If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve likely heard or read about the benefits writing a book can have for your business. Among other perks, writing a book can be a great way to build your brand and showcase your expertise in your niche. The focus of your book may be teaching people about your business, solving a problem, or helping people learn more about you—or all three.
Memoirs and autobiographies are particularly good at accomplishing these goals. For many entrepreneurs, they’re the first options that come to mind when considering how to reach their audience. However, which is better for you and your business? For that matter, what is the difference between memoirs and autobiographies, anyway?
Memoirs and autobiographies are essentially two sides of the same coin, and the lines between them can be blurred. Autobiographies may sound dry, but you can infuse life and personality in them without giving facts the backseat. Likewise, memoirs can be very informative and teach readers a great deal about an author’s life and accomplishments.
However, while both help the audience learn about the author, there are several key areas where these two nonfiction subgenres differ. Understanding these differences is essential in deciding which subgenre will best suit your needs.
How Do Memoirs and Autobiographies Differ?
Memoir: Memoirs typically focus on a central theme, turning point, or time period in the author’s life. The scope is more selective, allowing for deeper exploration of particular events or ideas.
Autobiography: Autobiographies share the entirety of an author’s life up to the present. Autobiographies are less limited in their scope, but they may lack depth in certain areas because of the volume of information shared.
Memoir: Memoirs are usually written in a more narrative or conversational style.
Autobiography: Autobiographies are usually more formal and factual than memoirs.
Memoir: Memoirs allow more creative freedom. Their structure is more flexible, often allowing for more expression, and the sections need not be written in chronological order. Flashbacks, anecdotes, and dialogue can be employed.
Autobiography: Autobiographies have a tendency to be more rigid and factually oriented than memoirs. They are most often written in chronological order, and fewer creative liberties are taken.
Memoir: Memoirs are typically written to share an author’s ideas, reflections, or insights on a particular theme or time period of their lives. In a nutshell, the intent more often leans toward sharing enlightenment or an emotional truth through the author’s personal experiences.
Autobiography: Autobiographies are more focused on facts, and their intent is usually more educational. Autobiographies chronicle the author’s life up to the present, including their achievements and legacy. Facts are checked to ensure accuracy.
Memoir: The market for memoirs is arguably larger. The fact is that memoirs have the potential to cater to a wider audience because while they may share a particular person’s experiences, the focus may be on more universal themes.
Autobiography: Depending on the subject, autobiographies are even more niche than memoirs. With some exceptions, autobiographies simply don’t draw the attention of readers other than those specifically interested in the author or the author’s business/achievements.
Is Memoir or Autobiography Better for You?
Only you can decide which is better for you. Both subgenres can help raise brand visibility and help your audience learn more about you in some way, which can build credibility, trust, and/or loyalty. How much information you share and the way you reach your audience will depend on which subgenre you select.
Some questions to ponder:
Do you want to focus more on the facts (autobiography) or more on emotional truth or other personal messages (memoir)?
Do you want the scope of the book to cover your entire life up to the present (autobiography), or were there specific turning point(s) in your life that you’d rather focus on (memoir)?
How do you want to enlighten your audience: Through straight facts (autobiography) or through a more creative approach (memoir)?
Based on your brand and existing audience, which subgenre will resonate more with your readers?