KWE Publishing Newsletter - 07/13/23
Autobiographies and memoirs are both popular genres of books, and though you've probably heard of these genres, you may not realize that there are quite a few differences between the two!
You might be wondering why it's important to differentiate between the two genres. It's actually beneficial for writers and readers to know how these genres vary!
As a writer, you want to know what genre conventions to follow and what conventions to ignore—but you have to know the genre you're writing in first. And as a reader, you may find that you prefer one genre over the other, so understanding how autobiographies and memoirs are different from one another will help you find the right book!
So, let's take a look at some of the big differences between autobiographies and memoirs!
Autobiographies include all major events in the author's life from birth to the present day.
By nature, an autobiography is often incredibly detailed, including many events in the author's life. Even instances that the author may not remember, such as those from childhood, tend to be included if they're important enough. This is because autobiographies are meant to tell the whole story of someone's life up to the time the book is published.
Because of this, autobiographies are usually written in chronological order; this isn't always the case, but since there's so much information packed in an autobiography, having everything in the order it occurred makes this type of book a lot easier to read!
Memoirs are usually pretty detailed, too, but unlike autobiographies, they don't have to focus on every single impactful event in an author's life. They're not always written in chronological order, either, which gives the author a chance to play around with a variety of writing techniques. Memoirs aren't focused on a person's entire life story, which leads us to our next point...
Memoirs tend to be focused more on themes.
Unlike autobiographies, which are created to give readers an overall idea about the authors' lives, memoirs are written around certain themes. For example, an author writing about themes relating to chronic illness will likely focus on events that are related to that theme in some way.
This means that, in theory, a writer could have multiple memoirs! One memoir right be about parenting, another about health, religion, family...the list can truly be endless.
And even though autobiographies do have themes—all good books do!—most autobiographies will be broader, and the themes might not connect with one another at all.
The audience will vary between autobiographies and memoirs.
As we alluded to earlier, it's important for readers to understand the differences between autobiographies, too!
There are readers who enjoy both genres of books, but if you're looking to learn about a historical figure's life story, then you'll want an autobiography, and if you want to find a book centered around a particular theme, a memoir is what you need.
Many people choose to write memoirs and autobiographies for different purposes, too. A loved one in their eighties, for example, might write an autobiography as a legacy to leave for their family to share for generations to come. They wouldn't really care about selling copies of their book, and an autobiography written by a family member can be a precious gift! Alternatively, an author writing a memoir will likely want to connect with readers who are interested in that particular topic.
Typically, memoirs have larger audiences since they're relatable to more people—unless the autobiography is written by someone who's famous, in which case you'll probably see it popping up on shelves in bookstores everywhere!
At the end of the day, there are benefits to writing an autobiography and a memoir! Knowing the differences between the two, however, will help you write your book and prepare for any potential marketing needs along the way.
Have you written an autobiography or a memoir? Did you know about the differences between them? Reach out and share your experiences; we love hearing from you!