I welcome this question from potential clients because it’s so easy to answer.
First, as they must already know, their immediate family members will read it: children, grandchildren, siblings, parents, whatever close family they have.
But other people will read it too. Sometimes I’m asked why I don’t do memoir projects in any medium other than written form. “Why not an audio or video option?” I’m occasionally asked.
The answer is that books are something that everyone feels comfortable using. As long a person can read, he or she has the hardware necessary to read a written memoir, because all it takes is eyes. Audio and video get complicated, I remind people who ask me about this. You need to worry about compatibility and technological expertise. And some of those modes of story-telling become obsolete remarkably fast. Think of videotapes, for example, or cassettes.
Moreover, even if no technological barrier exists, sometimes it’s just a matter of usability. “Anyone who sits down in your living room will pick up a book lying on the coffee table and at the very least leaf through it,” I tell people. “Very few people will ask whether you have a video recording of an oral history that they could watch.”
I’ve seen proof of this myself. My parents, because they are proud and doting and very kind to me, keep copies of all my published books, along with those of other family members, on their large glass coffee table. I often hear from recent guests of theirs who have enjoyed paging through a book or two – even if those books are the memoirs of people they don’t know and will probably never meet, and even if the memoir subjects did not lead particularly remarkable lives. It’s just inherently interesting to page through a book about a real person who chooses to tell his or her story.
So the answer is, many people will read your book. People who are related to you, people who know and like and admire you, and people who chance across your book. Remember the iconic line in the film Field of Dreams: If you build it, they will come. If you write it, they will read. It never fails.