Do You Need a Biography Editor … or a Memoir Editor?
That depends on whether you’re writing about the subject’s entire lifetime, or an event in the subject’s life.
Note that you may see biographies and memoirs under the same category on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For instance, Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer is listed on Amazon as Books › Biographies & Memoirs › Arts & Literature. Yes, biographies and memoirs are often lumped together.
However, there is a distinction. Editors and publishers treat biographies and memoirs differently. It’s good to know the distinction between the two as you navigate the world of authorship. You see, biographies can be a full-span birth-to-death nonfiction book, while memoirs address an important event in someone’s lifetime.
If the author is writing about his or her own life, that, of course, is an autobiography.
Some readers may associate biographies with well-known people, such as media icons or celebrities or sports figures. Many of these high-profile biographies are ghostwritten, meaning they were written and compiled by a third party who most likely remained nameless. As a ghostwriter myself, I can attest to the amount of collaboration it takes to ghostwrite a biography. It’s a great honor when someone entrusts me with their life’s journey, as you can imagine.
While it’s true that celebrities do get a lot of buzz, airtime, and media coverage, seemingly ordinary people can also have extraordinary life stories. A community hero who went from local or viral (Captain “Sully” Sullenberger comes to mind) might also want a biography written.
More often, I’m a biography editor, which means I edit nonfiction books after they’ve been written. I’m hired to put an expert eye on the story arc as well as the conventions of English usage. As I examine the unfolding tale, my eyes search for missing nuances, or clarifications in the chronology, or fact checking dates and times in history. The goal is to elevate the manuscript to its best version.
Imagine that an author has an adoption tale with stunning twists and turns, or was born in a foreign country and had to assimilate, or has numerous sets of twins or triplets, or is living with a debilitating disease. His or her memoir highlights a more specific slice of life and is limited in scope.
And yes, memoirs need editing too. A second pair of eyes makes all the difference.
Contact me for a biography editing or memoir editing quote.
Send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll discuss the ins and outs of your project.