’s easier to write a memoir when it’s far enough in the past that you have fully processed what happened and have gained perspective on the events. If you are still in the process of trying to understand those events, it might just be too early to write your memoir. Then again, writing, with all the analysis and retrospection it requires, can be a great trigger for moving ahead in life by gaining distance from the past.

For more advice on writing memoirs, see previous post.

eBooks — FAQ’s


Back to basics about eBooks. Here are a few FAQ’s about eBooks from BookBaby. We use the services of BookBaby since it provides an eBook distribution network in 170 countries and puts your book on the shelves of Amazon, Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, the Sony Reader Store, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, eBookPie, and others. For more information about how we can do the heavy lifting for you, visit our bookstore.

1. What is an eBook?

Electronic books – or eBooks – are digital versions of a manuscript. An eBook can consist of text, images, or both. An eBook requires special dedicated files to be created from digital files like Word or PDF. (See below for more information about these eBook files.) eBooks have been around since 2007, when Amazon introduced the Kindle, followed by the Barnes & Noble Nook and the iPad from Apple.

2. How do people buy and read eBooks?

eBooks are downloaded directly to all kinds reading devices. They can be read on almost any modern computing device including dedicated eReaders like the Kindle or Nook. These devices are mainly used to buy and read eBooks. Many people read eBooks on smartphones – all iPhone and Android devices have eBook reading apps available as downloads. Others use multipurpose devices – tablets like the iPad and Surface – to consume eBooks.

Readers can buy eBooks from thousands of online retailers around the globe, including Amazon. The Kindle BookStore is the world’s largest online eBook store, with hundreds of new titles added each day. Other popular eBook retailers include Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble. In addition, authors can sell eBooks directly to readers from their own websites.

3. How do I turn my book into an eBook?

It starts with having your content on one of the popular digital file formats, such as Word or a PDF. These source documents will then be converted into two special eBook files. One file type, .mobi, is used in the Amazon Kindle device. The other file, called an ePub, is used in all other eBook reading devices, apps, and programs.

Some authors can convert their files themselves using third-party software applications. But for most writers, eBook conversion is a complicated process and can be difficult to do correctly. The coding can get very intricate and complex.

That’s why many authors turn to a company like BookBaby for professional eBook file conversion. At BookBaby, we inspect your Word or PDF document to make sure it conforms to eBook file specifications and then convert it into both .mobi and ePub files for all eReader types. BookBaby then sends a format proof of the eBook files that you can load and view on your own device. At this stage you can still make changes or corrections to your book.

4. What kind of books can be eBooks?

Just about any kind of book can be made into an eBook. Most text-based books work very well as eBooks because they have a simple layout. This is called a “dynamic” layout, because the book’s appearance will change depending on the screen size of the eReader. (More information here and below.) Books that have a lot of pictures or graphics often need a different conversion process, called “fixed layout”. We recommend this kind of conversion for children’s books, cook books, photography, and art books. (Note: BookBaby performs fixed layout conversions for books destined to be sold in Apple’s iBookstore only. For more information about what kind of conversion you’ll need, go to the BookBaby website.

5. Will my eBook read and look just like my printed book?

All of the content of your printed book will be in your eBook, but it won’t look exactly the same. Why? Think of it this way: A printed book stays in one format, for instance a 6×9 trade book. Each page stays exactly the same – forever! But an eBook page can and will change based on several factors including the screen size of the reading device being used and the reader’s personal preferences. For more information about why eBooks don’t look like printed books, I invite you to read “Why Doesn’t My eBook Look Like My Printed Book?” on the BookBaby Blog.

6. How long will it take to create an eBook?

There is no simple answer to this question, it all depends on your book files and the time spent reviewing your eBook proof. Here’s the process:

  • When you send your Word or PDF book file to BookBaby, we’ll inspect all of the contents to make sure everything is right.
  • Next we convert your file into both a .mobi and ePub, and send you a digital proof. Your first proof will arrive in about 6-8 business days.
  • Then the ball is in your court! You’ll need to review your proof and contact BookBaby with any changes. This can take five minutes… five days… or five weeks.

Most eBook conversions take two rounds of proofs. How long does the “average” conversion take? You can generally expect this part of the eBook creation process to last between 12-15 business days. Please note: If you’re doing both a printed book and eBook at the same time, BookBaby will work on your printed book file first and then your eBook. That way we make sure both versions of your book are exactly the same.

7. What do I need to do to get started on my eBook?

First, you should have your book professionally edited. That goes for any kind of book, printed book or eBook. There’s just no substitute for another set of eyes combing your manuscript to eliminate typos and grammar issues.

When you send us your edited book file in Word or PDF format, I recommend you keep everything very simple. Because there are so many kinds of eBook readers and devices, a simple book file is best for the sake of consistency. Avoid any kind of special fonts or type treatments. Remember It’s the content of your book that’s most important – not a fancy typeface. For more instructions how to prepare your file, download BookBaby’s free guide, Preparing Your Document For eBook Conversion.

If a blog is posted and no one reads it

great blog contentThis a variation of the famous “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” While the answer to the latter question is a philosophical one, the answer to the former is: NO.

There are approximately 152 million blog sites on the internet with about 1.13 million blog posts per day. So all the hard work you put into making  great blog content, it will probably go unnoticed unless you have a faith following – but even then people can be busy…

How to Repurpose Your Great Blog Content

Theses are hints that come from Pat Flynn on ways to repurpose your content by creating several different types of postings.

1. Read Your Post Word for Word and Create an Audio File
See a previous post for more information

2. Create an Infographic Related to Your Content

3. Create Social Media Cards with Direct Quotes from Your Post
Easier than an infographic, post them on Facebook. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest

4. Create a SlideShare Presentation
Publish it on

5. Use Content as Talking Points for a Live Stream

6. Create a Book from the Blog Post Series
Currently doing this for: The Inside Story: A History of the Microbiology Department

Word of Mouth Marketing

No matter how good your book or ‘voice or brand’ is — it could do with some marketing. What is the best form of marketing? Word of Mouth

What is the best way to get WOM? Brand Advocate

What is a brand advocate? They are type of customer that goes out of their way to stand up for your brand. They are enduringly loyal while recommending and believing in you. The bottom line is that they are a rare breed with a big voice and unlimited power of persuasion.

Did you know that 92% of global consumers trust the word of friends and family over any other form of advertising and advocates are twice as likely to recommend your brand then a typical customer?

So what is the secret to building advocates? Consistency.

– Consistently deliver superior content

– Consistently deliver stellar customer feedback

– Consistently deliver excellent customer experience


Check out to discover more!

What is your Unfair Advantage?

Pat Flynn
Pat Flynn has a very successful online business known as SmartPassiveIncome (SPI) and when asked what advice he would give to someone just starting out, he replied:

Use your unfair advantage. An unfair advantage is a skill, experience or asset that you have that no one else or few others have — it is your competitive edge – for example:

1. The People You Know
The connections you have made over time — through work, clubs, social networks and work colleagues. Your address book of contacts.

2. Your Experience
What you have been through — work, career path, your hands on knowledge of the world.

3. Your Story And How You Tell it
We all have a story to tell. Stories are incredible marketing tools. Your stories should always be true and if you have a good one, tell it and use it to your advantage.

4. Your Personality: Your Ability to Connect with Others
Out of the 7 billion people in this world, you are uniquely you. If you have a personality that people can easily connect with — don’t be afraid to use it. Injecting any kind of personality into your business is an advantage.

5. Your Specialisation: What you Know
It is not just the skills and experiences that you have to offer that can give you a competitive edge, it can also be the fact that you can serve a more specialised segment of a particular market. Remember the phrase: The Riches are in the Niches.

This advice applies to businesses in general and also to self-publishing, which after all is a business.

Life-cycle of a self-published book


Helpful hints from BookBaby

What might be involved in the traditional publishing process? Pitching your book to agents, shopping the manuscript to acquisitions editors, conference calls between the marketing and editorial departments, changing the ending to give your book broader “appeal,” letting someone in New York decide on the title and design, and a hundred other things that are outside of your control.

When you self-publish, on the other hand, the road is straight. The process unfolds like a linear narrative, and YOU are in the driver’s seat. Of course talent, hard work, and luck are as important as ever to your success — but when you find your loyal readership, YOU reap more of the rewards, and you’ll have done so without compromising the thing that matters most: your writing!

How a self-published book moves from your imagination into the hands of readers

The idea! It’s a beaut. Truly inspired. Now set a schedule and start writing.

Write, write, write. Don’t be overly critical. Just get it into words.

Get feedback. Let beta-readers, a writing group, or a workshop critique your manuscript.

Revise, revise, revise. Put that feedback to good use as you improve your book.

Editing. Work with a professional editor to polish your manuscript for publication.

Proofreading. Check your grammar and spelling. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

Design. It’s time to create a striking look for your book and book cover. Or better yet, hire someone who will create a pro design on a DIY budget.

Pre-publication file preparation. Stumped? BookBaby can help!

Manufacturing. Print bookstore-quality books in the quantity that’s right for you.

ePUB and .mobi conversion. Turn your manuscript files into an elegant eBook.

Distribution. Make your print books available for purchase in stores, at readings, book fairs, and online. Make your eBook available in over 60+ stores (including Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Nook, etc.)in more than 170 countries.

Promote and sell. Try these 20 thrifty ways to spread the word about your writing without breaking the bank.

Wow your readers. Your book is in their hands. Time for your writing to work its magic upon the world.

Well, we’ve gotten to the end, which means it must be time for you to finish writing that next book!

Is Content King?

I have been preoccupied with two deaths in the family and have not been keeping up with the blog posts. I did come across an excellent PowerPoint presentation about web content – the bottom-line is that if people don’t get to see it, it might as well not have been written. The same applies to an eBook.

The Seven Deadly Sins

What follows is a paraphrase of an article by Dan Smith on the mistakes and actions that can destroy an author’s chances to get substantial media coverage, and how to avoid these common pitfalls. For the full version see the BookBaby Blog

1. Sloth
If you think sitting back and watching royalty checks roll in is your destiny, think again. Virtually all authors must “get out there” and be seen and heard. Book signings and tours are not passive events; they require a hunger for success and kinetic energy level. Interviews can be a gold mine or a disaster for one who puts forth a half-hearted effort. Publicity doesn’t happen; you have to make it happen.

Lazy authors languish in the million rankings on bookselling sites.

2. Pride
If you are promoting a book, prepare for your pride to be pierced a few times. One of the most common mistakes we’ve seen authors make is letting a negative review or a bad interview derail their determination.

The author believes his book is a bestseller; it is his baby, his labor of love. He has great pride in what he has written, so much so that it has created an excessive belief in his abilities and his book; after all—his relatives and friends love it. When the tough times come, pride begets anger, which begets frustration, which leads to disillusionment.

Roll with the punches, and stay the course. Put your ego on bed rest.

3. Envy
Envy serves no purpose in book promotion. The only way other authors get great publicity gigs is because they try. If anything, you should learn from them. Watch successful authors carefully, examine their topic, and then examine your own project. We all can learn something from others; we still do every day.

4. Lust
How does lust come into play with book promotion?  Good publicity can be intoxicating. Appearing on talk shows, reading articles written about you … it all makes you feel good, and it should. We always tell authors to enjoy the ride, because it won’t last forever. However, letting your good time change you, (or bring about actions which have nothing to do with the hard work of promoting your book) can be disastrous. Losing focus–taking your eye off the ball–is a surefire way to run into trouble..

In the end, lust almost always makes for an unhappy ending to what can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

5. Gluttony
Gluttony in book promotion touches upon several of the other sins. In its purest form, it is the insatiable desire to “consume” as much publicity as possible, and not being satisfied with each opportunity. Local radio interviews, for example, become unsatisfying, and an author starts to shun them because she wants more and bigger opportunities. A book review in a small newspaper is dismissed as insignificant, because she wants bigger newspapers. A local TV opportunity is declined because there aren’t enough viewers to fulfill the need for exposure.

Book promotion is like a seven course meal. You start slowly, testing the waters, then move onto the next course. Small opportunities open the door to larger ones. You proceed in a steady, measured manner, enjoying every course while building confidence, momentum, and sales.

6. Greed
Like gluttony, greed is the offspring of several other sins, and perhaps the most common sin of book promotion.

When clients truly understand the nature of publicity, they are able to roll with the busy times and slow times, knowing it is the cumulative efforts of the entire campaign that count.

Greed may be good on Wall Street, but it will bankrupt a book promotion campaign.

7. Anger
Anger comes in many forms in book publicity. We once worked with an author who received a brutal review of his book, and was so angry he proceeded to drive over 200 miles to the reviewer’s location, storm into the office, and scream at the reviewer.  This was, putting it mildly, a bad move.

The reviewer reacted by contacting reviewers at other newspapers in his company’s chain, and urged his colleagues to review the book. Five additional negative reviews appeared in the ensuing weeks.

It is important to keep in mind when promoting your book, you are opening yourself up for scrutiny. In fact, you are inviting it. You want the scrutiny and attention.  Assuming everyone will react positively to you or your book is foolish and naive.

Lets get naked


Getting naked seems to be a way that some writers got over writer’s block and stimulated their Muse.

Benjamin Franklin took “air baths,” writing his essays and letters in a cold room while nude. Agatha Christie and Edmond Rostand both liked writing in the bathtub. James Whitcomb Riley wrote naked so he wouldn’t be tempted to walk to the bar, and when Victor Hugo felt distracted, he removed all his clothes so that he was totally alone with pen and paper. As a writing warm-up, D.H. Lawrence would climb mulberry trees in his birthday suit. To keep his mind fresh, Franz Kafka exercised in front of the window—naked.

Other unusual habits included:

John Cheever woke up, put on a suit, and went to work. And unlike everyone else, he took an elevator down to his apartment building’s basement, stripped off all his clothes, and wrote in his underwear.  Gertrude Stein liked lounging in the passenger seat of her Model-T Ford, penning prose while her partner Alice Toklas drove around doing errands.

James Joyce liked writing in bed while on his stomach. He also always wore a white coat for practical reasons. Joyce was nearly blind, and the bright coat reflected light and helped him see. As his eyesight worsened, he wrote on cardboard with colored crayons. Demosthenes, the Greek orator, would shave half of his head because it forced him to stay inside and work. Plutarch writes, “Here he would continue, oftentimes without intermission, two or three months together, shaving one half of his head, that so for shame he might not go abroad, though he desired it ever so much.”

John Milton started his day at 4:00 a.m. He spent the first hour thinking in solitude. Then an aide would read him the Bible for half an hour, afterward dictating whatever Milton said. (Milton was blind, and those dictations would become Paradise Lost). Whenever the aide was late, Milton griped, “I want to be milked. I want to be milked.”

No one worked harder than Honorè De Balzac. He’d wake up at 1:00 a.m., write for seven hours, take a nap at 8:00 a.m., wake up at 9:30 a.m., write again till 4:00 p.m., take a walk, visit friends, and call it a night at 6:00 p.m. To fuel all that writing, he threw back upwards of 50 cups of coffee per day

From Mental Floss: