Before you hire a memoir writer or biographer, educate yourself. These FAQs will help you gauge labor and set goals in hiring a writer. You also want to understand the difference between each type of writer: biographer, ghostwriter, memoir writer. After you know what you want, then you are in a position to hire a memoir writer or publisher.
1. What goes into my book? It depends. A full biography could include with research of your genealogy beginning with the “old country,” and include personal interviews, research and fact-checking. At Real Life Stories, we often spend four to six hours researching for every hour spent writing. A memoir is your story as you remember it, and typically does not involve research.
Know what you want for the end product. Picture holding the book in your hands. It is critical that you know ahead of time what your goals are so you can convey them to the ghost writer. You may want your memoir to concentrate on your most difficult challenges and how you overcame them. This is most interesting for the reader.
2. Where do we start? Expect a minimum of 10 hours of interview with the subject of the autobiography. A biographer might also conduct supplemental interviews (with other people that you designate), and will spend additional time writing, conducting research and communicating with you about the project.
3. What kind of memoir writer or biographer do I hire? Many people find that, in the long run, the only reasonable course of action is to hire a writer with experience in the exact type of book that you want to produce. That’s why you must know the difference in each type of writer. If you want a memoir, hire a memoir writer. If you want a biography, hire a biography writer. While a biographer could easily write a memoir, a memoir writer is not necessarily qualified to write a biography. We recommend you hire a writer who can show you full-book samples of memoirs or biographies (preferably on sale at Amazon.com or elsewhere). To see one of our biography samples for sale online, click here.
4. What about a photo-journalism book? Using photos to tell your story is a quick and easy way to get the job done without hiring a writer, and many online companies offer easy-to-make photo albums.
5. What makes good writing? First, you must know what you like in writing. Read samples of the writer’s work and see if you enjoy it. Secondly, if you want a book filled with quotes–the typed-up version of exactly what people said–then you don’t need to worry much about the writer’s style. But if you want a real story that follows the true themes of a person’s life and fully reveals all the excitement and challenge and wondrous workings of a life, then you need a writer who can conduct efficient interviews, thorough research and whose writing makes you feel something. This will produce a book that will be treasured for a very long time.
6. Can interviews be done on the telephone? Sure. Every professional writer has created interesting stories based on a few telephone interviews. It works fine for shorter projects. It is not the best method if the goal is to create a detailed story that reveals a person’s deepest thoughts and reflections about his or her life.
7. What other work is involved? If you want to self-publish the book or pay a POD (Print On Demand) company the other costs include photograph scanning, book design and printing. Sometimes a professional transcriptionist is hired to turn the audiotaped interviews into written transcripts, which the biographer then uses to begin writing. If you want more than a few photographs in the book, you might reduce costs by having a family member make the scans, but it needs to be a person who has the time and is very detail-oriented. Scans must be made at a high enough resolution for print (minimum of 300 dpi), and any photo that will be enlarged in the book must be scanned at a resolution higher than 300 dpi to allow for the enlargement aspect. Lots more to say about photo scanning and design which we will cover in another blog.
8. How is the cost of biography or memoir-writing figured? Time, travel and expenses. I spend five to seven hours researching and reviewing notes for every hour I spend crafting the narrative. Biographers and authors are usually negotiable to a point, but let’s face it: if it were easy, you’d do it yourself!