The Difference between Memoir and Autobiography

Here’s a question I get all the time: How do I know if I’ve written an autobiography or a memoir?

The answer is simple: An autobiography covers pretty much your entire life. A memoir covers a specific aspect of your life (like a lifelong battle with lukemia) or a specific time period (a marriage that fell apart and the triumph built out of the life post-divorce).

Most people nowadays are writing memoirs. A few who have led spectacular lives (yes, ordinary people can live spectacular lives) are writing autobiographies.

Be sure to categorize your work correctly when you approach agents and publishers. You’ll also want readers to know exactly what they’re getting if you self-publish. The answer is simple yet applying the knowledge is important for your pitch and your marketing efforts.

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