Welcome to another edition of Top 10 Tuesdays, a semi-regular series introducing you to some of the finest bloggers around, my fellow winners of a 2011 Top 10 Blogs for Writers award.
This week, meet Larry Brooks from StoryFix.com. Larry blogs about getting real with your writing dream and the unvarnished truth about what it takes to get published.
From Book to Blog to Book Again
by Larry Brooks
People like to talk about where they came from. Their roots. As if it means something in context to the present.
Sometimes it does. Sometimes, not so much.
Blogger to blogger, I believe it does mean something in our world of writing and sharing online. Especially if, in addition to writing a blog, you are planning to write or are already writing a book.
Most bloggers encounter this notion somewhere between scoring their tenth and one thousandth subscriber.
If you are considering a book, good on ya. It’s a natural outgrowth of your evolution as both a blogger and a writer, and the field is more open than ever with the promulgation of self-publishing venues.
But, when you are about to pull that trigger, you need to know there’s a bold new criteria out there for publishing it. Something that wasn’t around ten years ago. It’s as essential for self-published authors as it is those who snag a contract from a traditional publisher, arguably even more so.
And the good news is, it’s something bloggers have a head start in accomplishing.
To sell a book these days you need an author’s platform.
An established base of readers and followers. A place to sew the seeds of your book and create a little buzz. A means of generating sales on Day One of your book’s shelf life.
Blogging is the best and, realistically, only way to get this done. Because nothing says “I’m here, read me!” quite like a provocative and consistently engaging blog.
I’ve recently been down this road, and I’d like to share a bit about the journey.
I came to blogging after having published four novels. Paperback originals, the kind that tend to disappear from the shelves after six months or so, relegated to the Used tab on an Amazon.com page. That didn’t exactly position me as the next Jonathan Franzen, but it did provide a foundation for my work as a writing teacher.
My blog site, Storyfix.com, leveraged both of those established identities. I was a published writer. I was an experienced writing teacher. Both of which substantiated my brand as one who blogs about how to tell effective stories via novels and screenplays.
And a brand is a wonderful thing. Because it can take you places you didn’t originally envision.
Frankly, I didn’t launch the blog as a strategy to get a book deal. But that’s what happened. And it’s important to note that the book deal wouldn’t have happened any other way.
The name of this game is credibility.
You need it to grow your blog, and you need it to snag a book deal or successfully launch a self-published book. Period.
There are a plethora of great blogs that aren’t based on branded credibility. These are sharing blogs, commiserating blogs, exploratory blogs. They draw readers who seek to share the journey and swap information.
These blogs don’t often score a book deal, and they aren’t really a viable author platform, at least in the sense that publishers prefer, because they aren’t positioned as expertise-based.
Exceptions abound – including Carrie’s blog to book journey on Sex in the City – but for the most part this defines your odds.
The notion of translating my blog content into a book was an evolution of the blog itself. It made so much sense on so many levels, not the least of which was that the content for the book was two-thirds already written in the form of posts.
That, coupled with my fleeting 15 minutes as a novelist, positioned me to approach a publisher with a book pitch.
Let’s be clear: without either element – the track record and then the blog that leveraged it – the book deal wouldn’t have happened.
From that initial pitch came an invitation to present a more formal proposal.
It was a massive and intimidating document, which called for sample chapters, career background, a table of contents and a vision for why readers would flock to it.
Try writing a table of contents for a book you haven’t written yet. At least with an established blog you have a shot at completing it before you resort to Xanax.
At the heart of it, though, was something I’d heard of but not expected: they wanted a detailed explanation of my author’s platform.
Had the blog not been in play, had it not already had several thousand subscribers, the book deal wouldn’t have happened for that reason alone.
No platform, no book. That’s the way it’s done today.
Bloggers With A Book Idea, Take Notice
If your forthcoming book is non-fiction, a thriving blog is non-negotiable.
It’s the first thing they’ll look for, and when they find it, the next thing they’ll look for is your established credibility to write both the blog and the book itself.
This isn’t journalism, where you research a topic and then write about it. Rather, it’s writing from a basis of proven expertise and experience. If that’s not the context of your blog, consider tailoring it in that direction.
Because that’s the Golden Ring of author credibility for publishers.
When credibility is in place, the thing that makes your blog soar – other than your writing chops and networking savvy – is the same thing that will make your book publishable.
If you’re writing fiction, the game shifts, but only slightly. Self-published novels absolutely and completely depend on an online author presence to find an audience beyond family and friends.
And while you can tweet and ‘friend’ your way to visibility, ala Amanda Hocking, there’s nothing like a blog to pave the way to book sales.
Is there a book lingering beneath the masthead of your blog?
Because if you’ve proven that you’re there for a good reason, that same rationale just might translate to a publishable book.
Larry Brooks is the creator of Storyfix.com, one of the recently named “10 Best Blogs for Writers,” and the author of “Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing,” which comes out this week from Writers Digest Books.
One more thing: Some of you have asked for more information on my March 15 blogging 30 Design and Content Secrets webinar. If you’d like to use your blog as a platform—to help you sell your book, your products or your services—click on the banner below for a special offer that ends Monday, February 28.