Recently I’ve noticed an increase in the number of bloggers contacting me about turning their blogs into a book. Then someone mentioned a post by Gina Trapani over at Lifehacker.com called “How to turn your blog into a book” and it all made sense.
Lifehacker draws millions of visitors a month, so when Gina posted about her experience in working with me to make her book a reality (currently up to #222 overall at Amazon), it’s not surprising that there are many other bloggers who would like to achieve the same kind of success.
As an agent, I love working with authors who have highly trafficked blogs. They’re a fantastic way to overcome the traditional star bias in publishing and prove that people care about what a particular author has to say. In fact, my experience with the power of a massive daily Web readership goes back to 1999 when I represented Illiad over at UserFriendly.org on his first book with O’Reilly. However, since more than a couple of the queries I’ve received have been of the “Here’s a link to my blog. Take a look and let me know what you think” variety, I thought I’d post a few quick tips to help bloggers succeed in generating interest from an agent or editor.
- Bigger is Better. Simply put, if you want to turn your blog into a book, the more traffic you have the better your chances are. Of course, it certainly helps if your approach to your topic is unique or compelling in some way and it’s a given that the writing will need to be strong, but nothing will draw interest from a publisher more quickly than a large audience. So if only a few hundred or a few thousand people are reading your blog, it may make more sense for you to spend time growing your readership before going after a book deal. If you already have a sizeable readership, be ready to provide some traffic statistics right up front and you’ll find that your chances of drawing interest from an agent or publisher will improve dramatically.
- Make a Pitch. If you’re approaching an agent or editor (as opposed to them approaching you), don’t just send a link to your blog and expect them to read back through months of posts to figure out if there’s a book there. If you take the time to prepare a few well thought out paragraphs that describe what your blog is about, why it’s unique, what kind of interest it has drawn, and of course, your vision for the book and why it will sell, you’ll be much more successful.
- Does Your Blog Work as a Book? It’s also important to understand that some blog writing simply doesn’t work well in book form, especially if it features commentary or opinion on time sensitive issues like a news event. From the time you’ve secured a deal with a publisher until the time the book is on shelves will be an absolute minimum of six months and will often be more on the order of a year. That means the material still has to be vital not only when your book hits the shelves, but for at least another year after that. If your blog does happen to be time sensitive, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t write a book. After all, part of having a blog with a substantial amount of traffic is proving that readers care about your point of view. However, it does mean that you may have to spend some time thinking about what your blog is really about (not just the day to day stuff, but the larger themes), what the book should be, and then developing the concept from there, rather than simply porting your blog over into a book.
- Your Blog is Not a Book (yet). Even if you have a substantial readership, if you’re expecting to dump your blog posts from the last year into a big file and have publishers line up to write you a check, you might be in for a bit of a shock. Even though the material on Lifehacker was almost perfectly suited for compilation into a book, Gina still had to go through 3+ months of writing, re-writing and organizing to turn the material into a top quality book. For most blogs there will be even more work involved in developing the concept and coming up with an outline that makes sense in book form. Of course, you may still be able to use material from your blog, but in many cases you’re likely better served by considering it source material that you can draw from in creating the book rather than as the book itself.