If you’re pitching a memoir to get a publishing book deal, you want to use the right terms to show you know the genre and the business of book publishing.

And there’s certain terms that will REPEL an agent or potential publisher in a memoir book pitch.

So many writers get this stuff wrong with memoir, because in my opinion it’s the most widely misunderstood genre, and one that’s not taught like novel writing or selling general nonfiction.

So – back to your pitch. To pitch a memoir and get a book deal, you need to achieve one thing only: share what the story is about, as quickly as possible. This is your one and only job when you are writing a pitch for your memoir.

And i know it’s hard, because pitching a memoir is unlike pitching any other kind of book. It’s a personal story, it’s your own experience, and this makes you more vulnerable when you pitch a memoir than if you’re pitching a sci-fi or fictional romance novel, for example.

But it’s this very fact that we’re pitching our OWN stories that makes us get this part of the pitch wrong.

So you know I’m speaking from experience, I’ve written and sold two memoirs. My first memoir, LOVE AND OTHER U TURNS, sold after I sent a query to a publisher who then immediately asked for the full manuscript, and my second memoir, A LETTER FROM PARIS, sold on pitch alone. It was a synopsis and a short book proposal. A pitch is included in any number of these ‘sales’ documents that sell your memoir.

Now, if i hadn’t mastered this part of the pitch, neither books would be published. And it was from years getting freelance articles published that I mastered the art of the pitch. If i hadn’t known how to sell a story to a potential editor or publisher, I wouldn’t have been able to make my living writing nonfiction articles for print and online media for years.


So, the goal of any pitch is to quickly convey the STORY of what you’re pitching and what makes it compelling to a wide audience. This is how you sell a story to a potential publisher or agent.

If it’s a memoir, you are pitching the story you have created from a personal experience, and proving that it’s sellable to a wide audience even though you’re not a famous figure..

This is what so many memoir writers get wrong in a pitch:
  1. Memoir writers pitch what they or their life has been about up until this point
  2. Memoir writers pitch how much you’ve written or why you love writing or why someone said you should pitch this book or you should write it
  3. Memoir writers pitch their life story or express why people need to hear your version of events 
  4. Memoir writers pitch why and how they’ve suffered in their life and include a list of horrendous or completely traumatic events.

Please don’t send anyone – potential agent, editor, publisher, (OR me) a list of awful things that have happened in your life with a plea to make it a book. Have some compassion for the person reading this unsolicited information! Agents have some crazy stories about memoir pitches, and ones that should have come with a trigger warning!

I’m also going to remind you that having a list of traumatic things that happened to you does not mean you have a compelling and sellable story.
YOUR work as a writer is to find the STORY and the MEANING in the experience. Not to just tell people what you’ve experienced.


If you’ve downloaded 4 steps to writing a bestselling pitch and watched the free videos I included, you’ll know to avoid using certain terms in your memoir pitch because they will repel publishers and agents, and I’m going to mention one in particular: 


If you’re pitching a memoir and you’re not a celebrity or well-known figure, using this term will blow your pitch.

Even though it’s technically correct (a memoir generally goes in the biography / autobiography section of a bookstore), using AUTOBIOGRAPHY in your memoir pitch repels a potential publisher in two ways: first, it implies that you haven’t done the work to find the STORY in your book, and TWO, it’s frankly, a bit terrifying to a publisher. 

Using the term AUTOBIOGRAPHY in your memoir pitch will make a potential agent or publisher think you’re about to send them a 500 page life story they will need to wade through. They don’t want that. They want the story. 


If you’re having trouble locating the compelling story in your memoir, make sure you download my free guide: 4 steps to a bestselling memoir pitch.

In this guide and training series for the memoir writer who wants to reach their potential in the book publishing industry, you’ll learn common mistakes with memoir pitches as well as the simple steps to identifying the STORY in your memoir. Because while memoir comes from your life, it is NOT your life story. 

Unless you’re Harry and your book is called SPARE. In which case, the minutiae will still be compelling because you’re breaking an enormous taboo that’s been running since medieval times, and that is exposing the intimate details of the royal family.

Did this help you? You might also like:
3 Archetypes in every true story
7 Basic Memoir Plots