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Thursday, May 15, 2008

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Blog to Book, V. 2.0: The New Breed

Back in the early days of personal blogging, if you can remember back two or three years, some people in traditional publishing noticed that some of these new-fangled blogs were being read by a lot of people. There was a flurry of courting, followed by a mass hitching of wagons to stars, and a bunch of bouncing books were born and brought to market.

Many bloggers and publishers were disappointed that their offspring didn't all hit the ground running, with the entire internet running after them. While a few of these marriages of blog to book were successful, a great many others ended with both sides disillusioned. Their half-breed babies were neglected and left to panhandle from the remnant bins.

Fast forward to present time. Two new anthologies, one just released, and one forthcoming, have convinced me that we've arrived at Blog to Book 2.0. I think we're seeing not just the content being transliterated into the print world (Blog to Book 1.0), but the missing chromosome, the community dynamic.

Watching these two projects come to term, I've been struck by the level of ownership and initiative by the bloggers involved. Neither of the lead bloggers who edited them are docile brides, willing to settle for the "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" approach of traditional publishing. A brief bout of groping and thrusting followed by snoring is not going to cut it.

For example, publisher can't be bothered to throw a proper book launch? Fine, then.

This is a self-determining, self-defined community. I hope the publishers of both these books like their tigers by the tails.



Blogger Dutch said...

hey kyran. not to discount your theory (I think it has some validity) but the story behind heather's anthology is a bit complex. a few years ago, she entered contractual negotiations with kensington publishing for "her" book about ppd, motherhood, etc. there was a falling out, kensington claimed there was a signed contract (there wasn't) and the parties settled. part of the settlement was the agreement to edit an "anthology" that would include some of her writing, but mostly writing from others.

heather's "real" book is coming out next year I think with a bigger publisher.

also, I remember several anthologies of "mom blog" writing back in 2005 or so. I think it kind of a "best of mom blogs" book, with posts lifted directly from various sites, not essays solicited to bloggers.

the "1.0" in my mind was the whole bloggers transferring their blogs directly to the page (mimi smartypants), 2.0 could be the blog-to-memoir thing that's been going on for a couple years. the real test will be if any bloggers can actually prove themselves in the world of fiction.

I don't know. the whole worship of print publishing seems so anachronistic to me, i.e. the idea that having a book is the end all/be all of writing. hundreds of thousands of books are published year and most of them aren't very good. why does someone have to publish a book to feel like a "real" writer. why can't having 200, 1000, 5000, or even 100000 readers a day allow someone to feel like a real writer?

that said, I won't turn down any book offers that come my way. but I'm not going to go out and fellate editors just to see my words on paper.

thanks for the interesting thoughts.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

and thanks for yours. it's a pleasure to engage an engaging mind.

I am aware of the backstory with the Kensington book, but others may not be, so its good to have the annotation here.

I think you and I are observing the same bend in the river, maybe from different shores. I agree a lot of bloggers have gotten over the notion that a book deal is the ultimate ride off into the sunset. I think the medium is maturing to the point where we are realizing we don't need the validation of print to turn us all into real boys and girls.

It's wildly speculative of me to call a trend based on two titles, I do feel like we're seeing some of that collective experience in action with the way the books are being handled by the bloggers themselves.

The Soda-Pop launch being one case in point. From what I can tell, the publisher was doing sweet fuck all to take advantage of the moment. Enter her community, the inner circle (Sarah Brown & agent, and others who helped that happen) and outer (the bloupies who lined up outside the door).

I know it's all relative, and the event at Soda wasn't the second coming of Gallery Six. Or maybe it was, in a way. I wasn't there. But I felt like it belonged to all of us.

I am working toward a book deal, because I have a story I want to tell within defined parameters that blogging doesn't have. And because even a small advance would go a long way toward giving me the dedicated time I need to write it. But a deal only makes a difference in when, not if.

Books still contain more posterity for me, though not one speck more respectability or credibility. I will make some calculated concessions to accomplish that aim (and I doubt you're that pure either), but no, I'm not about to sell my soul for it.

I do think a few of us might have the talent to write the Great American Novel. I don't know if any us have the attention span or can tolerate the lonesomeness ;-)

5:58 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

There is and probably always will be something about holding a book in your hand that the internet doesn't do.

I think for many writers, that tangibility is important.

For others, it's not so much that they need it, but maybe it's because others believe it to be the ultimate "you made it" accolade.

I think if it's a dream then you've got to go for it. If a story is best told on paper, then it shall be.

What frustrates me is hearing bloggers get rejected because of an disrespect of the medium. You've got a first time author with an already established audience, sometimes a following, and in all cases, an amazing promotional device. Why knock them just on the basis of "they write a blog."

If someone feels like they should because "it's the thing to do" or it's what says "I made it," it might not be worth the effort. But if it's your passion, then by all means, I think you've got to live it fully.

I'd love to see one of my proposals (that is still out at a publisher now) get picked up. And if they don't want it, I'll probably shop it around. But like Dutch said, I'm not going to beg and plead.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Sister Big said...

No disrespect to Dutch or Kristen, but I had no problem begging and pleading.

Traditional publishers are not yet sure if bloggers can sell books. I will tell you that. I had 11 pages of links to mainstream media coverage of the bloggers in my anthology, and many of the larger publishers still weren't sure they wanted to take a chance on it.

I do think that the blogosphere is going to have to show they want to buy print versions of the favorite bloggers' writing in order to create more demand for bloggers' books. I know my book wasn't the first blog anthology, but I'm hoping it will be one that is delivered with a proper marketing campaign, and that campaign is coming from outside the publisher as well as inside it. It has to. There isn't enough money in publishers' publicity budgets to help a new author succeed unless he or she takes it on. The success of a first book (for those of us without two-book deals) will determine whether or not we move forward with another.

I disagree that fiction is the ultimate stronghold. I went to school for fiction writing and have placed a few things, but I find the narrative nonfiction form to be just as relevant and one that my readers better relate to. David Sedaris and Anne Lamott have done just fine with it, and they are two of my favorite writers. Why would you change a formula that is working for you? Just a question. I know Lamott has written novels, too, but my favorite books of hers are her nonfiction offerings.

Is this the beginning of a new trend, blogs to books? No. But it may be the first time the mainstream will become aware that it's happening. At least I hope the mainstream becomes aware, because if it doesn't, there may not be many more blogger books. Publishing is a fickle beast.

Rita Arens
Editor, Sleep Is for the Weak

4:55 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

I don't think the dream of being in print will ever go away. Blogging is self-published. Anyone can do that. To get published means someone with authority believes in your talent, and is willing to put their reputation behind you, and that will go a long way towards validating us, insecure creatures that we all are. If it wasn't that attractive, you wouldn't have everyone wanting to do it, including those who are already well-loved online.

And what's so wrong with begging and pleading?

Hell, I'll buy your book, Kyran! (or at least download an illegal copy of it)

10:32 AM  
Blogger Kyran said...

Thanks, Rita, for the reminder that publishers are not necessarily as cynical as they are sometimes strapped for resources. I've worked for an independent publisher, and I should remember that.

And obviously, there's a world of difference between pleading the case for something you believe in, and doing anything just to get into print.

Neil, everybody's got something they will scrape their knees for :-)

8:48 AM  
Blogger brian said...

Your blog is beautiful. Funny that you write about books seeing the light of day because all the good reading i've been doing lately has been from great blogs like yours and Kristen's and Heather's, and I'm incredibly excited to learn both you and Kristen will be speaking at BlogHer...Thanks for taking the time and caring... to write beautifully.

11:32 PM  

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