The accessibility of self-publishing appeals to you.
That’s why you enjoy reading and writing online, where most of the content is self-published and an idea can go from brain to web page in hours or even in minutes.
But getting a real-life book deal with printed copies in high street bookstores, and an advance payment big enough to support your writing work? For most of us that’s just a daydream.
Doesn’t have to be. My friend Kathy ver Eecke teaches writers how to get a full-on traditional book deal. She’s shown me some facts about recent book deals that are so
interesting exciting encouraging I want you to see them too, so this post is a write-up of our conversations over the past month.
Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing? You Decide.
It is a choice, you know. You get to choose whether you self-publish or get a traditional print book deal.
What’s your goal?
Kathy says that if your goal is to get read and earn money, you should consider going for a traditional book deal. It’ll typically give you wider distribution and higher income, plus the credibility that comes with being a real-life author with a respected publisher.
OK, so why isn’t everybody doing that?
Turns out a lot of writers shy away from this path after getting one or two rejections from agents. But that’s how it works. Most successful authors have been rejected. Stephen King had a huge spike to impale his rejection slips on. Because the nail he started out with was way too small to hold them all.
Kathryn Sockett was rejected 60 times before she found an agent for her book, The Help. That’s 60 rejections for one simple reason: the book wasn’t ready yet. Every time Kathryn got rejected, she reworked her manuscript and tried again. Each time, she improved, until it was ready.
Would that have happened if she’d self-published the first time she thought the manuscript was complete? Would she still have spent 100 weeks on the best-seller lists and ended up with a movie deal?
The traditional publishing path weeds out most of the manuscripts that aren’t ready yet. Many of these writers jump to self-publishing. And they’re disappointed, because author surveys over the last couple of years show that the average self-published author sells fewer than 100 or 150 copies and half of all self-published authors earn less than $500 dollars.
Bloggers Can Become Successful Authors
148 bloggers landed traditional book deals in 2012. Not all of those were freelance bloggers, but they all have a blog of their own and some of them earn money by blogging elsewhere, too.
Kathy keeps track of new deals—here are a few she’s seen on Publisher’s Marketplace:
- Food blogging chef/nerd Lauren Wilson sold her survivalist cooking guide, The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalpyse, to BenBella Books.
- Business blogger and marketing coach John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing sold his book Duct Tape Selling to Portfolio, for something between $100,000 and $250,000 in advance plus ongoing royalties.
- Humor blogger and mom Dawn Dais sold her book The Sh!t No-One Tells You to Seal Press.
- Lifestyle blogger Camille Styles auctioned her book on entertaining at home to William Morrow for more than $100,000 plus royalties.
- Baker, blogger and food photographer Hannah Queen auctioned her recipe book Farm to Cake to Stewart, Tabori & Chang.
- Suzannah Hamlin Stanley from the Adventures In Dressmaking blog sold her book Make [It] Your Own to Potter Craft.
- Chuck Wendig sold his book The Kick-Ass Writer, combining highlights from his blog Terrible Minds with new content, to Writer’s Digest Books.
So far this year, at least 98 bloggers have won traditional book deals. 9 of those were in the past month. There’s nothing stopping bloggers from becoming traditionally published authors.
How did they get those book deals? They had agents.
Agents Make a Book Deal Happen
OK, so the world of literary agents is a big mystery to me. I asked Kathy a lot of questions, and she took some of them to her own agent to get us the answers:
Do agents and publishers have a particular interest in authors who blog?
Bloggers are hot with publishers because they come not only with a built-in audience, but with the knowledge of how to sell and promote themselves and their products online. And good bloggers know how to keep a deadline; they have editorial calendars and commitments to other media outlets.
Publishers have a healthy respect for the blogging business, and assume that bloggers will be easier to work with than the average new writer.
Can bloggers successfully transfer their short-form writing skills to a longer piece of work like a book?
Bloggers make great long-form authors because they’ve learned the art of storytelling. The same skills that keep your readers scrolling down a page will keep readers turning pages too.
Everyone talks about blog-to-book deals. Can a blogger pitch a book written entirely from scratch, or on a topic different to their own blog?
To leverage your audience, the book topic needs to be, at a minimum, associated with your usual blogging topic—no mommy bloggers getting deals for fiction thrillers! Though in some notable cases, bloggers successfully sell memoirs.
The majority of the content, if not all, of your book will need to be new. The concepts may not be 100% new—for instance, if you blog about business then concepts may be repeated, but perhaps your anecdotes and examples are refreshed.
Is There a Book In You?
Do you think of brilliant book ideas before you fall asleep?
Do you find yourself saying “I could write the book on that”?
Do you like the idea of an advance payment and ongoing royalties?
Let’s do this.
To find out how you go about getting an agent for your book, check out Kathy’s site Get a Book Deal 101. She knows this topic inside out!