Make Money Selling Your Individual Memoir Stories to Magazines by Bill Vossler

Make Money Selling Your Individual Memoir Stories to Magazines by Bill Vossler

You can make money by selling slices of your memoir – stories from your past – as I have for the last ten years, cashing in some 130 pieces in two dozen magazines, and helping to fill out my soon-to-be published memoir.

What can you write about? To be honest, anything and everything. There are painful episodes such as the story I titled “Easter Lesson,” about the time my Mother pointed at me and announced to a roomful of relatives, “I caught Billy stealing from Herr Mercantile yesterday!” (Sr. Wire) Then, there was a fun one about what I learned playing in an empty lot, titled “The Fullness of the Empty Lot.” I submitted that one to North Dakota Living, and it was re-printed in Reader’s Digest. Then there are heartwarming stories, like my mentally-challenged friend hitting his first home run ever, “Ervin’s Big Home Run,” (Sr. Wire)

But, everyday mundane topics work as well, like collecting coins and stamps, the first time driving a car, ice fishing, chasing a killdeer, developing photographs (under my bed,) smoking cigarettes –  literally anything from your past life.

The key is not what you write about, but how you write it.

1. Choose a story that excites you or troubles you. For years, my mother said “Forget them!” about an old couple who enticed me onto their porch with money one time when I was seven, then hugged and kissed me, and sobbed, speaking in German. Too late, years later I discovered they were my grandparents. I called that one “Learning to Forget” (Hemispheres).

Choose any interesting story. You’re a writer, and a storyteller, so you’ve already shared stories around the supper table with relatives, friends, or acquaintances. If those stories delight or move your colleagues, the pieces will interest an editor and readers, like the time a pail of liquid water – outside at 40 degrees below zero for days – suddenly froze and cracked in an instant. That story was titled “Nature‘s Magic Elixir.” (The Rotarian)

2. Write the piece, using exact details to carry your readers back in time with you: “I glanced at the old couple. The woman leaned heavily against the black porch post, her shoulders jerking, shiny trails glistening down her creased cheeks…”

3. Use powerful verbs, figurative language – similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia – the senses, and emotion to make the writing more powerful.

4. Rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite to, as Ernest Hemingway said, “Get it right.”

5. Determine if you should write first, and then find a market, or vice-versa. For me, the piece must be written first, produced without mental pressure to make it fit a certain magazine. Some people find the magazine first, especially if the narrow topic of a piece leads directly into a particular market, like writing about antiques, and pitching to an antique magazine.

The key is finding the right piece for the right magazine out of hundreds of possibilities.


  • Universal stories sell best: Almost everybody has stolen, or lied, or smoked cigarettes as a kid…
  • Story ideas will pop up as you write. Keep a notebook to jot them down immediately, or risk losing them.
  • Tell your stories (post-Covid) by speaking to groups for pay, as I have with religious organizations and senior groups.
  • Don’t forget to pitch local publications. I’ve sold to N.D. REC (now North Dakota Living,) North Dakota Horizons, Senior Perspective (Minnesota,) St. Cloud Times (Minnesota,) because of my history in those areas.
  • Don’t expect high pay. Most pay runs in the $40 area. However, I‘ve received as much as $700 from Hemispheres.

Flannery O’Connor said, “Anybody who has survived childhood has enough information about life to last the rest of it…”

Walt Whitman added, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself.”

What could be more fun than writing about your own life, having others enjoy it, getting accolades, and getting paid? And, if you’ve already published your memoir, you can promote it in the bio appearing under your articles.

Other Magazine I’ve Published My Memoir Stories In:

Antiques & Collectibles; Arizona Highways; Mature Living, Mature Focus, Rock & Gem, (Ketchican Daily News, Senior. Voice, Beacon Senior News through Sr. Wire,) and others.

A fulltime freelancer for 38 years, Bill Vossler has published more than 3,700 articles, short stories, poems, nostalgia pieces, one play, and many memoir chapters in 246 magazines, and 16 books.

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