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July 28, 2007

Liveblogging from Blogher 07: Book to Blog, and Back Again

Bloger_book2I'm live-blogging this session for the benefit of my mom-blog-writer friends who I KNOW have a book in them--you know who you are. It's 10:15 on Saturday and I'm in a room with about 100 other women curious about how to turn their blogs into a book.

The panelists are Denise Wakeman, founding member of The Blog Squad, writer and editor Ariel Meadow Stallings, Lifehacker founder Gina Trapani and ICM literary agent Kate Lee. Kate represents a number of bloggers--she started out as an assistant trying to find clients, and through them, her niche. She began by contacting people she'd met online, and it spread virally at the beginning. She's looking for voice--unique and compelling voice. She's also looking for traffic, and, finally, ideas and concept--something fresh and new that hasn't been out there before.

So, how important is it to have a blog? Kate says "it's a no-brainer"--for marketing and for connecting directly with your audience. Most publishers want you to have a Web page so there are at least links to Amazon, B&N and Borders. Ariel and Gina talked about how having a blog has helped them market their books. Gina included the traffic stats, etc in the book proposal. Lifehacker is a Gawker Media blog, so Gina had the ability to build traffic that way. "So I wasn't touched by God. I was touched by Nick Denton."

She had a mention in the NYT the day her blog launched. Ariel's personal blog is Electrolicious, which inspired her first book Offbeat Bride: Taffeta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides. Another question: if your work is posted on a blog, is it considered previously published for the book trade? No, but you might just run into a problem of whether there's new material that's not freely available online. Gina said that she did run into that issue with her book--her publisher wanted exclusive content, so it was a "delicate dance" to work it all out.

What about book tours? Ariel calls it an "ego-crumbling" experience, since no one goes to a reading unless they already know who you are. So she did many readings to eight people, "seven of whom were my friends, and the other one was some homeless guy who just wandered in." So Ariel ended up doing her readings...in bars. Her advice? "Have your antidepressants in your pocket."

To find an agent: go to Everyone Who's Anyone in Publishing. And if there's a book you like, look at the acknowledgements--they always thank their literary agent. Another bit of advice: find an inexperienced literary agent. The experienced ones are good, sure, but the new ones NEED your book to make their own career. And publishers love to publish experts. But not just by friends: according to Kate Lee, "You need to be an expert in the larger sphere...try to establish yourself elsewhere."

Final words from Ellen Gerstein, Director of Marketing at Wiley Press: "Look at some publishing industry blogs. There are some great agent blogs, some great puslisher blogs." And "break out of your echo chamber. Think really hard about how you're going to appeal to a broader audience."

Oh and you would expect that lifehacking goddess Gina would turn her personal experience into something practical we can all use: she wrote the definitive piece on turning your blog into a book. Check it out, and good luck!

This post also appears on my personal blog, The Family Room.


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