Memoir Writers – Memoir Editors
Writing a Memoir
What story does one know more intimately than one’s own life? Still, writers who tackle memoirs often do so on the mistaken assumption that such a text might be straightforward and simple because it draws from the material of their own lived experiences. A memoir is much more than a linear enumeration of the events of one’s life or a collection of disparate memories and nostalgic musings. Memoir writing is an art as complex as any other form of creative writing.
An experienced memoir editor will help with the structural vision and stylistic flair that readers appreciate in works of fiction. The best memoirs are compelling because they combine the aesthetic refinement of fiction with the intensity and power of real life.
DAVID ALAN knows what it takes to get a book published. He has edited more than 200 books and authored nearly 100 books for 30 publishers, including St. Martin’s Press, HarperCollins, Lyons Press, Random House, Running Press, Warner Books, Total/Sports Illustrated, and Scholastic.
His books have generated more than $20 million in revenue and have appeared on the Today show, The Early Show, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. His rating on Goodreads.com is 4.21 based on nearly 3,000 ratings.
“Excellence is his habit,” publisher Les Krantz wrote, and it’s reflected in the numbers: David’s Goodreads.com rating of 4.39 (800-plus ratings) places him in the top 1 percentile of authors/editors.
Civil rights icon Myrlie Evers-Williams, who delivered the invocation to President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, told NPR about Civil Rights Chronicle, which David edited and cowrote: “Honestly, this book is one of the best that I have seen, if not the best. . . . It’s absolutely magnificent. For those like me who say, ‘I’m tired, I can’t do any more,’ you pick up this book and you go through it and you know why you were dedicated and you know why you can’t stop and that you will continue to fight for justice and equality.”
He has worked with such foreword writers as Walter Cronkite, John Eisenhower, Margaret Truman, Bill Cosby, Maureen O’Hara, Gordie Howe, Ernie Banks, Ozzie Smith, U.S. congressman John Lewis, and U.S. senators Daniel Inouye and Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
The Murder of Emmett Till, which David authored, was assigned reading for journalism students at New York University because of its exemplary journalistic prose. Memory & Legacy, which he edited, was officially presented to President Bill Clinton during the grand opening of the Illinois Holocaust Museum. JFK Day by Day, which David edited and cowrote, was featured on Today with Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira. It was converted into a video-enhanced book that was narrated by Meet the Press host David Gregory.
David has written documentary scripts narrated by Reggie Jackson, Jim Lampley, Joe Garagiola, and Carlton Fisk. He has penned biographies on such individuals as Harvey Milk, Magic Johnson, Malala Yousafzai, Mitt Romney, Eminem, Malcolm X, Alex Rodriguez, and Amy Winehouse.
“He really made my book shine, and his work was instrumental in getting it sold quickly to a publisher.”
“His attention to detail, his consistent and conscientious approach to the text, and his organizational skills ensure that the material he submits on editing projects is always of utmost quality.”
“David Alan has been working for me and with me for about 10 years on a freelance basis. He’s always on time, and he’s a person of great integrity and honesty. He is in some ways amazing in the quantity and quality of work he can put into a day. He gets right on things, never makes excuses, and frankly never has to. His work ethic and his creativity distinguish him from others I’ve worked with, and I’ve worked with the best. He’s an idea man extraordinaire. A dozen original and successful books have emerged from him in the last few years.”
CARLY CANTOR is a twice-published author and a publishing industry veteran who worked for several years as an acquisitions editor with a New York publisher. Her extensive experience includes critiquing, organizational and development editing, and line-editing of fiction and nonfiction projects. She is a meticulous hands-on editor who “becomes one” with every project, paying close attention to both the big picture and the small details.
200+ books edited for major publishers and independent authors
Carly has worked closely with memoir-writers and has a knack for preserving an author’s own special voice while helping him/her avoid falling into narrative mistakes that come across as awkward or amateurish. Some of her memoirists have been people documenting struggles with mental illness, addiction, and/or abuse; an adoptee who found her birth mother; a man convicted of the mercy-killing of his wife; a woman born in Korea who was oppressed by the culture’s sexism; a man falsely accused and prosecuted of federal crimes; a son of a Holocaust survivor who learns his father’s story after 50 years of silence; just to name a few.
She loves learning about other people’s experiences and helping them to tell their stories with poignancy and drama so that others might appreciate them.
Carly also edits fiction, with an understanding of the importance of subtlety and nuance. She approaches fiction with an appreciation for how the brain works and for the idea that a reader likes to pick up clues and figure some things out for himself rather than be told everything directly about how characters are thinking and feeling.
One memorist said, “Carly was indispensable for the birth of my memoir. She helped me to not only tighten my writing but also improve the structure of the narrative to make it more thrilling. I found a very effective, inspirational guide in her ability to culturally translate my experience in Korea for American audiences.” – Jid Lee, author of To Kill a Tiger (Overlook Press, 2009)
But What If She Wants to Die?—by George Delury (convicted of the mercy-killing of his wife) (Birch Lane Press)
Chasing America: Notes from a Rock ‘n’ Soul Integrationist—by Dennis Watlington (Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press)
Inside, Outside, and On the Ropes: Life Lessons from Q-School and The Majors—by Keith Gockenbach (South Nine Publishing)
Shakedown—by Steven E. Whiting (Franklin Press)
A Thriver’s Journey—by Dan Himmel (forthcoming from Argo Navis)
To Kill a Tiger—by Jid Lee (Overlook Hardcover)
Award-Winning Book Editor, Author, and Ghostwriter
Former literary agent and advertising copywriter, published author, editor and ghostwriter of several bestsellers, Stacey Donovan helps guide her clients’ books to successful publication, whether traditional, niche, or independent.
STACEY DONOVAN has edited or ghostwritten dozens of published books for her clients, many of which have received critical acclaim and awards. Among them: New York Times Bestsellers (Mystery); International Thrillers Awards (Thriller); Florida Book Awards (Thriller); Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) Silver Medal Award (Memoir); Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year (Memoir); Stories of Mighty Women Top Biographies (Memoir); Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Ben Franklin Award, Bill Fisher Best First Book (Fiction); Chanticleer International Book Awards (Thriller)
As a professional editor and ghostwriter, Donovan is experienced in many genres: Contemporary Fiction and Nonfiction; Mystery; Crime; Suspense; Psychological Thriller; Literary Fiction; Women’s Fiction; Young Adult; Erotic Romance; Erotica; GLBTQ; Memoir.
Donovan is also a published author of both fiction and non-fiction. Dive, her first, critically acclaimed novel was published in 1995 (Penguin) and reissued in 2015 (Open Road Media). The Art of Loneliness, a sexy novella, is available on Kindle. Co-authored by Donovan, the four-book series based on Zalman King’s Red Shoe Diaries is also available.
David Henderson – Memoir Editing
Writing a memoir means putting your life into words. It means weaving all your tragedies and triumphs, your highs and lows, all your vivid memories and important moments into an enthralling, compelling story the world deserves to hear.
As a freelance editor helping self-published writers, and as a literary editor working with professional authors at Hachette Book Group (one of the world’s biggest book publishers), David has read and edited countless memoirs—some great, many not (though all are fascinating in their way). And after seeing writers make the same mistakes over and over, he understands what works and what doesn’t—and knows the insider secrets about how to write a great one. Perhaps the biggest secret of all is this: it doesn’t have to be complicated. The formula for creating a well-written memoir that excites readers and entices publishers is pretty basic. But actually doing it? That’s the difficult part.
That’s why, whether you just want to share your life stories with friends and family or you’re hoping for a book or movie deal, you need the help of an experienced professional to edit, develop, or ghostwrite your work.
David has worked on 100+ manuscripts, including a number of memoirs, that have landed publishing deals.
DAVID has built up a distinguished career as an editor, writer, and ghostwriter. His flair for the written word and passion for helping others have earned him a loyal following of clients in need of copy editing, content editing, developmental editing, or ghostwriting.
After earning his master’s degree in Journalism at Northwestern University, he spent five years working for an academic press and later for Hachette Book Group.
His long track record has given him exposure to a wide range of authors, writing styles, and genres. Memoir is one of his areas of expertise.
Memoir Developmental Services
Manuscript evaluations/critiques provide an analysis of your writing and your goal. You’ll learn what works well and what doesn’t fit. You’ll also be given concrete ways of improving the book to help guide your revision. You can either do the rewrites independently, or work with David to implement the changes.
Developmental editing begins with a consultation to create a detailed “book plan” that will serve as a blueprint for your book from start to finish.
David helps writers identify the strong and weak points of a text and provides guidance on the “big picture” elements such as plot, structure, character, tone, etc. This service is recommended for authors who are in the beginning to middle stages of the process. Developmental editing often saves you time and money in the long run because it helps you do things right in the early stages rather than struggling to fix everything later.
Memoir Editing Services
Content editing looks beyond the “mechanics” of spelling and grammar to improve style, clarity, and flow. Your writing will have a more professional touch that will impress agents, publishers, and readers. This is David’s most popular, most comprehensive service.
Copyediting addresses the fundamentals of proper writing (grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, word choice, verb tense, etc.) Every bestseller published through a traditional publisher had a copy editor.
David’s strength as a ghostwriter lies in his ability to adapt to the preferred style and voice of a writer. He works closely with authors to get at the heart of what they want to tell and how they want to tell it. Normally, clients are granted anonymity, so ghostwriters can’t publicly announce the books they’ve written, but recently, David has penned memoirs for a spiritual therapist/educator, a real estate mogul, and a thought leader in the human resources field.
Whether you’re writing a work of fiction, non-fiction, memoir, or something else, David will gather your ideas together, work with you one on one to hammer out a structure and theme for the book, supplement these ideas with original research, and synthesize them into a dazzling, finished work.
Ghostwriting works best as a collaborative partnership between two minds. Each ghostwriting project will be different in accord with the unique demands of a particular book, but generally the process works as follows:
- Discuss your book idea on the phone or Skype
- Ask you the right questions and contribute ideas to help form a clear direction and a marketable angle for the book
- Conduct research to generate material for the book. Depending on the genre, this can take many forms (interviews with the client; academic research; background reading of other texts; and even field research)
- Create an outline or “book plan,” then discuss it with you and retool it in accord with your wishes and specifications
- Produce a first draft and then a final draft, soliciting your input at every stage to ensure that you receive exactly what you are looking for
- Start for as little as $200.
FLOYD LARGENT has helped many writers polish their memoirs and autobiographical works. In addition to assisting with copyediting, his close working relationship with his clients brings an empathetic touch to his editing, making their tales more immediate and emotional to the reader.
Memoirs should be more than just dry recitations of facts and memories; they should reach out and grab the reader by the heart. Most memoir writers provide the right raw material; Floyd chips away the excess to find the gems within. He works carefully to retain the author’s style, theme, and tone, whether it involves a humorous look at the middle-age dating scene after a long marriage, or the poignant but optimistic outlook of a young girl abandoned to raise her brothers and sisters by neglectful parents.
In addition to developmental editing and polishing, Floyd provides publishing assistance (especially in regard to manuscript mechanics, query letters, book synopses, and proposals), manuscript evaluation, and mentoring services. He’s especially proud of his close relationships with the authors with whom he works, and always has time to talk writing.
Edited memoirs include:
Chris Ayres, author of The Love Chest, a brief illustrated memoir of her relationship with her aged grandfather as a teenager in Brazil, published by CreateSpace.
Tom Marino, author of Tomorrow May Be Too Late: a Love Story, a memoir of his experiences as a gay young man in New Jersey. Self-published inCharleston, SC.
Doris Mercado, author of The Armor of Love and Hope, a memoir of a young Puerto Rican girl’s journey through abuse and abandonment to eventual success and happiness. Published by Floricanto Press and Berkeley Press, Los Angeles.
Marie Rundquist, author of Cajun by any Other Name: Recovering the Lost History of a Family and a People, a history of her Cajun ancestors. Published by Infinity Books, Conshohocken, PA.
Chad Stone, author of Confessions of a Middle-Aged Babe Magnet: One Man’s Brave Adventure into Dating Again in the 21st Century, published by Soulmate Media.
“A publisher has said YES! I want to applaud all your editing and hard work with my memoir. I am privileged to have such a dedicated editor. My book is set for publishing and my gratitude to you is beyond words!”
Kendra Lund, PhD, is a book doctor, book editor, author, writing coach, and publishing consultant.
Kendra specializes in books on the spiritual end of the self-help spectrum, along with professional how-to guides, memoirs, and fiction. She is a passionate advocate for authors with a message that inspires positive change in our lives.
As a book doctor, Kendra serves mainly first-time authors who want to share their wisdom and experience by writing a book, especially professionals in the self-development field. Publishing a book helps authors to make a difference by reaching a wide audience. For the professional, a book is a virtual passport as it opens the door to new career opportunities. Kendra also enjoys working with novelists who want to take their writing to the next level. She offers highly intuitive support to bring out the greatest potential in every book and author. Whether working on a subtly nuanced fictional narrative or a practical guide to spiritual wisdom, she respects the integrity of the author's unique voice and vision.
Sean Eliot Spillane
Developmental Editor: Biography, Memoir, Christian, Spiritual, Self Help, Psychology
Sean Eliot Spillane is an experienced writer, developmental book editor, and psychotherapist whose passion is to "edit life stories" for the most powerful impact of your message.
As a freelance editor for Winepress Publishing and individual authors, she has developed and line-edited over four hundred self-published books, fiction and nonfiction.
Working in-house at Multnomah Publishers in Sisters, Oregon, Sean conferenced with authors and marketing team professionals to flesh out each writer’s expertise, story, and unique message, then to perfect the back cover copy and press kit materials for book marketing.
She helped create campaigns to support book launch promotions, including that of NYT bestseller, The Prayer of Jabez, in 2004.
Religion and Spirituality
In the broad area of religion, spirituality, and the Bible, Joya works with original thinkers, inspired visionaries and mystics, theologians and biblical interpreters, researchers and academics.
The Study of Religion: Scholar in Biblical and Religious Studies (Ph.D, Harvard University).
Spiritual and Personal Development: Professional Coach
Book Editor, Script and Screenplay Story Consultant
Publishing Consultant, Television and Film Industry Veteran
DreamWorks, Disney, Showtime, Lifetime, HBO
S.J. Sutton has worked in the book publishing and the film industries for thirty years-on the front lines and behind the scenes-finding projects to publish and/or produce, and developing and editing them, seeing them through to completion on the page or screen. In the book publishing industry, she was a developmental editor, copy editor, and proofreader for large publishers. In the film industry she worked as a story analyst and development consultant on feature film and television projects for DreamWorks, Disney, Showtime, Lifetime, among others, and worked on the development of films such as L.A. Confidential (Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published), Get On Up, Enigma, HBO’s Vinyl, and countless others. She assisted writer/director Albert Brooks on Defending Your Life.
With nearly twenty years of book editing experience, Marie Valentine can significantly improve a manuscript, whether for submission to publishers or in preparation for self-publishing.
As an editor, Marie is vigorous yet hands-off: she will find errors and inconsistencies with a sharp eye but lets the work stand for itself. She won’t change anyone’s work into her own. She finds each author’s unique qualities and makes those resonate.
In memoir and creative nonfiction writing, Marie can see where more descriptions are needed. She will spot inconsistencies in setting or spelling of key terms. She may find missing details an author does not realize they’ve passed over, being so close to the work. She edits and reads broadly in the genre, from memoirs of celebrities to historical biographies to stories of addiction and mental illness.
She has passed the rigorous proofreading test of this editorial network, and so you can trust her edits will clear up the typographical errors in your book.
Besides offering an objective critique from a professional editor, Marie provides advice on presentation. This can involve discussions on formatting the manuscript as well as crafting query letters for agent and publisher submissions, book marketing, and self-publishing.
Marie offers query package evaluations for all her clients who are interested in publishing traditionally. She has editorial acquisitions experience and knows what publishers expect.
Services offered by Marie:
- developmental & structural editing
- query & synopsis development
- self-publishing consulting
- writer coaching
- submissions assistance
Memoirs Edited (selected titles):
Danette Mondou, My Time with Meta Given. Independent 2018.
John Desautels, A Prophetic Dreamer’s Reflections on Life. Independent 2017.
Clifford Stearns, Life in the Marble Palace, Friesen Press 2016.
Lori Hart Beninger, An Ordinary Tragedy: A Memoir of Crimes and Shattered Lives. On Track Publishing 2016.
Gary Mancuso: The Last Places on Earth: Journeys in Our Disappearing World. Great Lands Publishing Co. 2014.
Grace Hernandez, I Know You’re in There: A Memoir of Loss, Healing, Farming. Balboa Press 2014.
W T Gillespie, Aikido in Japan and The Way Less Traveled. Budoka Books 2014.
Dana Sitar, Welcome to the Shit Show. Independent 2015.
“This woman is outstanding!” – the Honorable Clifford B. Stearns, former U.S. Congressman and nonfiction author of Life in the Marble Palace and Diary of a Congressman During the Impeachment of a President
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your feedback, the edits and your future offer of help. I really enjoyed your feedback. Thank you for the work, it was very professional and has made the words flow like butter.” – Danette Mondou, author of My Time with Meta Given
“I would like to thank my editor, Marie Valentine, for her sharp eye and many helpful comments. My implementation of her suggestions has greatly improved the overall structure of the book.” – John Desautels, author of A Prophetic Dreamer’s Reflections on Life
“I have known Marie for years, and we have worked together on multiple projects. Her hard work and creative spirit have always been an inspiration to me. Her love for language/writing/editing are clear, and she turns that into enthusiastic and insightful contributions to a project.” – Dana Sitar, author of the memoir, Welcome to the Shitshow
Developmental Editing, Ghostwriting, Copyediting, Proofreading
Fiction – literary novels, commercial fiction, mysteries
Nonfiction – memoir, biography, general nonfiction
Editor of 3 New York Times Bestsellers and 3 Los Angeles Times Bestsellers
Don White is an award-winning editor with more than twenty years’ of publishing experience. Among the notable writers he’s edited are Gore Vidal, Edward Albee, E. Lynn Harris, Edmund White, and Samuel R. Delany.
He’s equally at home in fiction (literary novels, commercial fiction, mysteries) and nonfiction (memoir, biography, general nonfiction). As an editor and writer he’s freelanced for Doubleday, Penguin, Bantam, Basic Books, and Beacon, among others.
Don has been singled out for distinction by the American Library Association, Publishers Weekly, and Out Magazine. As an independent scholar he's authored three books on African American history as well as several books for gay and lesbian readers. He's also an emeritus board member of the Lambda Literary Foundation. Don lives in New York City.
Christian Book Editor and Bookcrafter
I'm a veteran editor and writer, with four decades of full-time work in book publishing, focusing especially on Christian books of all kinds. I’ve also edited numerous business and leadership books, memoirs, and fiction titles.
I’ve partnerered with dozens of respected communicators in bringing out many notable works. These authors have included Louie Giglio, Carolyn Castleberry, Henry Blackaby, J. I. Packer, C. J. Mahaney, Ruth Myers, Randy Alcorn, Thelma Wells, Richard Blackaby, Tony Evans, John MacArthur, Larry Crabb, Larry Osborne, Andy Stanley, and Dave Harvey, to name just a few.
Many of my editing projects have involved extensive collaborative writing—especially developing content from various author sources such as sermon transcripts, message outlines, letters, and journal entries. I’ve worked to maintain the author’s voice and style, and I’m grateful to have often been commended by authors for doing exactly that.
As an author, I’m currently writing the third novel in a trilogy of historical fiction (currently being agented for consideration by publishers). I’ve also written extensively for children (using a pen name), with more than twenty books published. Three of my books were winners of the Christian Book Award (the “Gold Medallion”) from the ECPA trade publishers association.
Note: Thomas' rate starts at 8 cents per word.