Last week there was a NY Times article about a blogger, Christian Lander, and his book deal – $300,000 for the rights to a book related to his blog, Stuff White People Like (which is hosted on WordPress.com, for those keeping track). But let’s be very clear, this does not mean loads of other bloggers will get book deals. Sure, several have, as Darren Rowse pointed out. I’m by no means trying to dissuade budding authors out there, but there are a number of factors you have to keep in mind if you are planning to try for a book deal:
- You have to come up with a concept that a publisher will want.
- These days, you often have to show the publisher the potential, possibly to the point of showing your own market research.
- It helps to have a popular blog, especially something quirky and potentially controversial, or about a currently hot topic.
- You have to have the wherewithal of getting the book completed. Take it from me, writing a book is nowhere nearly as glamorous as you might think. It is really hard work. You might find it takes a lot more time to get it right, and that not everyone around you is supportive.
- Most writers DO NOT get $300,000 for their book. Most writers get a $2000-5000 advance on future royalties – and usually only if you negotiate. That advance is often never earned back – something that’s hard to do when the publisher only prints 3,000 copies.
- There are only a handful of Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings, and profit from their book sales subsidizes the unknowns – whether for fiction or non-fiction. It’s a game of numbers – one big win pays for all the flops, and sometimes the wins are created through hype, just as in the movie industry.
- When big book chains came into existence, they started demanding 40% discounts on books – a cost that got passed on to writers, not so much publishers. In other words, it’s much harder these days to make a living as an author than it was before about 1990 (approximately around the time when book chain stores started mushrooming in North America.)
- Publishing is mostly commerce. Your book will probably end up in the discount bin, and a lot sooner than you might think.
Now all that said, if you have an idea for a book and a market for it, find a suitable publisher. Use one of those market listings books that catalog publisher contact info to find an editor’s name. Send the editor (by name) a query of no more than a paragraph or three. If they respond asking for more info, they’ll probably want a one page summary and possibly a sample table of contents (if applicable). How you respond will show them how much thought you’ve put into the book as well as how it will be received – or whether you’re just a fame-seeker.
It can be done, and you don’t necessarily have to have a blog, but it really helps – especially if it’s a popular site.