Word count for memoirs

Authors often ask me about “average” word lengths for their manuscripts. While there’s no reliable statistic, here’s an interesting post on word count from the blog of former agent Colleen Lindsay. The post lists a dizzying number of genres and a recommended word count range for each. The list was revised in September 2010 in consultation with a number of US fiction editors, but remains focused on fiction. So here are my thoughts on word count for memoirs.

  • A short memoir would be about 65,000 words, though if you’re an established author (read: if your books sell), you can get away with much shorter works. I’m thinking of New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin’s grief memoir About Alice, which couldn’t be more than 25,000 words long; Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (also about the loss of a spouse*); or Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. (*Perhaps my memoir reading is skewed in this direction for the obvious reason.)
  • A long memoir is about 90,000 words. This seems a reasonable limit even for the established authors, as it’s about the length of the average novel. I think you need to have an awful lot of compelling material, masterfully told, in order to write a memoir of that length or longer. Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle, which must be more than 100,000 words, is the best example that springs to mind. (I must quote its unforgettable first line: “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster.”)
  • Colleen Lindsay reminds us that word counts have a practical and commercial effect, in that they translate into numbers of pages per book, which is a direct hard cost of producing your book. The more words, the more pages, the higher the print costs, the more copies that need to be sold to recoup their investment, and so on. While the word count ‘rules of thumb’ above can be broken (just like real thumbs), it’s a good idea if you’re new to the publishing industry to keep some of those business imperatives in mind when revising and editing your manuscript. Which leads me to my final point …
  • You should try to think about the word count only when you’re editing and revising. I know, I know, it’s nice to see the computer’s automated counter keep ticking over as you write fresh pages, but I’ve come to believe it is not only a distraction, but counter-productive. Your first priority is to write down everything you want to say, everything you remember, everything you think is relevant. Cutting some of your material is going to be part of revision, as is having to write new material. Accept it, and keep writing.

Ah, that last paragraph hurts because I’ve just abandoned a year’s worth of writing. But if I dispense such thoughts I must take my own medicine, too.

This Post Has 67 Comments

  1. Abandoned a year’s worth of writing? Does that mean you stopped writing for a year or did you dump your work. A writer’s life isn’t easy.

  2. Hi Margaret! Sad to say but I did abandon a year’s worth of words. The project just wasn’t working, and months went by before I could even admit to myself that my heart wasn’t in the material I was producing. And I had produced quite a lot. Fortunately, after a break of a couple of months – during which I did sink quite low at times – the book I am supposed to write occurred to me. I have very recently written a detailed outline and am ready to get cracking. Ironically it is extremely close to my original idea for the book, which I had two years ago. Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

  3. Thanks for the tips, especially for including comparison word counts that all happened to be books I’ve read so I could really relate! You should know that your blog post was the first that came up on my Google search for “word count memoir.”

    (As a blogger, I like to know things like this…)

    1. Hi Jen, thanks for reading – and for the feedback on search results! Good luck with your writing. –Virginia

    2. Jen- I loved your take on time travel (and physicists- where they are looking)! So wonderful, raw and funny!

      Virginia – I too, found this page first on Google when I was searching for word counts for memoirs. It is very helpful. Thank you so much! I am in the middle of mine- at 58,000+ words already. So far those reading it with me are giving feedback they want more, so I guess the 90,000 count sounds promising.
      Warmly, Thea Khama, Gaborone, Botswana

    3. I think it was third in my search (11/26/17). The first draft of my memoir about being a woman in jazz turned out to be about 15K. Whoops.

  4. Thanks for confirming that sometimes one just has to toss what one has written, or in my case, attempted to write after preparing a detailed outline. It just wasn’t working. And I had a similar experience as you….the book I needed to write was buried in the original material. Guess we never know what is lurking in our subconscious until we begin exploring. Again, thanks!

    1. Hi Paula,
      Thanks for being so honest! It is very common for the “real” book to be hidden within the book we think we are trying to write. I have struggled with that issue in relation to my work in progress. I’ll write more about that when I have a moment. As you rightly point out, the paradox is that we can only find out what we’re really trying to say by writing everything down first. If it were any quicker or easier then everyone would be writing and publishing a book. And while it seems like that’s increasingly the case these days, really it’s not. Good luck with your writing! Virginia

  5. Hi Virginia,
    Thanks for the information on memoir book length. I will return to your blog for more great information and creativity. I found that what I had labored over for a long time – close to two years – as a fiction, works so much better as a memoir. I wanted to base the fiction on truth and present it that way, but kept running into road blocks. Once I decided to write it as straight – though creative – memoir, the word count soared (I am presently at around 16,000, which is a miracle for me. I will try to follow your advice, though, about ignoring my computer’s word count ticker… Anyway, glad I found you, and thanks again!

    1. Hi Theresa,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. If you’re finding that writing the story straight as memoir is helping, then you need to keep writing it through to the end. Often in memoir the “story” becomes like the spine of your final book-length work, around which you can add other elements that will lift it for a reader beyond a straight retelling. I remember that I reached a point in drafting my memoir where I felt I’d written myself into a corner. I did not know what else to write as I thought I’d written everything about “the story”. I showed a draft to a friend who said, “It’s interesting that you have called this the Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement, because in what you’ve shown me there’s no young widow and no home improvement.” It turned out I had merely written a detailed account of one aspect of my story — the most heart-wrenching one, about how I met my husband and about his deterioration and death — but that was not in and of itself a book. I needed to get that story down in order to free myself to write about the other aspects, which turned it into a publishable book.
      Good luck with your writing, and thanks again –Virginia

      1. Thank you – this really helped me. I am writing a story about the loss of our infant daughter.

        1. Dear Susan – thank you for letting me know. I admire your courage in writing about your daughter. ~Virginia

  6. I have recently finished my memoir (64,986 words). And to your point, I just wrote and wrote and wrote and when it started to seem like it was coming together, I checked word count. I am now searching and digging for query samples and appropriate agents and information about digital publishing and everything else…overwhelming! Thank you for sharing your experience and expertise.

    1. Congratulations Liz on finishing your memoir. I’m glad my tips were useful. Searching for relevant agents to approach, and getting your query right, do take a lot of research. But it’s best to do that work at the outset to give yourself a stronger chance of success. Good luck with it all! –Virginia

  7. I am so glad I found you, Virginia. I just did a web search for average memoir length and that led me to you. I am a recent young widow myself (youngish, anyway) and have been working on my late husband’s unfinished memoir. I’ve spent the last year gathering up his completed stories, reading through letters and diaries, combing through newspaper clippings and listening to radio and TV interviews, knitting everything together, and ghost-writing whatever gaps I felt needed filling. I did not do a word-count until now, and it’s past 135,000. Looks like I’ll have some serious editing ahead of me! But I’m glad I didn’t count until now; to do so would have inhibited me.

    I look forward to buying your book!
    Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Carolyn. I am sorry to hear that you recently lost your husband and I hope that my book is helpful in some small way through the most difficult time in your life. Gathering these materials is an important way for you to honour him. My feeling is that you need to keep going with the work you are doing, because it is part of your grieving. Whatever book may emerge from it will become clearer to you over time. It might be forcing something that’s not ready to arrive yet for you to think in terms of eventual publication. I wish you health and strength and patience with yourself. –Virginia

  8. I have finished the final draft of my memoir. My word count is right under 129,000 words which I know, is crazy long. I’m not sure that I want to cut anything out though. I honestly feel like I left out a lot of detail worrying about staying below 100,000. Sooooo-I’m stuck! My options are either cutting out information (which I feel is all important to the story) OR turning it into two books. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks – Heather

    1. Hello Heather, thanks for reading my blog. I can assure you that the only authors who get the chance to publish two-volume memoirs are politicians – Condoleezza Rice published one on being US Secretary of State, and a follow-up about her upbringing and family. Memoir (one slice of a life) is quite different from autobiography (an attempt at a “whole” life). Your job is to decide which are the most dramatic and important points in your journey, and lose unnecessary detail. There’s a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain along the lines of “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Perhaps an independent editor could help you determine which sections of the manuscript are repetitive or redundant.
      Good luck with your writing. –Virginia

  9. I appreciate your your kind words and advice, Virginia. The book has been years in the making, and my husband had gotten to the point where he just wanted the darn thing done. But when he died the whole scope of it changed, so I must be patient indeed! Thank you!

  10. Good luck with your book Virginia … a year’s worth of writing gone? I think it became stale in your mind; it might have sounded great for anyone else reading it right? I guess we are our own worst critic when it comes to writing. I almost finished writing a whole children’s middle-grade book that once felt so interesting but it seems so dumb now, what a loss. I was 15 when I started writing it about three years ago but now I am all caught up writing an autobiography.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Winta. My year’s worth of writing that I discarded was more about being honest with myself and saying that I did not care about the fictional characters I was writing about. I think I spent a whole year writing fiction as procrastination from the harder task of finding out how to best tell the nonfiction stories I wanted to tell. Happily I am nearly done with the new manuscript, so hopefully that effort won’t be wasted. Either way – and this would be true for your own manuscript-in-a-drawer – I know my writing is much stronger as a result of all the words I have written. So nothing, in that sense, is wasted. Good luck with your new project — Virginia

  11. Thank you for the overview on word count and memoir.

  12. Hi Virginia, I’m so new at this game it’s just not funny, I hope this reaches you. I’ve completed my very first non-fiction manuscript and from reading other’s comments I’m almost embarrassed to say that the word is 134,000. Being a novice I may have overcooked the story, but going by a market research I have done with a dozen avid readers selected at random from our local library from whom I received glowing reviews of my manuscript it hold me back from wanting to reduce any word count. I am in limbo at present, can you gave me an indication if you are interested in appraising my manuscript and what would the cost be. Best regards, Livia.

    1. Hi Livia
      Thank you for your comment(s) on my website. Without reading a word of your manuscript I can tell you no publisher will accept a manuscript of that length from a debut author, so you would need to cut it to 80,00-100,000 words. You’ve done the right thing by getting generous strangers to read your work.
      On fees: a reputable agent will NEVER charge a fee for appraising a manuscript. It’s the agent’s choice as to whether to take a look at a manuscript submitted by an aspiring author. It’s an old business model and certainly does not make for a quick profit, but the agent takes a calculated risk if s/he attempts to find you a publishing deal, and is rewarded by a commission on the author’s earnings.
      The Submissions page on this website sets out what I require in a query letter. Pitches contained in comments on this blog are a big turn-off for me because it suggests the author has not seen, or has chosen to ignore, the Submissions information.
      My apologies for being slow to respond but I have had some health issues and have been away from my desk more than usual. — Virginia

  13. I have enjoyed, and found your blog on story length very helpful. I would like to follow your site. Over the years I have written poetry, and now I would like to attempt a memoir. I look forward to following you, and reading your book. Many regards, Ruth

    1. Thanks so much Ruth for writing to me. Apologies for the slow reply, I’ve had some health issues that have kept me away from the computer. If you have any particular questions about writing memoir please let me know. –Virginia

  14. Hey I am 20 years old and am working on my first book, it is 20, 000 words so far, and I have been working on it for a year with many breaks, it is about my life in an abusive and lonely home, with 8 siblings. It is about my daughter who died at 37 days old. And about my 2 year old daughter, and how much I love her, and how my life led to me having her. How do you get someone to edit and critique a story/book?

    1. Hi Grace,
      Thanks for reading my blog and for leaving this comment. I’d say that you need to write everything down first, and worry about editing after that. The most important thing for memoirists is to ensure that there is action – something happening – to keep your story moving. Lots of aspiring memoir writers get stuck in telling the reader too much. It’s best to show the reader a vivid moment using precise observation and detail, which allows the reader to draw her own conclusions.
      Please keep in touch. I’m planning to develop a guide to writing memoir soon. –Virginia

  15. I started writing after my special needs child passed away. Although he suffered from multiple physical and intellectual disabilities, he was a great blessing to many people including my family. I am in the process of writing a trilogy that revolves around the theme of “Blessing”.

    After completing the draft of the first book of the trilogy, I wrote materials to be included in a bonus section of that book. The bonus section gives readers a preview of what to expect in the next two books (Although the 3 books have a common theme, they focus on different issues).

    The problem is that the book becomes too long. You said, in your reply to Heather, that debut work should not be too long and two volume memoirs are rare. I will shorten my first book not because of those reasons, but because of the cost of editing. I am rewriting the bonus material so that it will be my first book – one that introduces the trilogy.

    Oh gosh! Two volumes are a rarity and I propose to come out with 4 volumes. They will not be pure memoirs but will include biography, fiction, music, poetry, and elements of psychology. I may (just may) be able to get away with being a rare exception because of the diverse ways of expressing myself and the voice I will use in books. Fiction is written as memoirs; the line is thin because often fiction is inspired by what authors have observed. Lyrics of songs will be used extensively. Instead of talking as an expert spewing out theoretical knowledge, I hope to motivate readers as someone who empathize with them, having gone through what they are facing.

    I hope to have an author’s website by mid April. I am not IT savvy but am trying to set up the website myself so as to save cost. Will let you know when it is ready so that, in case you are interested, you can get more information on the above.

  16. Hi, I have just finished the first draft of a memoir recounting the journey my wife and I took through the medical ‘labyrinth’ of two major teaching hospitals in Australia. My wife had a major aneurysm in 2012 and this short tale might provide some insights into the peculiar lot of people thrust without warning into the unfamiliar world of intensive care units and allied health professionals, hospital pharmacopeia, and high dependency neurological and rehabilitation wards. I have used illustrations and photos to bring the spaces alive and to convey some of the visceral reality of the struggle to survive. My wife is the survivor and will attempt a short chapter to convey her impressions. The total word count will be approximately 35,000. I have just approached a publisher of books on health and a leading public advocacy site but otherwise I am flying in the dark as to how to get the tale read. We are interested in reaching an audience that may confront this reality in the future. I would be grateful for your advice.

    1. Hi Mark
      A work of this kind, and of its short length, might be best self-published. It sounds like you might have some advocacy or policy agenda to communicate, in which case the book might be the centrepiece of a website dedicated to your efforts. You would need to work hard to promote the work to attract media attention. Unfortunately most publishers aren’t interested in works of less than 60,000 words. Good luck with your project — Virginia

  17. I am a member of a writing group that had a memoir contest in which the word count was 3,000. Now I am beginning to believe that was an anomaly of some kind. I found it hard to not write more words than that. At the same time I do not think that there is any book that I could write over ten thousand words at this point. However, I am probably more into writing opinion essays than my own personal experience. I find writing memoir writing hard to do if for no reason than the style that editors want keep changing.

    1. Hello and thanks for your comment. I’d suggest that you write what comes naturally to you, which seems to be op-ed essays. Of course, the credibility of op-eds is partly generated from the author’s own experience or expertise, so a personal element is both essential and compelling. Writing of any length is difficult to do well. –Virginia

  18. I tired to send a message a week or so ago. I am a member of the Writer’s League of Texas 2009 I entered a memoir contest that had a 3000 word limit. So surely there are short memoirs. I thought that they was a difference a short essay for a literary magazine and a longer one for a book. Maybe not maybe the judges were didn’t want to read a long memoir. But, that was the standard. Mary Riley

    1. Hi Mary,
      I’m pretty sure I already responded to you. A 3,000 word piece is an essay. In this post I’m talking about book-length works for publication by trade publishers. One of the quickest ways to be rejected instantly from writing competitions is to not respect word length restrictions. ~Virginia

  19. Hi Virginia, I am working on my late parents’ love story. They were well-known artists, especially in Victoria (Aust.). They became penfriends before World War 2, through ‘Miranda’s’ columns in the ‘Weekly Times’, which incidentally continues on. Mum lived on an impoverished farm in country Victoria, Dad was in training for the RAAF in Melbourne. Their letters to each other were profound and when Dad finally proposed by letter, (they still hadn’t met), Mum accepted. Five days after he proposed, he was shipped to Britain as an aircraft mechanic, and was away about 18 months, before the war ended. They didn’t actually meet till early Jan., 1946. In that time, more than 200 hundred letters were written between them, which are extraordinary documents of love and encouragement. It’s been hard to get the word count down from over 300,000 words to about 150,000 at this stage. I continue ‘pruning’. What word count would be acceptable in this case? Ellie McCutcheon

    1. Hi Ellie,
      Thanks for contacting me. This is a fascinating scenario but it’s difficult to advise you without further information. Without it, I would say 100-120k absolute max. Keep in touch — Virginia

  20. Virginia,
    Thank you for all of this really useful information. It keeps me on track. Hitting the second draft of my first memoir lately. The second draft is a much slower…more personal…more difficult run. But my guess is that we’re all in this for some amount of exposure therapy.

    1. Hi Rachel,
      It’s certainly a good sign that your second draft is more difficult. Many writers write down everything in their first draft and believe that’s their manuscript. What is typically is, is raw material that needs a lot of revision, crafting and rewriting in order to make a book from it. It’s not so much about ‘exposure therapy’ (though I understand what you mean) as it is about being as honest as possible, in order to connect with a reader. Good luck with your writing — Virginia

  21. Thank you for the insight on Memoir length. I do have general queries on the final structure, chronology and other pertinent questions.
    I am so happy to have found this resource and look forward to having it as my compass.

    1. Thanks Thoko for leaving this lovely comment. Please let me know if you have specific questions and I’ll attempt to answer them – because you won’t be the only reader with the same question. Best wishes — Virginia

  22. Thank you for your advice on this page! So glad I found it. I am currently writing a memoir. I took your advice and waited until I was done with my first draft and found out that I only have just over 19,000 words. It looks like I have a lot more work to do! 🙂

    1. Hi Cheri,
      Sometimes you need to wait until you’ve written that first draft to take a look at what you’ve got and ask the question: what is my story really about? Many people will set down the events that happened, but that is not enough. It’s the emotional arc of a memoir that makes the difference to a reader (and a publisher), and to do that effectively the author must know what is at the heart of her work. Good luck with the writing! –Virginia

  23. Virginia,
    Writing a part memoir/part self-help book and found your site. Thank you for providing some useful information on the process and also for the open forum.
    Only in the beginning stages of actually writing it, but have it outlined with definite chapters or steps towards a healthier and more self-empowered life. I have actually hand written a thousand pages or more that I may use in part with a lot of heavy editing. The other way I approach this is more organic. Find a relevant point and story for anyone chapter/step, and go at it and see what comes. My best writing comes when I am this zone, in the moment now.

    65,000 words or thereabout is a good target I am aiming at, although I probably could write a lot more. Editing and revising are key to a better end product. As my ex-wife, an English Lit major, once told me in my writing, “sometimes, less is more”. Good advice for me as write forward.

    1. Hi Dan,
      Thanks for your comment, which illuminates a common dilemma for writers in the first drafts of a book-length work. Do I slavishly follow my outline, or do I allow my instincts/gut feeling to direct my day’s writing, and see where it leads me? Some writers prefer to adhere closely to a draft outline, understanding that the outline itself will evolve during the course of writing; others prefer the more ad hoc approach. The latter group may well, as in your case, make discoveries that lead to new insights and possibly new chapters. The flip side of the less structured drafting is that often it will lead the writer down cul-de-sacs and dead ends. So in my view both approaches are not only useful but necessary; it’s striking the balance between the two impulses – for inspiration and for order – that will get you over the finish line in the end. Good luck with your project. –Virginia

  24. Hi Virginia, I think you are doing a wonderful job here. I am looking to publish my memoir which has a word count of about 67500. I would like to know if I should self-publish or depend on a publishing company.

    1. Hi Alex
      Thanks for your comment, but I couldn’t possibly advise you without more information about your project. If you want a guarantee of publication, then self-publish. There are many factors that should influence your decision, which I’ll go into some time in a post. –Virginia

  25. What about memoir that’s about 100 pages?

    1. Hi Xavier,
      That sounds like a project best done via self-publishing. –Virginia

  26. I’ve actually got it to around 40,000 words, and I still need editing and I’ve pitched an agent who’s interested. I’m not sure if I should add more to it? It’s not a traditional memoir, as it’s told through lyrical prose. I should have been more specific the first time. So in other words, it tells stories of my life and it rhymes throughout.

    1. Xavier, if you have an agent who is interested, you’re ahead of most unpublished authors and you should deal with her or him on further developing the manuscript (if required). That assumes the agent has agented other works of your genre, and is not asking you for money to agent your book. Good luck with getting published — Virginia

  27. Hi Virginia,
    If I am writing a brief book that is part memoir, part self- help (my own experience with and views of depression, anxiety etc along with advice), would a safe word count be around 30,000 or should I aim higher? Thank you!

    1. Hi Jordan
      Thanks for your comment. If you’re writing something brief and want to self-publish via Amazon Kindle, for example, then you can make it as short as you want. The major publishers would be seeking a manuscript of at least 60,000 – but equally important would be some evidence of your having established a public following or profile. Also known as an ‘author platform’, it could be anything from an enormous following on social media to a teaching position or some professional/industry affiliation. Self-publishing gives authors a lot more flexibility to experiment, but you’re facing an uphill battle with promotion and publicity. Hope that helps, and good luck! –Virginia

  28. Hi Virginia,

    I’ve just come across this particular blog post of yours from searching memoir length, the post and following comments and answers have been helpful, thank you 🙂 (I now realise I need action/story as well as meandering thoughts on misery!).

    I’m UK-based and wondered if you felt your newsletters would still be appropriate for me to sign up to (as I assume you are US)?

    Many thanks,

    1. Hi Dani
      Thanks for reading my website, and for your question. I’m currently back in Australia though I lived for many years in New York. My subscribers hail from several countries, primarily the US and Australia though some from the UK and Canada. Typically in each issue I try to help writers think about how they can make themselves more publishable, wherever they are, whatever they’re writing. Perhaps try it and see? You can unsubscribe at any time. I wish you a healthy and productive year ahead.

  29. Some of all the above is too dogmatic, constraining. Planning and listing ‘all you want to say’ is not per force necessary: writing can ideally come ‘organically’ without planning.

    1. Hi Adrian, thanks for your comment. Yes you’re quite right that writing can and often should come without planning; I suppose what I’m referring to in that point is material that might be missing from a manuscript because of the very ‘organic’ approach you mention. Publishable manuscripts are the end result of thousands of choices a writer makes, whether or not a piece of writing begins with a plan of some kind. –Virginia

  30. I have 47,000 words written of a memoir, all factual, true, ‘happened’ but with faintest intermittent exaggeration. There are ‘laughs’ sown throughout : parodic, (self-) ironic, irreverent, satiric.The work,I feel certain, shall be a ‘word of mouth’ or bush telegraph success, if only among all those tens of thousands who passed through the educational institution I am writing. I don’t wish to elaborate as to which institution, nor give the memoir title. Thanks for the information on word/page length: I may be nearer the end than I initially thought.

    1. Hi Aidan, thanks for reading. Irrespective of setting or tone, the most important thing in a memoir is to tell a story. Good luck with your project — Virginia

  31. Hello Virginia:
    I have come across your blog while, like many others, looking for input on word count suggestions for one’s memoir. As like many others I am in the process of writing my own memoir. I come from a wonderful family of 13 children growing up in the Detroit area and then migrating to N. Michigan. So I have a lot to tell. I would like to span the first 20 years of my life. Is this too long of a time span for a memoir ? I Find your input very interesting and valuable. Thank you, Robert.

    1. Hi Robert,
      Thanks so much for reading and leaving your very good question. I would say that a memoir can span varying lengths of time, but the most important element is keeping control of the focus on an aspect of that timespan (whether it’s one month, one year, or two decades) and crafting a story with a beginning, middle and end from it. Good luck with your writing — Virginia

  32. I really want to tell my story but I don’t know wat write when I put the pen to paper. After writing 2 pages or so I find myself destroying those 2 pages I just wrote. I need help writing.

    1. Hi Erica
      Thanks for being so honest about your struggle to write. Have you considered talking into a voice recorder of some kind? Then transcribing it? That would get you over the hurdle you describe. The key thing is not to destroy the pages. Every published story starts with a rough draft. Another idea would be to write down in bullet point form the key elements of the story you wish to tell, like an outline or shopping list. Then set yourself the task of writing about one bullet point. When I find myself wanting to destroy or delete material, I create a new document on my computer and paste it in there. It’s like a rubbish bin, but one which I can return to if I need to. And what do you know? I often find something in that rubbish bin that is valuable, even if it is in a rough form.
      I hope these suggestions help. Good luck! –Virginia

  33. Virginia, I love your advice here and the comments. I’ve been working on a memoir of sorts for a year now and have 78,000 words logged so far. Still have one or two chapters left. After writing each chapter, I ran it through Hemmingway and Grammarly. Then I sent it out to a High School English teacher for editing. Afterward, I’ve been blogged my book, chapter by chapter and with good feedback. I do plan on self-publishing, probably with Amazon Create Space, because I don’t want to wait years to see it in print. Do you think I still need to pay an editor to look at it before publishing?

    1. Hi Mary Ellen, thanks for reading and contributing to the discussion here. Despite the tools and methods you have described above, I still recommend that at the very least you pay for a proofread of your memoir. Self-published works are fairly notorious for having lots of unnecessary errors in them, which only diminish your work in the eyes of your reader. As you only get one shot at a first impression, I believe that paying for a proofread – by someone who is an experienced proofreader of book-length manuscripts – is money well spent. Good luck with your work. –Virginia

  34. Hello Virginia,
    I’m very glad I found your blog – I am editing the English language version of my father-in-law’s memoir (it has already been published in his first language), which looks as if it is heading for pretty much the word count you mention. I had been fretting about finding an agent, thinking it too short (I have had to cut here and there) – so very relieved to find we are more or less on track.

    1. Hi Jason and thanks for your lovely note. If a publisher really falls in love with a manuscript, he or she will do everything possible to see that it’s published. I know a publisher who padded out an extremely short book of stories with loads of white space, a text design that had chapters beginning halfway down a page, and some relevant additional material added at the end to make it more substantial than it actually was. The writing was of such quality and fascination that it sold very strongly and nobody minded its brevity. But I must say that’s more like an exception that proves the rule. Good luck with your translation and path to English-language publication. –Virginia

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