First, let’s get one thing out of the way. A blog alone, no matter how popular, isn’t enough to score you a book contract. It’s not quite that simple.
In other words, it doesn’t quite work the way it does on television.
“Did you hear that Random House gave me a million dollars for a book based on my blog?” chirps the hipster starlet as she emerges from a crowded Starbucks, caramel macchiato in hand. “And we’re working on the movie rights. Hey, let’s go for a ride in my Jag.”
But you already knew that real life is more complicated than a sit-com. So let’s talk about the critical role a blog does play in securing a book deal.
Here’s how it went down for me.
A book deal is made up of several moving parts
First, any successful book proposal needs a credible, straight-line, value-promising connection to a hungry target audience.
In other words, exactly the same kind of well-defined niche expertise that makes most blogs work.
Remember our sit-com blogger with the book deal? She got there because she’s oh-so-witty and wise. Think Carrie Bradshaw.
That’s not the real world. Unless your book is about collecting Manolo Blahniks, real-life book deals are about having something valuable to offer a reader, not how fabulous you are.
And because of that, you don’t need huge numbers to make it happen. What you do need is cachet within the niche you’ve defined.
Before my own deal, I’d assumed I would need a subscriber base big enough to fill the Rose Bowl. Why else would a publisher be interested?
And sure, a massive Feedburner number helps.
But in my case, my subscriber base today would fill the conference room at your average Marriott. Not that I’m complaining — after only six months it’s growing just fine, thanks.
But it does illuminate the point: Raw numbers aren’t as important as making a solid connection with a well-defined audience around a valuable niche topic.
My own blog-to-book deal
Before my site launched I was just a crusty old copywriter and a mid-list novelist who had almost, but not quite, hit it big. Not John Grisham big, more like Kyle Mills or Lisa Jackson kind of big.
There are lots of us in that category. Fiction has more near-misses than an American Idol audition.
Lucky for me, though, hardly any of those writers are blogging about it.
While teaching writing on the workshop circuit, I developed a proprietary story development model called The Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling.
My blog is about that well-defined niche, within the larger topic of writing. And without that angle, no matter how popular a blog I might build, there would be no book deal.
One quickly notices that my book deal isn’t about my brand as a fiction writer, which frankly has seen better days. It’s not even about my journey as a writing instructor.
It’s about my story development model. My niche expertise.
Neither my blog nor my forthcoming book are about me. Never have been. They’re about you, the writer with a dream.
In other words, people don’t come to my site (and they won’t read my book) because of my novels. They come because of their novels.
A platform is essential
Today, you need an “author platform” to successfully pitch a book to a publisher.
What’s an author platform? It’s how you’ll be doing the promotion for your book. Nine times out of ten, it means your blog.
No blog, no deal, unless you’ve got another great way to get the word out about your book. (For example, you’re a celebrity or a popular speaker.)
That wasn’t the case as little as two or three years ago.
These days, you don’t just pitch a detailed idea for a book. You also pitch the audience that’s going to buy that book. Not only does your platform provide a built-in group of buyers, it also shows the publisher that your ideas resonate with the audience you’ve defined.
The formula for a successful blog-to-book deal
Solid author platform plus unique value proposition equals marketable book. The formula is really that simple.
If both are in place, you don’t need to be a famous blogger with big numbers to score a book contract.
You just need to write a killer proposal, with a well-defined niche topic focusing on your audience, fortified by a successful author platform in the form of a growing blog.
This formula might not get a book publisher to throw sit-com dollars at you. But it gives you a much better chance than even the most fabulous designer wardrobe.
About the Author: Larry Brooks is the creator of Storyfix.com, an instructional resource for novelists and screenwriters. His book, The Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling, will be published by Writers Digest Books in early 2011.