Q&A With Memoir Author Leslie Ferguson:
It’s been quite a roller-coaster ride for memoir author Leslie Ferguson. Over 15 years in the making, her memoir “When I Was Her Daughter” was finally released in late 2021 — to great acclaim! Think multiple podcasts, signings, great reviews, and a personal appearance at the L.A. Times Festival of Books.
How did she do it? We caught up with Leslie to ask about her exciting success. And she kindly shared not only her own journey but tips for other memoir writers, too. I hope you’ll be inspired by both her success story and her good advice!
Q&A With Leslie:
Q: I’ve followed your posts and have been so happy to see your memoir, “When I Was Her Daughter,” has won such recognition! Can you share a little about some of the wonderful opportunities you’ve had to showcase your book? What sorts of venues were they, and what was it like for you?
A: Promoting the book has been so fun! I’ve been interviewed on several podcasts. It has been so humbling and fun to talk about the book, my story, and my writing process. With my publisher, Acorn Publishing, I was able to attend The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books—and I sold every copy I brought, so that was the icing on the cake, for sure. But just getting the chance to be a part of something like that with other Acorn authors I admire—it was so special. I also participated in a Barnes and Noble reading and book signing event, and had the honor of attending two book club discussions about When I Was Her Daughter. Talk about humbling—and so gratifying. To be able to sit with readers who are genuinely interested in my book and my story is one of the best things that has come from this experience. That is really a dream come true.
Publisher’s Weekly will be publishing their review of my book in the May 30th edition. This review has the potential to reach tons of viewers—a great opportunity that casts a wider net!
Also. . . I am thrilled to say that my book has won an award! As I type this it seems surreal. . . Memoir Magazine has named When I Was Her Daughter the Memoir Prize for Books category winner for RESILIENCE. And I am blown away.
Q: What have you learned recently about marketing, and what advice would you give to other writers about it? Was anything especially surprising?
A: I continue to learn about the marketing side of things—and I continue to meet other writers who wonder how to begin their marketing journey. The biggest advice I would give is to start early—even earlier than you think you should. There is so much to do—and it’s utterly time-consuming. Getting ahead of your publication date is important because you can never go back and get that time back. Here are a few possibilities:
- Drum up excitement about your cover with a cover-reveal countdown.
- Promote the release by making the book available for pre-order.
- Create an author/book website and direct traffic to it via social media.
- Start an email newsletter (and encourage people to sign up to receive it)—although, more and more, we are seeing platforms like Pinterest and TikTok emerge as marketing leaders for authors.
- Connect and engage with other authors. This is a great way to support others and garner interest in and support for your own work.
- Get involved in your local and/or national writing communities by joining groups related to your niche. I love the San Diego Memoir Writers Association, for example—they promoted my book and included me on an author panel at one of their meetings, which was rewarding, for sure, and also boosted interest in my book.
- Check in with local libraries about events and author programs.
- Stay connected and look for opportunities to support other authors.
Q: Success like that doesn’t “just happen,” of course. There was so much that went into making your book, I’m sure, that’s “unseen” to the reader. There’s dealing with the emotions, and simply finding time to write. Then there’s finding an editor, and slogging through re-writes. Can you tell us about what step was the most difficult for you, and how you got yourself through it?
A: The most difficult step for me was the mechanics — all of the aspects of actually completing the book: Deciding what to keep and what to cut. Revising for clarity, tone, voice, and consistency. Hiring editors and using their feedback. Believing that the book was done and READY for publication. Querying and finally choosing a publication path. There are so many decisions to make.
Ultimately, I was able to know instinctively that the book was as good as I could make it, and editing it further risked ruining my writing style and the heart of the story. At some point, you have to call it a day and move forward.
Taking even one small step at a time matters. I think it helped that this book demanded to be written. Even if it took me another decade, it was going to be finished. So, I think, getting through the many, many obstacles that come with memoir requires patience and discipline . . . and good, old-fashioned self-care, compassion, and kindness. It’s a treacherous journey, for sure, but the destination justifies it. And I mean this in the sense of healing, too. Finishing this book has brought a different kind of peace, one I wasn’t sure I’d ever find.
Q: I’m sure your book has touched other lives, and you’ve probably received all kinds of great feedback. Was there any one “thank you so much for writing this book” in particular that stuck out to you?
A: I have been so touched by many of the lovely reviews of my book! Learning that my book resonates with others makes all of the hard work, uncertainty, and trauma count for something, you know?
I am still in awe of the testimonial Sue William Silverman wrote for my book. The fact that she read it in three days and sent me such a glowing review is something I don’t think I’ll ever get over. Here is what this goddess of memoir had to say about my book:
“This brilliant memoir, a debut no less, has the insights, the epiphanies, and the ability to let the reader really live the life being documented. Not only is this an extraordinary narrative about a family challenged by mental illness and foster care, it gives voice to a greater sense of displacement and alienation. It also offers hope, love, and forgiveness. It is a book for our time—for all time—in that it’s heartbreakingly beautiful and genuinely unforgettable. This memoir is absolutely not to be missed. There are not enough thumbs-up to give it. Read it! Now!” —Sue William Silverman, award-winning author of How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences
Now do you see why I am still swooning?
Q: What are you working on next? Another book? Where do you hope to go from here?
A: I am writing a novel! It’s a fictional memoir that draws from some of my experiences. And I am in a writing group with amazing women, other memoirists, who continue to provide encouragement and valuable insights as I craft this new story. I am loving this part of my author adventure.
I am also interested in sharing writing tips and working with other writers who are embarking on their own memoir journeys. I would love to be able to offer wisdom and compassion, along with some writing techniques, to help others craft and share their beautiful stories. Writers and readers can reach out to me via my website, LeslieFergusonAuthor.com, or via Facebook, @LeslieFergusonAuthor.
Find Leslie’s amazing book on Amazon.com (AssociatesLink)
Read our earlier interview with Leslie, “Handling Trauma and Healing In Your Memoir.” And check out her two great YouTube interviews here and here!