How Freelance Bloggers Land Book Deals [And You Can Too]

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.

get a book deal

To publish or to self-publish…

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?

Me too.

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!

Image: shutterhacks

About Sophie Lizard

Founder of Be a Freelance Blogger, creator of the free Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs and the Freelance Blogger's Client Hunting Masterclass. Hello!

Comments

  1. Thanks for the great interview, Sophie. It was fun.

    BTW – just checked, and SIX bloggers got book deals just last week. (Including blogs like PerfectlyImperfect.com and SimpleBites.com–who got a two-book deal.)

    Bloggers are taking over the world! The publishing world, at least. ☺

    • Yep, here we come! ;) Thanks for sharing your insider knowledge with us, Kathy.

    • Kathy,

      I’d like to watch the rest of your videos on your site, but I’m wondering why you need an email address? Thanks!

      • Hi Alicia – In return for the free content I ask people to sign up to get access and to receive other tips, tools and free downloads of material. Of course you can unsubscribe at any time if you don’t think it’s useful info! Check it out an see what you think.
        Thanks for the question Alicia.
        Kathy

  2. Sam Smith says:

    How much are advance checks and how much does it cost to get an agent?

    • Kathy Ver Eecke says:

      Hey Sam – Advances vary wildly depending on the book, and if you’re a blogger, depending on the size of your existing audience. So, bigger audience = bigger advance.

      One thing is certain though; there IS an advance. Which is the big plus. And in most cases, bloggers are writing non-fiction. That means you get the advance before you write the book. (For non-fiction you write a book proposal first to get the deal.)

      So you’re not writing hoping to get a check, you’ll already have the check before you start writing your book.

      Hope that helps! (Oh, and never, ever, EVER pay an agent. They only make money is you make money. They never charge a fee for other things.)
      Kathy

  3. Let’s keep this in perspective, though. A very small percentage of book pitches land an agent, and not all agents can sell a book – there are many factors that play into it.

    Also, bloggers spend thousands – tens of thousands – of hours building up content and subscribers, often investing years of work and many advertising dollars to have the kind of traffic and audience that interests a publisher. Having a strong enough platform to secure a book deal is FAR from easy and over 90% of blogs stagnate without growth. They also typically do not create the AdWords revenue many bloggers expect without monumental work.

    Don’t be discouraged, but do BE REALISTIC about what it takes and the level of commitment and effort involved.

    To help with perspective, here’s some great info on @JayBaer’s book, which hit New York Times Bestseller lists last week, and the effort it took to make it happen: http://slidesha.re/1dfoklo

    • Hi Carrie –
      You’re right. There are no golden tickets in life. Being a successful blogger takes work. No doubt. But if you are a successful blogger, you increase your chances of getting a book deal. No doubt there either. (Any agent will tell you the same. Some now dedicate part of their week to scouting popular blogs!)

      Whether you’re a blogger or not, publishers expect writers to help promote their books. The more you promote, the better your book will do. Jay Baer did a phenomenal job promoting his book.

      And his presentation is dead on. Including the first slide that says the process is confusing. The goal of tomorrow’s free webinar is to make things less confusing and to increase writer’s chances of doing it successfully.

      I hope you’ll join us.

  4. Hopefully their is a book in me. I honestly am not sure what I could write a book about.

    • Seriously, Josh? With your enthusiasm and expert knowledge of motoring (and pop culture) I think you’d have no trouble coming up with a book that shares those interests with a likeminded audience. :)

  5. This is great to hear! I have had fiction book ideas rolling around in my head for years, but don’t like the idea of pursuing writing them and getting an agent for them until my blog is more stable and has a larger audience. I figured if I had a successful blog, maybe it’d help me get those books published someday.

    Maybe this means I’m right!

    My friend started the other way, with writing her book and looking for an agent, then starting a blog. A year later and she’s got a solid blog fan base under her (plus an internship at a publishing house), and she has several editors looking at her manuscript in its final stages. Seems like blogging is ALMOST a necessity to get a book deal now…

    • Hi Bree – Having an existing audience makes a heeewuge difference in getting a book deal. That said, if you write fiction, and the story rocks….I mean really rocks, you can get a deal without having the audience in place first. (The audience is referred to as an “author’s platform.”)

      But every agent will tell you that even if you write fiction, if you can bring an audience to the table, you’re helping your chances of getting a deal, and you’re increase your advance check.

      Good luck with your book!
      Kathy

  6. We really loved this article and interview. We find it easier to share all this wonderful news with the world than to do much work at it ourselves. Thank you for all the work and dedication it takes to trust and find the people out there to help us along the way. I too have shied away with just a touch of rejections. And lack of concentration on any one thing…enough said.

  7. I’m a little late to this party but I’ve seen Kathy’s Facebook page and I signed up for the free video training today. Kathy and Sophie, definitely great stuff here.
    I do plan to write a book one day, maybe not so far off in the future. I had always just assumed that I would self-publish. I have also heard – for years – so many stories that traditional publishing is dead, that it’s impossible to get a deal, that you’ll never make any money, and that self-publishing is the way to go. It makes perfect sense that bloggers who are already adept at building a loyal audience would have an advantage. (And it parallels what’s happening in the music industry, where my background is.)
    Thanks Kathy for breaking this down so clearly for us and smashing those myths.

    • It was such a helpful/encouraging post, wasn’t it? :)

      So glad you found it helpful. Best of luck to you on your ventures!

      (What kind of music is your background in?)

      • Thanks, Lauren!

        I teach just about all styles but jazz. I’m a songwriter and performer – I write upbeat, summer-inspired acoustic pop rock that’s both naughty and nice. ;)

        • That actually sounds really cool. haha. And perfect for this weather! (It’s summer here in Los Angeles and it was 95 degrees today).

        • Hi Leanne – Yeah, I think because self-publishing is so accessible now, people are confusing the ease of doing it with it being easy to have success doing it. But according to the New York Times (8/15/2012) the average self-pub author only makes $100-150 per book.

          The Taleist Self-Pub survey also showed that authors who self-pubbed after getting a traditional book deal made more money…and self-pub author with agents make more money.

          So there’s something to be said for learning the industry, getting mentoring/direction from agents etc., first. Then if you feel you want to try it yourself…go for it.

          BTW– many of the progressive agents also help w self-publishing; offering all the services of a traditional publishing house, AND the same royalties as if the writer had gone direct to Amazon/Kindle.

          So unless a writer is already an internet-marketing guru, I don’t see much downside to the traditional deal.
          Kathy

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