How My Blog Landed Me a Book Deal

image of hand with pen

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.

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Comments

  1. Congratulations on the book deal, Larry! That’s awesome and you totally deserve it. StoryFix is terrific.

  2. Larry, you should seriously consider starting a membership site for storytelling? (following the TeachingSells model)

  3. Congratulations on landing that book deal, Larry. Quick question: did you actively pitch your book idea to publishers, or were you approached based on your platform and unique value proposition?

  4. Well done, Larry! Congrats! Love your email updates–wish I had more time to apply them!

  5. Congratulations, Larry and great article!

    I have a question for you: Has your style of writing changed, on your blog, based on your book deal? Specifically, have you tried to stay true to your original writing style or have you felt you need to alter it a little based on the higher level of visibility?

  6. No offense, and I know this isn’t really the point of your post – but Carrie Bradshaw didn’t get a book deal because she was fabulous (which she was – fictional or not). She got the book deal, in fact, because she did have something to valuable to offer her readers. She was an icon and a voice that spoke for single women everywhere about love and sex.

    So, I suppose, I’m just supporting your point. She’s actually a perfect example of how this works (she just had a column instead of a blog because we’re talking pre-blogging America).

    And, congrats…you are surely living the dream!

  7. Congratulations Larry, that’s great news! It’s amazing how a small, targeted niche can really reap a windfall of opportunities!

  8. First, congrats Larry for getting a book deal and thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts.

    I 100% agree that having an “author platform” is necessary for the budding writers. And having just a ‘blog’ does not establish you a notable writer. But a blog with serious topic and quality content can certainly make a difference…

  9. Larry:
    Thanks for the nice input! I agree a niche is key, of course one needs good ongoing execution too.

  10. Inspiring, and exactly why I did a site redesign, moving from the quirky “Tumblemoose” to just my name. I’ve then structured the site to make it clear that this is my author platform. I’ve even included a “For Agents and Editors” page.

    Will it work? Who knows. I think that having a platform in place with a readership can’t hurt when I start shopping my work.

    Great article.

    Cheers

    George

  11. First congrats! That is really great. Second, I just had to comment on the genius of what you said when you said this:

    “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.”

    I love it! And it is so true. What a lightbulb moment I had when I read that. Thank you!

  12. Probably the best example of leveraging a blog into book deals is Seth Godin’s blog. For years he’s been testing his ideas on his blog, then putting them together more cohesively in book format.

    Plus, if you’re a Godin fan, you generally buy every book he publishes.

    Ryan

  13. I have always dreamed about publishing my very own novel. But I bet it’s going to take many more years before I can realize that dream. Nevertheless, like they say, dream big.

    You have a point. Blogs can be a great way to promote books and thus that could be a strong point in proposing a book to the publisher. Of course, only good blogs are capable of doing so and I’m still working on my blog.

    Cheers!

  14. Congratulations, Larry!

    Was the book deal for Story Structure Demystified of for another work?

    Also, thanks for saying the truth about the book publishing industry: “Today, you need an ‘author platform’ to successfully pitch a book to a publisher.”

    My friend and book publishing expert, Michael Drew, has been working to get that message out for a long time now. It’s amazing the amount of (non-fiction) authors who expect that the publisher will take care of marketing their book for them.

    – Jeff

  15. Hi Larry! Nice to see that you’re doing well. Of course, you can bet that I’m going to take all of the credit for your success, considering you were one of my first consulting clients. *Wicked laugh*

    Seriously though, thanks for contributing this to Copyblogger. Lots of readers are interested in using their blogs to land a book deal, and I think they’ll enjoy this.

  16. @Ryan, Seth is a good example — even though he has a fairly huge platform on his blog, he still needs to come up with angles for his books so they’ll have general appeal to bookstore buyers. Most of whom, if you hang out in the business section and talk to people, have never heard of his blog.

    Similarly, @Julie, if Carrie Bradshaw were a real columnist, she’d very likely need to come up with an angle that would satisfy publishers that a book would have mass appeal. Her niche expertise would probably be relationship advice for professional urban women in their 20s and 30s.

    The exception of a sorts that I’ve seen to Larry’s advice is humor. The Bloggess could probably get a book deal without an angle — her “angle” is that she makes people laugh. Guy Kawasaki probably couldn’t, even though he’s got a much bigger blog.

  17. @Jeff, the dirty little secret of mainstream publishing is that large publishing houses only market books they already know will be successful. That goes for fiction as much as for nonfiction. Novelists, too, have been charged with doing their own promotion for years. Small presses are more supportive, but they don’t have the marketing dollars that the big houses do.

  18. Congrats Larry! There’s a lot of great info here, especially the part about creating an author platform. I think if you know your audience you really can’t do much wrong.

  19. Congratulations Larry! Every aspiring author needs to read this post. Blogs have actually enabled many writers to publish books with or without a book deal with a mainstream publisher.

  20. Thank you for this insightful and helpful post. I also appreciate the links for further information and plan to set out on a fun adventure of reading all of them :-) I blog on confidence, wisdom, courage, and personal growth along with a fun aside on Montana. I’m writing non-fiction in a series called Gems of Wisdom. The first is overcoming those pirates that steal our ability to achieve, the second is on confidence and courage, and the third will be on the different forms of grief. I’m working on building my blog to better reflect those things now and in the future.

  21. Congrats, once again , Larry. I’m so excited for you and I can’t wait to buy your book in 2011!

    This post was awesome. And it answered a lot of questions I had about using my blog as a platform for a book deal. I’ve been talking myself out of it for months because I didn’t think I had enough readers, enough subscribers or enough “numbers” to prove my value.

    But your post (and recent comments from my audience) tell me otherwise.

    So thank you. This is the push I needed to get moving on my book proposal.

  22. You’re a lucky man. I’ve started working on my first novel, and I’m using my blog to help chronicle how I go through it with a little series on it called “Writing my Novel.”

    This is my first attempt, so it may be me shooting myself in my foot. But it’s a shot, at least.

    I hope to be able to one day use my blog as a platform, too, or part of one. If nothing else, I want to be able to take the lessons I’ve learned from blogging these last 7 months and apply them to a new novel-related blog when and if I find agency representation or a publisher.

  23. Great post, Larry, and congrats! I, too, have a book coming out this year based on my blog. I agree – the author platform piece is critical for landing a deal these days.

    If your blog doesn’t have huge reach, you’re going to likely need more to convince publishers that you can effectively promote your book. Most publishers don’t have PR budgets for the majority of their titles anymore. Perhaps you’re a regular contributor to various sites or publications, have experience successfully pitching media, or even connections that will help you land store appearances. If you’re already creating these opportunities now, it will make landing that book deal much easier in the future.

  24. I enjoyed reading your realistic perspective of the contemporary publishing industry! Today’s book publishers do not have the budget to publicize and market new books the way they did five years ago. If an author can use his blog to demonstrate that his work has struck a chord with an audience–whether it be niche or broad–he is giving the publisher confidence that his book will sell. Plus, with in-house publicists a thing of the past, a blog is a great platform for an author to self-promote his book after it is released.

  25. Book deal and awesome go together. Cheers!

  26. “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.”

    Unless you blog about sex

  27. Larry, Congrats!

    Thank you for this, exactly what I needed to read today. Like Jeffrey, I’d be interested to know if you pitched your proposal, or the publishers came to you with it.

    I’m aspiring to get sci-fi published, and it’s really clear to me after reading your article that I need to be hanging out at Storyfix. ;)

  28. This post couldn’t be timelier as I’m just starting to write a book proposal based on my long-running dating blog, Dating is Warfare. Thanks for the inspiration (she said as she took a deep sigh of relief having met the requirements you cited). Congrats to you and wish me luck!
    DT

  29. Thanks to all for the abundance of kind words and best wishes. I’m delighted this article struck a chord. A blog with a value-delivering proposition is always fodder for a book (see Alison’s comment, right before this one — perfect example of a topical connection between blog and book), so here’s hoping this helps move you toward that consideration.

    A few of you asked if I approached the publisher with a proposal, or if they found me first. The answer is the former, which is almost always the case. A friend found a posting from Writers Digest Books online actually soliciting proposals for half a dozen book titles, which is both interesting and unusual — they had a vision for the books they wanted, then they were looking for the right writers for them. I pitched three of those ideas, and then I took a shot at pitching MY book idea, which is based on my “Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling” developmental model (one of you — Jeff — asked if the book in question was my “Story Structure – Demystified” ebook… it’s not, that’s still my baby and selling well from my site) .

    That’s the one they liked. A month later they contacted me and asked me to submit an in-depth book proposal, with specific content and criteria set forth. Did that, they liked it, and the offer was made.

    Everything I’ve done on my site, including the two ebooks I’ve written, were all part of a ramp-up strategy to build a platform for this particular title. I hope my little success story inspires you all toward a similar journey toward your own book. The path is rarely the same for everyone, but the scenery remains pretty consistent along the way.

    Now I have to sit down and write a book that delivers on the promise of the proposal. But that’s another Copyblogger post… stay tuned.

  30. Congratulations on the book deal!

    A blog does make a wonderful platform, not only for writers but for any expert. Getting a book deal is just one of the many wonderful possible outcomes you can achieve with a successful blog.

  31. “You just need to write a killer proposal…”

    This would make a great follow-up post. What makes a “killer” proposal? How would you even start?

  32. congratulations!!! that’s very inspiring…

  33. Cool deal man…found your blog a few months ago, and never stopped reading.

  34. Congrats. Blogging can open new doors. Thats why I started. To make a little extra cash and some connections.

  35. Larry and all…

    The “blog to get a book deal” resembles the “blog to get a better job” deal. In fact, I created my own site as an elaborate resume/business card/portfolio as opposed to a money-generating blog.

    Thanks!

  36. I’m following along myself. Working through Rubie and Provost right now also. It’s making for slower writing, but better writing. I hope.

  37. Hi Larry,
    It’s great to see you here and, as usual, you’re giving great advice. It’s been amazing seeing the avalanche of power-packed content at StoryFix – I had the fortune to find you early on and it has literally changed my entire approach to how I’m writing and planning for selling/pitching my first novel.
    Thank you!

  38. Thanks for specifying what an authors platform is. I’ve been working like mad trying to build this huge audience on my blogs, and I blog about writing novels.

    Yet I’m writing a historical romance series and women’s fiction. LOL

    I guess I need to work on the book blogs, as you say. :)
    Thanks for steering me in the right direction…

    in my case it’s the WRITE direction! HAH

  39. Congratulations. That’s awesome.

    I don’t know about book deals when it comes to blogging, but at least one lucky guy got himself a book deal based upon his twitter account (from the LA TIMES):)

  40. Congrats, that’s awesome! I got my book deal (Twittfaced) via Twitter. Can’t wait to read it, maybe we coudl trade some copies ;)

  41. Congratulations on the deal! Your article is motivating and encouraging. I shall use it as a signpost for 2010. I am such a jack of all trades that I need the signpost to help me find a niche to master.

  42. Congrats on the book deal, Larry! You make some excellent points here. We found all of this to be true when we landed our book deal last spring. Yes, we had a small following. And yes, we had a blog. But it was the combination of a good blog with a great angle for a narrowly defined audience…at the right time. Looking back, it’s amazing to me that all of those variables came together as they did!

  43. Neat about the book deal! Glad to find your site via @MichaelHyatt.
    Will be checking in again. :)

  44. “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”
    Agreed and congrats, Larry! That’s a combine between a good blog and great article will make us to be successful author.

  45. Nice work larry,

    I think this just goes to show that blogging is not a means to an end and that there are so many avenues that can be taken it will be great to see what happens next.

    @Steve C -I think you have a good point that you can also use a blog as an extended bio or resume. With the world of social media quickly becoming part of the fabirc of our daily lives, it only seems natural that a would-be employer would want to see more of what you are all about.

  46. I’d buy your book no problem!!!

  47. Definitely for “non-experts” in a field, having a blog with positive feedback helps. If you have no positive feedback, then the publishing companies most likely will be doubtful that you can get sales. Being able to show that people like what you have to say is a huge advantage.

  48. Congratulations, Larry. Glad to have found this post — I’m currently working on a book and blog simultaneously, Ten Thousand Questions, and all your advice is great!

  49. that was amazing, you know what ?, the first minutes i was reading this articles, i was suprised. i think this is the answer that i’ve been waiting for long time that i need this kind of answer to improve my blog to all local reader…

    gee, thanks
    and please check my blog out 2.

  50. Congratulations on your book deal Larry, and based on my own experience, you’re exactly right – that’s how it’s done.

    McGraw-Hill offered me a book deal on the basis of my blog. They wanted to publish a book about affiliate marketing, so they searched online to see who was regularly blogging a consistent, white-hat message – both in terms of posts and replies to reader comments. Luckily, that turned out to be me.

    Once again, congrats – and keep blogging your passion!

    Cheers,
    Ros

  51. A very interesting insight and congratulations on the book deal.

  52. I find blogging itself very rewarding, both as a way to communicate with clients and as a “laboratory” for my ideas and I’ve been thinking about how to take the next step in my business by pursuing a book deal. It’s nice to see how you’ve made your blog work for you.

  53. congrats Larry for getting a book deal and thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts :)

  54. hello Larry,

    Congrats on the book deal, writing blog is beautiful thing and writing book is something more beautiful then Blog. It is interesting that you got a chance of writing a book on what you are good at – “Very few people tend to enjoy what they are really good at”

  55. I’d like to give you my congratulations also. I’ve aalso written a book called ‘All Hallows’ Eve and have self published it through Booksurge. It was released on the eve of Halloween 2009, how appropriate! I am currently actively promoting the book. The book is available on Amazon.com and is Book I & II, and Book III is going to be released sometime in Feb, 2010. I’ve ref’d the book to the New York Times Book Review Dept hoping to get more visibility. The book is also being sold in the airport bookstores here in California and at my local Borders, and have been selling quite well. I hope to blog my way to possibly having a publisher pick it up. Wouldn’t that be great! Again congratulations to you.

  56. I love getting Storyfix information. Good luck with your book. I’m sure it will be a hit.

  57. Hey, Congratulations !!!

    You are a big inspiration to a lot of people. I will wait for the book launch. All d best :)

  58. You have encouraged me beyond words!!! Thank you!!!

    -Alisa Hope

  59. What Larry doesn’t mention is that he published his first blog post on June 1, 2oo9. 6 months to a book contract. That’s amazing!

  60. Hello; thanks for confirming what I already thought. I think i have a good idea for a book. I’m a visually impaired business owner who has started to make a name as an amusement equipment reseller. Grew up in a family of carnival owners and transitioned into selling equipment after the death of my father. thinking a book about my story so far or one about my future journeys. I wish you all the best with your book, Max

  61. too bad people come to your site because of their novels. I think instructional posts are less valuable compared on the experience-based learning. Someone who wants to be a good writer or a blogger reads posts or novels, makes notes for herself, and adjusts her work. instructions are dead. any real-life situation would call for custom actions. On another subject, it’s not about pitching. It reminds me of what tennis agents say to tennis parents: “Don’t worry, there’s no need to get an appointment with a tennis agent for your kid. If your kid is worth a deal, the agents will find you”. Same here – if your book or blog is worth a deal, they will find you. Pitching and chasing publishers for deals is a waste of time.