Your office horror stories leave your family aghast and your friends in stitches. Or your years of experience in your industry have lit a fire in you to report on the changes that must be made. Or your internship at a start-up doubles as a brutally funny coming-of-age story. Everyone says you should write a book about it. Are they crazy, or should you give it a shot?
The work-related memoir occupies a special niche in the booming memoir genre. In 2014, sales of memoirs and biographies in general increased by 12%, second only to self-help titles. Many memoirs are self-published; some are written by people who know that their books may never reach a wide audience, and that’s fine with them. Memoirs can serve as valuable family histories or personal reflections for future generations, regardless of whether the readership is large.
Work-related memoirs are different. They come with a built-in audience: anyone who has ever held that job, hired someone for that job (think The Nanny Diaries), or been intrigued by the field. This means that when you’re writing your book proposal, the marketing section can be plump with readership statistics, websites, and organizations that are potential vehicles for selling or publicizing the book.
The genre is refreshingly accessible. You don’t have to be an expert to describe what you experienced the year you worked at Hollywood’s busiest Starbucks, or on a family-friendly cruise ship, or on the campaign of a loose-cannon politician. Work memoirs will happily accommodate any type of writing, from purely entertaining to instructional to profound. And they’ll bend to any format — essay collection, chapter book, graphic novel, serious investigative narrative, diary, or anything else the telling requires.
Here’s a sample of the incarnations work-related memoirs can take. All were written by average citizens, not Wall Street big shots or tech-company wizards. Maybe one of them will inspire you to start a file of observations, character sketches, and snatches of dialog overheard during your own deceptively ordinary workday.
The Funny Horror Story
Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, by Jacob Tomsky
Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line, by Ben Hamper
Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet, by Heather Poole
Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom, by Kristin van Ogtrop
The Inspirational Tale
Becoming Ginger Rogers: How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner, and Smarter CEO, by Patrice Tanaka
Guitar Lessons: A Life’s Journey Turning Passion into Business, by Bob Taylor
Romance Is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last, by Patience Bloom
Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks, by Andrea Lankford
The Summer of My Greek Taverna: A Memoir, by Tom Stone
Teacher: One Woman’s True Adventure on a Remote First Nations Reserve in Northern Canada, by Hillary Phillips
The China Twist: An Entrepreneur’s Cautious Tales on Franchising in China, by Wen-Szu Lin
The Insider’s View
Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line, by Michael Gibney
Fly in the Buttermilk: Memoirs of an African American in Advertising, Design & Design Education, by Archie Boston
The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop, by Steve Osborne
Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter, by Nina MacLaughlin
Vetting: The Making of a Veterinarian, by Dr. Pete Freyburger
Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic, by Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt
(So you’re not working—now you really have time to write your book!)
Cherries in Winter: My Family’s Recipe for Hope in Hard Times, by Suzan Colón
Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream, by Adam W. Shepard
The Cliff Walk: A Memoir of a Job Lost and a Life Found, by Don J. Snyder