We all blog for different reasons.
For some, it’s an outlet. For others, it’s about making an income. And for another group, it’s about catching the eye of a publisher. Hopefully.
But are book publishers looking at your blog?
We’ve all heard about the Blog To Book success stories. Gretchen Rubin, Julie Powell (Julie & Julia), Ree Drummond and our own Kerri Sackville and Sandra Reynolds. But how likely is it? Are publishers even reading your blog?
I thought I’d ask them …
I’ve included publishers of fiction and non-fiction, and hope you find their answers as interesting as I did!
- Julie Gibbs, publishing director, Illustrated Books, Penguin Group Australia. Twitter: @PenguinBooksAus; Facebook
- Joel Naoum, publisher of Momentum, Pan Macmillan’s new digital-only imprint. You can find him online here or here or here.
- Alex Craig, publisher, Picador – follow @Picador_Aus on Twitter.
- Louise Thurtell, publisher, Arena (an imprint of Allen & Unwin): @AllenAndUnwin; Facebook
- Sally Collings, former publisher and senior editor at HarperCollins (Australia), editorial director at Amber Books (London) and executive editor at Websters Multimedia (London), and now a bestselling author in her own right. Earlier this year Sally helped turn Kristian Anderson’s blog into the book Days Like These (published by HarperCollins). Sally’s new ebook, Get Published, has just been released; find out more here.
- Catherine Milne, publisher, HarperCollins (Australia): Facebook
Do you read a lot of blogs? For interest, or because you are always looking for new talent?
JG: “Yes, I read a wide number of blogs for my own enjoyment and interests and to see what is going on out there. Every encounter, whether actual or virtual is a case of looking for talent. My husband jokes that we don’t go anywhere unless there’s a book in it! I saw Katie Quinn Davies’s blog What Katie Ate on Design Sponge and was blown away by the originality of her photographs. I was so thrilled to find she was right here in Sydney and she signed up with us soon after.”
JN: “I read a lot of blogs. Mostly for interest – occasionally because I think the blogger would make a good author. Sometimes, happily, it’s both.”
AC: “More for personal interest. I love the food ones – they’re visually so strong. For non-fiction I think blogs are definitely a hunting ground. But for literary fiction, there are many other ways to get discovered.”
LT: “I don’t read a lot of blogs unless I’ve somehow come across a writer or person or subject I’m interested in. I don’t actively look out for blogs with a view to commissioning books because I receive so many submissions through Friday pitch (details here). “Now that I publish non-fiction as well as fiction, I’m always on the lookout for great subjects for books. Recently, I found a website listing some awards for various blogs and looked at the said blogs. They were great and I got in contact with one of the authors to see if she was interested in writing a book. She may one day but she wasn’t in a position to do so just then. I’m very open to being alerted to blogs – particularly non-fiction books that could be turned into great books.”
SC: “I do read plenty of blogs, particularly in the spirituality, wellbeing and parenting areas – but I roam through anything that grabs my fancy, really. When I read blogs, I always have my radar on ‘alert mode’ looking for a great voice, or a unique perspective, or a remarkable experience that could translate into a book. It’s the same as when I read newspapers and magazines or watch chat shows: the publisher part of my brain doesn’t rest for long …”
CM: “I do like reading blogs and it’s a happy case of self-interest coinciding with career interest, as I can always justify it as ‘research’. It’s a slippery slope though – you start off at lunchtime cruising a few blogs and before you know it, bang, there goes another hour … So, yes, I’m always on the lookout for new writing talent and blogs are a good place to find it.”
What would make you look at a blog and think ‘hmmm, maybe there’s a book in this?”
JG: “An original voice, an idea that is well executed and lasts the distance. So not looking so much for magazine style gathering of information but rather an idea that is built upon as the blog progresses.”
JN: “A good overall story or concept and engaging prose.”
LT: “If someone recommended a particular blog – or a blogger who wanted to write a book got in contact with me – then I’d definitely have a look at it. The subject matter would need to be able to translate well to a book, it’d be an advantage if the blog had a big following, and (more on this below) the writing would have to be good.”
SC: “There are plenty of bloggers who are clever and witty and have a way with words that keeps me engaged for a screen’s worth or maybe two. What is rarer is someone who can sustain my interest for longer: a blog writer who is consistent in their approach and keeps coming up with the goods over a long period of time. I also look for someone who can build a bigger story, not just a charming/witty/outrageous string of opinions. That’s what makes the sort of book that engages me: weaving a fabric of ideas and experiences that tell a greater and more universal tale. “The great thing about bloggers as potential book authors, of course, is that many (though not all) of them already have a firm grasp on the concept of platform and profile. They get that ‘public writing’ is about more than having something fabulous to say, it’s also about reach and building a community of people around you. That’s gold amongst aspiring authors because it’s relatively rare.”
CM: “It’s got to be more than good writing – though that’s usually the starting point. It’s got to be that the idea behind the blog – or the potential of that idea – is worthy of a book-length treatment. And unfortunately that’s not always the case. For example, I’ve come across some great ‘mummy’ blogs – charming, witty, well-written – and I’ve fallen in love with the writer’s voice and approach … BUT there’s a hell of a lot of ‘motherhood’ books out there now, and unless a blogger has got a really strong profile, a great following, or great media hooks, or has a very different story to tell and a different way of telling it, it’s hard to think that such a book would stand out. “So as a publisher, you might be charmed by a voice, but you have to be very realistic and think about the market, your competition, how this book might be different and how it might reach its market. It’s not always true, unfortunately, that a good blog makes a good book – they’re different beasts, and they service different reading needs.”
Do you think bloggers should be as careful about what they leave off their blogs, as what they put on them? If the whole story is already there does it make it less interesting for you?
JG: “This depends on the subject matter. But it is important that any book resulting from a blog does contain original material and isn’t lifted straight from the blog.”
JN: “Not particularly. Blogging and writing books use different (and equally valid) skill sets. If a blogger wants to write a novel (or a non-fiction book) then they will have to rewrite their blog significantly anyway. When I read an engaging blog, I want it to be engaging as a blog (i.e. bit by bit, rather than sustained, continuous engagement). Otherwise I’ll get bored pretty quickly. If I think a particular concept or blogger has potential, then I’d need to see that they can manage a sustained and continuous narrative aside from their blog anyway.”
LT: “No, but as I’ve indicated, I’m by no means a connoisseur of blogs. More important to me would be whether the material in the blog was better suited to a blog format than a book format or was translatable to a successful book.”
SC: I think they risk more by leaving out the good bits! So I wouldn’t advise holding back. The ‘extra something’ that may turn an appealing blog into a great book is about providing a deeper perspective, rather than adding in more juicy bits. “My experience of turning blogs into books is that it takes a bit of craft to transform the material successfully. Even if someone read your blog from beginning to end, that would not equate to the same experience as reading your book: you will most likely be offering something a little different in book form. Certainly, whether you’re writing a book or a blog, you need to be aware that your writing is no longer private: it’s for public consumption, so think hard about whether you are writing something that means your family is going to ban you from Christmas dinner for the next decade. And whether you care.”
CM: “Not sure – the charm of most blogs is the level of honesty and vulnerability and intimacy that people reveal through their blog posts. I’m all for revealing (or hinting at) more, not less. We need to be intrigued to read on…”
What about for fiction writers? Would you be swayed by a blog into reading a manuscript? What would you be looking for in that blog?
AC: “No, not necessarily. It comes down to the synopsis, the writing, all sorts of other reasons. I think that fiction writers are better off focusing on their books. If something’s good it will stand out. Publishing is not as impermeable a process as people believe. Talent stands out. Doing the 10 drafts really stands out. For me, fiction writers are better off doing writing groups, having a mirror held up to their writing.”
LT: “Someone would need to draw my attention to a fiction-writer’s blog. I’m so un-savvy about the blogosphere that I wasn’t even aware there are fiction-writing blogs. The thing that would sway me most into reading a novel would be the blogger having an absolutely fantastic narrative voice. I read so much blandly written fiction that I’m always on the lookout for writing with a distinctive/interesting/quirky narrative voice.”
CM: “I’m publishing non-fiction at the moment, but certainly, if I’ve read enough of someone’s blog to see/know that they can write, then I’m more likely to look kindly on a manuscript submission from that person. (That said, a novel is a very different thing to a blog post and skill at one doesn’t always translate to another.)”
So there you have it. The number one lesson I take away from these interviews is that if you’re interested in writing books nothing takes the place of actually writing the book. Whether it be fiction or non-fiction. The other lesson, I guess, is that you can’t sit back and wait to be noticed. If you think your blog has a book in it, get in touch with a publisher – through the right channels, with a synopsis or proposal in hand –and ask the question! You’ve got nothing to lose.
Have you got a book in you?
Allison Tait is a writer of features, non-fiction and fiction. She writes a lot about writing at her blog Life In A Pink Fibro, often when she’s supposed to be writing other things. You will also find her on Facebook (when she’s supposed to be writing) or Twitter. Her first novel is out with Pan Macmillan in 2013.
Editor’s note: I’m very grateful this week to have had some fabulous guest blog posts to publish here on Styling You as I get over my US adventure and a big combination of jetlag and post-holiday blues. Regular Styling You programming resumes next week!
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