Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Memoirs Can Be Book Promotion Heaven

A few weeks ago, MacKenzie Phillips and her memoir, High on Arrival, were everywhere. If there was a news-related television show, or a television talk show, that didn't have MacKenzie Phillips on as a guest at least once, then I can't imagine what that television show might be. So how did MacKenzie score an appearance on "Larry King Live," "Oprah," "The Today Show," and other national TV outlets? MacKenzie wrote -- and subsequently, talked -- about an unimaginable scandal in her own life (in case you haven't heard what that scandal is, I'd suggest you check it out here, because I don't want to be the one to break the news to you). That was all it took: MacKenzie's big revelation as well as "filler" about stardom, living in the fast lane, drug addiction, and redemption.

I'll confess to reading MacKenzie's autobiography - and then grabbing a copy of Valerie Bertinelli's memoir, Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time (you get the pun on "One Day at a Time," the television show in which MacKenzie and Valerie co-starred as teenagers, don't you?). Ahem. Anyway, to round things off (and all in the same weekend), I bought and read a copy of Melissa Gilbert's autobiography, Prairie Tale: A Memoir. Yes, the three books had a lot in common: childhood stardom, drug-related issues, unhappiness, adult angst, and scandal. And, yes, all three of those authors had appeared all over the media to promote their respective memoirs. And, yes, I chomped my way through each and every word of them, and I found myself fascinated by every sordid word.

Which is pretty much the point made by Ben Yagoda, a journalism professor from the University of Delaware and author of his own book, Memoir: A History. In a Reuter's article, Yagoda talks about why people like MacKenzie, Valerie, and Melissa choose to write memoirs, and why those memoirs sell so well. He attributes the memoirs' popularity to two issues: first, that we love scandal (as long as the scandals in question don't involve us, personally), and second, that talk shows love to feature celebrities who write tell-all books.

So if you're a celebrity, and you write a memoir full of scandal (we can't all be lucky enough to boast about drug addiction and wasted childhoods, but surely, if you're a celebrity, you can come up with something shocking), you'll have as many book promotion opportunities as you can handle. If you're an ordinary person, then you can still shock the world with your memoir -- provided your scandal-ridden autobiography is either true or you can convince us that it's true. (You don't want to be the next James Frey, and incur the wrath of Oprah as well as your commiserating public, so do keep your scandals above board, if you can.)

In short, if you write a pain-filled memoir, and you have a shot at book promotion heaven. Not bad for sharing your innermost secrets and baring your soul to strangers. It's all for a good cause -- invitations from national media outlets and, ultimately, book sales. It's a book publicity dream come true. Think about it. And let me know when your autobiography is published. Clearly, I'll read anything of that genre. Yes, I'm an addict, too ... but, fortunately for me, my addictive tendencies are limited to reading books.

1 comment:

Jared said...

Take a look at this one: Incomprehensible Demoralization- An Addict Pharmacist's Journey to Recovery at Prescription drug addiction (and a great fondness for good ole fasioned alcohol too) from the perspective of keeper of the keys to the candy store.