Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir

By Sue William Silverman | Go to book overview

Chapter Eight
Marketing Your Memoir

One spring afternoon in 1996, I was sitting at my desk working on a novel (one, to this day, I’ve never completed), when the phone rang. It was David Fenza, executive director of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), notifying me that my memoir had won their Award Series in Creative Nonfiction. The award, he told me, included a cash prize plus publication with the University of Georgia Press.

Me? A winner? There must be a mistake, I thought, someone playing a joke. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I suspect I sounded both overjoyed and demented. I gushed. Even though I submitted the manuscript hoping to win, it never occurred to me I would win. A memoir on the topic of incest winning a literary competition? No way. Plus, whereas I had thought my book might appeal only to women readers, the judge, Adam Hochschild, was a man!

After I hung up, doubt continued to flood me. I was sure Dave Fenza had called the wrong person; there’d been a mistake. I phoned him back. No mistake.


Getting Started

Submitting your manuscript to a contest is one way to get it published. Yet I consider myself very lucky, since winning one is a long shot. Publishers—even small ones—release multiple books over the course of a year, whereas only one book can win any given contest. Plus, un-

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