Blogs Becoming Books

masterworks from the wild web
This March 30 NY Times article (hat tip to WordPress.com’s house blog) tells how Random House has given a humongous advance to Christian Lander, author of the blog Stuff White People Like, to author a book version of his blog.

The price, according to a source familiar with the deal but not authorized to discuss the total, was about $300,000, a sum that many in the publishing and blogging communities believe is an astronomical amount for a book spawned from a blog, written by a previously unpublished author.

Industry insider Sara Nelson, quoted in the article, says Random House will have to sell 75,000 copies just to make back the advance.

The NY Times article also mentions a couple of other blogs that are spawning books:

So if you’re a blogging colleague, redouble your efforts. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge into blogging, dive in. Maybe you can earn a good living from blogging.

Even if you’re not fortunate enough to have a publishing house give you a big advance to turn your blog into a book, maybe you can get some of your blog’s posts featured in an anthology of blog excerpts. It might not pay much — or anything — but it could add to your satisfaction. Mrs. QC brought home just such an anthology — Ultimate Blogs: masterworks from the wild web (Vintage) — from the local library. This anthology, edited by Sarah Boxer, features 27 blogs.

I got a chuckle out of a couple of the blurbs on the back cover:

A Book of Blogs? WTF!!

“What are you working on?”
“An anthology of blogs.”
“I didn’t know you had a blog.”
“I don’t. It’s an anthology of other people’s blogs.”
“How do you find good blogs?”
“I read. I surf. I look at blog contests. I follow links. I ask people about the blogs they like.”
“Is a good blog hard to find?”
“Yes. Very.”

Here are some of the blogs you might want to check out based on their excerpts in Ultimate:

  • Go Fug Yourself by Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks — snark focusing on the baffling outfits worn by celebrities in public
  • How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons by Francis Strand (a pseudonym) — focuses on Stockholm, the author’s husband, and his family living in America.
  • julia {Here be Hippogriffs} by Julia Litton — a stay-at-home mom of twin babies and font-loving, preschooler Patrick.
  • Language Log — by Mark Liberman, Geoffrey Pullum, and Benjamin Zimmer — about words and their origins. The posts in Ultimate are by Zimmer, a lexicographer.

The NY Times article points out that the most book-worthy blogs do not have link-heavy content in the spirit of the original term weblog. This excludes QC from consideration. The more desirable type of content from the perspective of book publishers is essays. Kurt Andersen, the advisor to Random House who worked with Lander’s agent, Erin Malone, to pitch Lander’s project to Random House, said of Stuff White People Like:

It’s more like a book [Lander is] putting out serially on the Web.

Even fiction qualifies as book-worthy blog content — something to keep in mind if you’re an aspiring novelist or short story author.

However, even if your content is book-worthy in your estimation, you would be wise to have a backup plan in mind; in other words, don’t quit your day job, as the saying goes. Why? It’s the competition, which is, um, daunting.

Consider that there are more than 80 million blogs; of those about 15.5 million are active. Those numbers come from Technorati.com, the leading blog-specific search engine, via Boxer’s introduction to her anthology. On QC’s host, WordPress.com, just one of several major free blog hosts, about 10,000 blogs are created each day. Given WordPress.com has 2.8 million blogs, it’s reasonable to estimate that each day somewhere around 60,000 baby blogs are born.

It’s accurate then to say that the chance of your blog netting you a lucrative book deal like Lander’s are minuscule. But don’t let that discourage you.

It’s much more realistic to think in terms of deriving some side income from your blogging. If you want to pursue this and your blog is on a free host like WordPress.com that doesn’t allow advertising, you’ll probably want to move your blog to a paid host. But that’s not a real big deal. There is a version of WordPress for paid hosts, and many make it available for use by their clients at no extra cost. Both versions of WordPress will import posts from Blogger and other blogging platforms. (No I’m not being paid to plug WordPress.)

The bigger obstacle is increasing your blog’s readership — corralling the elusive “eyeballs.” More on this another time perhaps. For now, if you’re interested, check out Lorelle on WordPress, the one blogging blog on my blogroll. 🙂 There, Lorelle VanFossen has a wealth of great information presented in easily digestible chunks, and a lot of it is not specific to WordPress.

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3 comments so far

  1. gina on

    i almost couldn’t read through to the end of this post because of that damn word.

    Good stuff, though. There really is SO much out there.. I’ve only just begun to seek out other voices. I think my faves have a lot of pretty or captivating pictures.. something I’m going to start doing.

  2. QC on

    @Gina:
    Re that damn word — I have an idea for a post titled “The B**g of Anne Frank” (based on a play Jake and I saw April 6) — fair warning.

    I agree pictures add a lot. I’ve been using one for each post, though I admit so far most of the images haven’t exactly been captivating.

    It’s important to keep copyright and royalty considerations in mind. The Seinfeld TV show image I used in another post crosses that line, but I figure the worst that could happen is I would get a cease-and-desist letter and have to take the image down. Of course, it’s almost always preferable to use your own pictures.

    When you need a picture you can’t take with your own camera, check out this list of 10 affordable (or free) stock photo resources, http://designadaptations.com/notebook/10-affordable-or-free-stock-photo-resources/. Missing from this list is the resource I’ve been using: Open Stock Photography, http://www.openstockphotography.org/.

  3. Gina on

    Thanks for the warning. 🙂 That title reminds me of article I forwarded to the OC list about kids and internet usage… I’ll send it to you if you didn’t catch it.

    And I think almost all the pics I’ve used thus far have been my own. And for others, or for my website, I’ve been using iStockphoto.com

    I just got a flyer in the mail yesterday for snapvillage.com.. I’ll be checking that out, as well as the ones you’ve mentioned.(Thanks!) I’m having trouble finding good, cheap shiatsu pics.


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