It’s no secret that publishing is full of collaboration, from the authors, agents, editors, and illustrators to the marketers, publicists, salespeople, reviewers, and influencers, etc. Then there are the professionals who help authors tell their stories by way of memoir: book collaborators. Multi-award-winning journalist, writer, and co-author, Jeannine Amber, who recently collaborated on I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have To: True Life Lessons (Hachette Go, June 23, 2020) by award-winning comedienne and talk show host, Loni Love, spoke with So Booking Cool about this part of the industry.
“There’s this idea that somebody with a good story can just write a book about it,” the former Essence senior writer says. “But that is very, very rare. It’s just the same way somebody who’s funny cannot [just] get up on stage and do stand-up. Writing is a craft. There are things you have to know about how you construct a chapter or paragraph or a book. They have a story to tell because they’ve been living another life doing whatever it is that they’re doing, being a comedian or being a lawyer, being an astronaut or whatever. You cannot expect somebody who’s devoted twenty years to a career to also on the side happen to have figured out how to write a book. And that’s why they get collaborators.”
Amber’s first literary collaboration was on Loni Love’s debut, Love Him Or Leave Him, but Don’t Get Stuck With the Tab: Hilarious Advice for Real Women (Simon & Schuster, 2013). She enjoyed working with the The Real co-host both times. “We had a really good relationship when we worked on that book a few years ago,” Amber shares. “…We’ve stayed in touch and we’re friendly; and she always knew there was another story that she wanted to tell. She wanted to tell her story, her life story.”
The book’s aim is to also inspire and make readers laugh. “All of us are going through things that we had not anticipated for and had not planned for. Her [Loni’s] story was really about figuring out a way to move forward, no matter what happens.”
I Tried To Change has garnered praise from the likes of Forbes; Marie Claire, and Publishers Weekly; it has topped multiple “new releases” categories on Amazon including Television Performer Biographies; Celebrity & Popular Culture Humor; Self-Help & Psychology; Actor & Entertainer Biographies; Comedy; Biographies of Comedians; Self-Esteem, Self Help; Discrimination and Race; and Apple Books ranked it as a June-released must-listen.
Before landing success in book publishing, Amber has led an accomplished career in journalism (and is still at it!). She has won more than twenty awards including two Henry Luce Awards; A Maggie Award for Media Excellence; GLAAD Media Award; and between both the National and New York Association of Black Journalists, she’s been awarded 18 times. In addition to writing for Essence for more than two decades (she was also the only senior writer there for over a decade), she held senior roles at VillageVoice and Vibe, and has written for everything from Time to Glamour to The Source.
Amber’s collaborations have been praised and/or highlighted including Rabbit: A memoir by Patricia Williams (Dey Street Books/HarperCollins, 2017), which was nominated by the NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literature and selected as one of the Best Nonfiction Titles of that year by Amazon; and Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls, co-written with attorney Carrie Goldberg (Plume/Penguin Random House, 2019), was named one of Esquire’s Best Nonfiction Books of that year.
When asked for advice for those who aspire to become book collaborators, Amber, in part, says it’s about stepping back. “It’s not about you at all.” She smiles. “You’re helping someone else tell their story. That’s your job and you need to take pride in a job well done, but it’s not about your own thing. It is about helping someone achieve this dream that they have of telling their story. And it’s a real honor to do that for people.”
Watch the interview to learn more about Amber and some of the questions she asked Love for I Tried to Change; her writing style; the importance of listening to the author to capture the voice; the writing and book collaboration community; how she’s gotten involved in projects; her perspective on timing when it comes to writing a memoir; her thoughts on the best and worst advice for writing; and more! For more information, visit Amber’s official website and Twitter.