Everyone Has a Story to Tell … But Do You Have a Story to Sell?


Sure, we all have stories. Stories of highs and lows, drama and the mundane. And we’d all like to think each of us has a story to sell.

But it’s not true.

I know. I am an editor and a ghostwriter. I’ve worked on clients’ stories that needed just a bit of fine-tuning to make them shine. And I’ve come across some pretty bad ones that had no hope of selling. At least not in their current states. Clients have sent me their messy, sometimes unintelligible, awful writings. And I’ve been able to turn those into something beautiful, or at least something that doesn’t smell up the place. Turning the story you tell into the story you sell takes a bit of honesty, hard work, and creativity.

Yes, each of us has a story to tell. But it doesn’t become a story to sell until we get rid of the junk, polish it so it shines, and look beyond ourselves.

You see, having a story to tell is great. But having a story to sell is even better. And if you make the mistake of publishing the story you tell before you’ve made it ready to sell, you’ll end up with a bunch of books on your hands and no buyers. You’ll miss an opportunity to gain an audience, touch lives, and create meaning.

Here is how to turn your story into one that sells:

1. Get rid of the bad writing.

Most people think they can write. Because we all have access to computers — or at least pen and paper — we fancy ourselves writers. But just because I have access to a light switch doesn’t make me an electrician. Having the tools doesn’t mean ability to use the tools. So be honest with yourself. Can you use the tools? If you can’t use the tools, all is not lost. It’s time to hire a good editor or even a ghostwriter. Give that person your story and let her or him help you tell it. This person can chisel away the bad and leave you with something good.

We recently edited and designed a book for a client who — like many — had written a novel loosely based on her life. She told an interesting story, but the writing was a mess. Every line had a mistake, it seemed, and I rewrote and rearranged passages to make them flow better and make sense to the reader. When she got the heavily edited manuscript back for review, her confidence was shaken. She wasn’t sure what to do with the manuscript, whether she should abandon it and start over with the book. But I calmed her. I let her know that I had taken care of the problems with the manuscript and she didn’t have to start over with this one, because I took the brunt of work and did it for her. But I advised her to read through the edits so she could understand why the changes were made so this information could help with her next project. She now realizes that selling a story is about more than typing out words.

2. Make sure it’s not all about you.

Sure, it may be your story, but if you want other people to buy it, it needs to relate to them. It’s not enough to tell the reader every detail of your life for 100 or 200 pages. You must somehow turn that focus to your reader. The reader  has enough of her own drama going on; she’s not interested in drowning in yours for chapter after chapter. But she may be interested if you can relate your story to something going on in her life. So sure, tell your story, but invite your reader in, too.

We just finished editing and designing a book for a client who wrote about her family’s journey with Alzheimer’s. The manuscript was very narrowly focused when I received it, and would likely only be of interest to family and friends. But we edited it to have a bit of a broader focus, while allowing her to tell her family’s story. So now her book can actually be relevant to and of interest to a reader who wants to know more about that topic, but isn’t a member of the family. Her story now has more marketability.

3. Don’t overwrite.

It’s easy to think we have to use the longest words, the most complex sentence constructions, and the most “intellectual” similes or metaphors when we write. But resist the urge. Of course your tone will depend on the genre or type of writing you are doing, but in general, go for more conversational and less formal. If you are writing to entertain or to inform, most readers don’t want to have to think too hard, so don’t try to come up with obtuse and obscure references. Those will only confuse and most likely fall flat. Same for word choice. Don’t use big, five-syllable words when a shorter one will do. This doesn’t mean you want to stick to short, choppy sentences, but it just means that you don’t need to pull out your dictionary or thesaurus to write your blog post or magazine piece. Simple is better, in most cases. Simple doesn’t mean the writing will be easy, but hopefully it ensures that the reading will be.

4. Look for the silver lining.

If you are writing a memoir or life story, whatever you share must still have some positive resolution at the end. It’s easy to think that just because you have gone through some serious drama in your life, that people would be interested in that. But sharing page after page after page of hurt, pain, and heartache is exhausting for your reader.

So even in a life story of grief and pain, offer your reader some lighter moments, as well. And remember to leave your reader something good at the end. This doesn’t mean you have to wrap everything up all nice and sweet and sprinkle candy all over it, but it does mean you need to reward the reader for sticking with you through it all. You need to come out of the book experience with some lesson, insight, coping strategy, or some other point of growth or positivity to share with your reader. If you can’t find that in your story, then you don’t have a story to sell. Not yet. Do some more soul-searching.

5. Consider the benefit.

Every story must have a benefit to the reader. Will the reader be entertained? Will the reader be informed? Will the reader be compelled to act? As you tell your story, examine what you want the reader to get from that story. This will influence how you write it. And if you can’t figure that out, then a good editor or ghostwriter can help.

I’ve seen lots of stories come across my desk. And those that have had the best chance of reaching others are those that have been revised with these five pointers in mind. Whether you run a writing business or you are only interested in writing and selling your story, you can write a story that becomes one that sells when you think beyond what the story means to you and consider what it will mean to your reader. This is true whether you are turning your story into a novel, sharing it in a memoir, including it as the foundation for a self-help project, or something else altogether. Use these pointers whether you are an individual with a story, a company telling a story, or a church or organization using a story to paint a picture.

I’ve helped individuals turn their stories into books that have brought awareness about social issues, raised money for cancer, built brand awareness, been the foundation for a business, and showcased a legacy. Your story is a powerful tool. Use it properly.

You truly can turn the story you tell into one you sell.


Facebook Twitter Email

Monica Carter Tagore

Monica Carter Tagore is an author and business strategist. She helps authors, freelancers, solopreneurs, and other small business owners brand and market what they do. A former journalist, she launched her writing business in 2002. Her writing business has grown into a training and education company for business growth and personal development.

check six
check six

my story is ongoing right now murder drugs fast cars... endgame

not played yet.cops , bad cops cant go home best friend dead cops covering it up...

Jenny Donnelly
Jenny Donnelly

Thanks for those tips, Monica. I am better inspired to write my story. I have a really amazing story to tell but i need help penning it. Please help.


Hi I need help write my I bought my story about my story about my daughter got killed in 2013 by her boyfriend and they gave the court gave his family custody my granddaughter in the court system know he was beaten up on my child for 10 years and I reported she report it and nobody helping so in 2013 August 4th the 2013 my daughter was killed by her boyfriend right in front of her four-year-old daughter at the time she got killed

Gary shawver
Gary shawver

Gary Shawver g.shawver@ yahoo.com

My biological father named is lee buck Trevino

I didn't find out Intel I was 15-16 years old

But when I was 10 or 11 he was one of my heroes

My dad Jack Shawver n Lee Trevino was raised together and Katies together.

My uncle John Shawver is Lees 1/2 brother same mother different father.

But I do have The interesting story.

Just want to see if you're interested. You have nothing to lose.


hello sir i want say the story but i cant write that but i am sure 100 % if some one is write it on profissional way it well be make a power full movie  my movie name is "sky virus" it is about american army in afghanistan can you help me to share my story whit some writer ?

Anubhav Tagore
Anubhav Tagore

All articles are currently written by in-house writers, but we do plan to have guest writers in the future. When we do start accepting guest writers, we will announce it to all our newsletter subscribers; and on select websites. Go ahead and subscribe to the newsletter from this link (or simply visit the home page): http://bit.ly/15KdmCX. Thanks for asking!

linux hosting
linux hosting

My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find many of your post's to be just what I'm looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content for you personally? I wouldn't mind writing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write about here. Again, awesome web log!|