Why Pay for a Personal History?

Creating a personal history begins with an hour’s free consultation. The potential client and I get to know one another, and I have the chance to get my arms around the highlights of his story, its scope, and his intended audience. How many people would I need to interview and how many times? Would he like a book, an audio CD, a family tree included, illustrations? This initial consultation is critical in defining the potential client’s dream, and how the Retelling team can best fulfill it.

The client, whose story I am telling, will be the one to review drafts and make desired changes to the manuscript once a project is underway. But sometimes that person is not the one who will pay for the work.

For example, A Compassionate Approach to Addiction Intervention, by Howie M., an addiction interventionist, was paid for by a friend whose life had been tremendously impacted by Howie. He wanted to bring what Howie knew to a larger audience.

In some cases, the son or daughter of a client may be the financial contact. Other times a business pays for a book about its founding and development, and my financial contact may be the marketing director.

I have had the sad experience of talking to a potential client who was excited about preserving his story, only to find that his children don’t see the benefit and don’t want to pay for it. Often adult children feel they have heard the stories many times and know them well enough. We try to determine whether this is the case early in the proposal process, to not encourage and then disappoint the potential client.

But there are other considerations in whether to pay for such a project, which is labor-intensive and can be expensive. For the client himself, telling his story may be an irreplaceable experience, in less active years, of self-understanding, healing, and hopefully of great pleasure. Is there any other activity that could be as rewarding for him?

And the wider view is that frequently the greatest beneficiaries are not the adult children, but grandchildren and generations yet unborn, to whom this ancestor will be a real flesh-and-blood person. In any scenario, payment for a personal history is an investment in legacy.