They say every one of us has a story to tell. Some are written, and others are confined to the heart. But people want to hear stories, and that is why Rutger Bruining founded StoryTerrace to help people turn their life stories into a book. Luxurious Magazine’s Sabi Phagura caught up with him to discuss how his company helps to bring those stories to life.
Far too many of the world’s most incredible stories have never been told, and the lives of some of the greatest people who’ve walked the earth have never been truly documented. Instead their experiences, their successes and things they’ve done to better the lives of people around them and the wider community, just become memories that will sadly fade away and be forgotten over time.
There is a group of people addressing this, and it’s led by Rutger Bruining. Rutger’s company StoryTerrace allows people’s lives, achievements and personalities to continue for possibly centuries in a physical form with words and pictures. It is a beautiful thought and wanted to know more…
LM: How did you first come up with the idea of setting up StoryTerrace?
Rutger Bruining: My mother, who worked from home as an academic, used to take me to my grandparents’ place in Belgium during the school holidays in the Netherlands. We would play backgammon with my grandfather, smoking cigars, and he would tell me stories about growing up. How he met my grandmother, travelled around the world, sports, setting up a GP practice in the Caribbean and the resistance group he started during World War II.
Only after he passed away I realised how fast the stories faded. Armed with regrets, I thought about solutions to help other people to record the precious memories of those they love – before it’s too late. As the freelancer platforms became mainstream, I realised how many highly qualified writers were available around the world, so I began matching ghostwriters to clients to help them write a book as smoothly and beautifully as possible.
LM: How difficult is the process of piecing together someone’s life that is both informative and engaging?
Rutger: At StoryTerrace, we do our best to ensure all our clients’ stories are fully understood by carefully matching them with one of over 750 ghostwriters from our vetted pool. We look at people’s cultural background, professional experience, personality and location. The process of curating one’s life story heavily relies on this relationship so that the client feels they can trust and share their experiences with their writer.
The matching process is what makes us as a service unique and helps both parties to establish the purpose and nature of the biography. After identifying the key themes and messages that the client wants to convey, the writer first creates an outline and a sample chapter before writing a full draft. It’s a collaborative process where the client is always in control of the output. After finalising the text, we use the customers’ photos to design and create hardcover, full-colour books.
LM: Since its launch. How has the company evolved?
Rutger: Since the launch of StoryTerrace in 2015, we have scaled rapidly, having predominantly expanded across UK and US markets. We have over 750 professional ghostwriters on our books who speak many secondary languages and have sold over 3,000 packages. We have also built a platform to help manage our projects and design beautiful books, including our customers’ own photos. For this, we work with an incredible team based in Lviv, Ukraine.
LM: What type of customers approach StoryTerrace?
Rutger: As a service, we welcome anyone who has a story to tell. We’ve written books for clients from all different walks of life – couples, veterans, business leaders, community heroes… even for pets or about a painting! Typically, half of all the books we make are given as gifts to loved ones.
For example, our sales soar around Christmas or Mother’s Day. We also produce a significant number of heritage stories where people document their life stories as a legacy to be passed down for generations to come. Our typical heritage customers are aged 50+.
LM: What kind of themes are popular with customers?
Rutger: We have a whole range of themes coming in at StoryTerrace all the time – it’s great to see such diversity in our clients’ life stories. The themes that our clients choose to explore form the basis of the interviews with their writer and the book itself. We often hear stories of love, family, coming of age, immigration, survival, and dealing with adversity. Other themes include: living through prominent moments in history, business success, travel adventures, and sharing knowledge and personal identity.
LM: Has the lockdown positively or negatively affected the business?
Rutger: Undeniably, the pandemic was an extremely challenging time for everyone. However, over the course of the lockdown, we saw the number of active projects double along with the number of full-time staff, and it’s continued to rise since.
It’s evident that, during the lockdown, our relationships and appreciation of our relatives strengthened. It resulted in children calling their parents more and talking for longer. They also cleared out their homes, looked at old photos and re-discovered letters and diaries. The pandemic gave us a moment to reflect and explore our family histories and reminisce on our lives so far.
LM: Why do you think there’s been an increase in the number of people wanting to write a book either for themselves or for a loved one?
Rutger: The desire has always been there. But for centuries, it has only been accessible for the rich and famous to have their autobiography published. Now that people realise you can leave your legacy, share life’s wisdom, or capture your loved one’s story for the price of a holiday, demand has really opened up.
LM: What is the future for Story Terrace, and what can we expect?
Rutger: Our mission is to create a world in which every life story is captured in a meaningful way. It is important for us to raise awareness that not everyone needs to be in the public eye to have their memoir written and that everyone has a story to tell. That means 1000s more writers to choose from and many more books! We are also exploring how virtual reality can complement our books to create an immersive experience with a loved one—more on this to come.
StoryTerrace – Where and How?
For more information on StoryTerrace or to get help with turning your precious memories into a book, visit https://storyterrace.com/.
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