It’s been a trend ever since I worked full-time as a book acquisitions editor: Blog-to-book deals. I acquired or oversaw the publication of more than a dozen bloggers-turned-book-authors. Sometimes it translated into book sales, sometimes not.
Point is: I know that blogs can lead to book deals.
However, I want you to think twice before you decide this is your path. Here are 4 reasons why.
1. Blog writing is not the same as book writing.
Blog posts, to live up to their form, should be optimized for online reading. That means being aware of keywords/SEO, current events/discussions, popular online bloggers in your area, plus—most importantly—including visual and interactive content (comments, images, multimedia, links).
It seems almost silly to have to state it, but blogging (as a form of writing) holds tremendous merit on its own. Writers who ask, “Can I blog to get a book deal?” probably think of the blog as a lesser form of writing, merely a vehicle to something “better.” No. A blog has its own reasons for being, and blogs do not aspire to become books if they are truly written as blogs.
Never use a blog as a dumping ground for material that’s already been written for the print medium—or for book publication—without any consideration for the art of the blog.
2. Blogs can make for very bad books.
If you dump your blog content into a book without any further development or editing, I’m willing to bet it will be a bad book (unless, of course, you wrote the book first and divided it into blog posts!).
It’s true that many bloggers offer a compendium of their best writings as an e-book, for the convenience of their readers, or repurpose their blog content in a useful or creative way. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about lack of vision for how the content ought to appear in print, or how it ought to complement, extend, or differ from the online version. How can the content benefit from a print presentation? How does it get enhanced or become more special or valuable?
To give a couple examples:
- Kawaii Not (a book that I oversaw publication for): This is an online cartoon that was adapted into a spiral, stand-up book, with perforations at the top of every page. The book was tremendously functional: Cartoons could be easily torn off and given to someone. We also included stickers.
- Soul Pancake: This is a colorful activity-like book, based on the many questions and discussions that happen at a site of the same name. If you were to compare the site and the book, you would definitely find the same themes, styles, and sensibilities. However, the experience of the book and the experience of the site are two very different things!
I must admit, though, much depends on the genre/category of what’s being written/published. For instance, when it comes to a book that’s illustration-driven, there may be little difference between what’s posted online and what goes into the book. But that’s a book that sells based on its visuals, not its writing!
3. It’s more difficult for narrative works to get picked up as book deals.
This is a generalization, but most authors who ask me about this blog-to-book phenomenon are either memoirists or novelists. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to score a book deal with such a work. The blogs most likely to score book deals are in the information-driven categories (e.g., business and self-help) or humor/parody category (e.g., Stuff White People Like).
Furthermore, I only know of memoirists who’ve scored blog-to-book deals, not novelists (remember, we’re talking about BLOG form, not community sites like Authonomy). A couple examples of memoirish blogs that made the leap: Julie & Julia and Waiter Rant.
4. I love books that delve deeply into a topic and make no sense as blogs.
I read hundreds of blogs each week. Much of my reading is done online, in fact. So nothing makes me more irritated than when I sit down to read a book—expecting something meaty, in-depth, and worthy of my full attention—than to find it reads more like a series of blog posts. Unfortunately, due to the blog-to-book deal (in part), this is becoming more common. (Also, some books now mimic the online world by chunking the content so the book reads “faster.”)
In my mind, a book is a great medium for delving into those topics where the simplified, keyword-driven, ADHD world of blogging has no place. If I read a book and think, “I could’ve gotten this from a series of blog posts,” then I consider it a failure.
What are some indicators that a blog-to-book deal might work for you?
- You’re blogging in a nonfiction category, especially if your blog focuses on how to do something or solves a problem for people.
- You’re focused on your blog for the joy of blogging, and you have the patience, determination, and drive to keep blogging for years. You won’t get recognition overnight, and it takes time to develop a following. Ultimately, it’s the buzz you generate, and the audience you develop (your platform created by the blog), that attracts a publisher to you—not the writing itself (though of course that’s important too!).
- You agree that the book deal isn’t the end of the road, but another way to expand your audience for your blog (or services/community connected to your blog).
If a blog-to-book deal path is appealing to you, then I highly recommend checking out Chris Guillebeau’s 279 Days to Overnight Success. He landed a book deal in about 1 year based on his blog. But he was laser-focused in his strategy and single-minded in marketing and promoting his blog to all the right people in the blogging community (not the publishing community). In other words, he has the mind and heart of an entrepreneur. Do you?
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.