Today I’m going to try to answer the types of questions I get asked by bloggers and author wannabes every day…how to I get a book deal? A 2008 New York Times article profiled several bloggers (including the author of Julie & Julia) who had helped start a new trend in publishers signing popular bloggers. For the publisher, it’s a built-in audience. For the blogger, it’s a national platform for their message. I spent some time over the past few weeks asking my agent friends and publisher contacts these very questions…and that’s formed the basis of my presentation today. We are going to cover a quick background on the state of the publishing and literary agency industries today as well as what they’re looking for in new authors. Plus, we’ll review what they really mean by “platform” (because it’s probably not what you think), a few book deal examples and then I’ll close with some factoids on the actual mechanics of a book deal. I’ve also included some resources at the very end of this presentation that should help you move further down this path, since we’ve only got a short amount of time today.
I know what a cynical bunch you bloggers tend to be, because I have to pitch you stories every day. So here’s a quick list of authors and publishers I’ve worked with to give you a sample of my ‘street cred’. Some, like the Hillstrands, I’ve just done media for a particular appearance. Others, like Lisa Hammond, I worked with for years. Sometimes the publishers hire me, sometimes it’s the authors. These days, I also get called on often to add marketing/pr strategy to book proposals. It’s become the most important piece for agents trying to sell new authors. But I can’t just show you those proposals because unless they’re implemented, they mean nothing to a publisher. Again…their looking for a guaranteed audience.
Publishers will no longer take any properties that aren’t guaranteed to make a profit – that’s why they’re so interested in blogs with their built-in audiences. Advances re shrinking…remember that many people get paid their first installment when the contract is signed, but never write the manuscript. This type of risk is no longer acceptable. Publishers and agencies are failing right and left. Chelsey Handler’s first publisher went out of business before her new show hit the air. Lucky Simon & Schuster picked up the option just as she was hitting the big time, and took it straight to the NYT bestseller list. agents and publishers are scouring the web looking for the ‘next big thing” they want a new author with a built in audience and that’s why bloggers are so attractive.I get asked all the time if you need an agent – I think an agent is crucial. A new author really needs someone who understands the business and is on their side. Someone who can navigate u through the first deal. Look for agents who are selling particular books to particular publishers. (Last slide will explain how to find that information. ) Also, remember zero tolerance for risk…an agent with a good reputation will give you a much better chance in most cases.
Publishers and agents like writers with a previous track record. That means they’ve sold anywhere from 10,000 to 75,000 books. That can be overseas as well. I’m working with an author now who is looking for a deal for her book “The Swiss Chocolate Diet” a best-seller in GermanyRemember that “celebrity” doesn’t necessarily mean “a-lister”. You can turn yourself into a celebrity in your chosen niche with strong promotion of your blog. Many of the style bloggers in New York have done just that like Fashionista.com, BeautyAddict.com and others. I think we’re seeing the same in the mom blogger category, where folks like Satellite Sister Lian Dolan are using their blog to further their book goals and other pursuits.National or international interest might be something on the mosque at WTC, book burning, stock market, how to make money in a failed economy, etc.A quick book is one they can get out to catch a wave of social media - I can has cheeseburger, shit my dad says, etc. Harper is all over this stuff….look for agents who are regularly selling stuff to HarperCollins and imprints if you think you have a blog that is going to explode virally. Heartwarming stories and those of loss and learning are always good. Niche audiences, and I mean REALLY niche where the targeted reader is quite specific is great for publishers. Examples might be women who nurse tandem, peri-menopausal women in the Midwest, dogs with cancer, etcFood topics are always good, especially if the author is a ‘character’ like Andrew Zimmern.
Agents will not sign a new author who does not have a strong platform, or at least seems as though they could build one. Publishers will not consider new authors without a platform. So just what IS a strong platform. Workman says “hundreds of thousands if not millions” of fans/followers are required. Basically, the blog is the launch pad and the landing pad for most of your promotional activities…those activities (social media, speaking, public relations, etc) that gain you an audience, combined with your blog, is your platform. Buy “Get Known before your book deal” by Christine Katz. She provides a great outline for building a platform and goes into much more detail than I can here. Basically there are two ways bloggers are getting deals these days 1) an explosion in interest triggers agent/publisher interest or 2) the author creates a platform that guarantees book buyers. You will probably have to go with 2), since 1) is the online equivalent of winning the lottery. The platform should include social media, but more importantly it should include a public relations approach to gaining traditional media. The bidding war over the book deal for Julie & Julia started with a New York Times article. Although Gary Vee of “Crush It” looked like a completely viral Youtube play, few know that he hired a big PR agency in New York to help create the media interest that sent him viral, and eventually to a 7 book, 7-figure deal with Harper Studios (also…this guy can SELL)Radio can also help add twitter followers and blog subscribers. You can suggest yourself as an expert on a timely news topic, for example. Lian Dolan of the Satellite Sisters is a great example of one who started in radio. She blogs at www.chaoschronicles.com/blogSpeaking engagements are another way to get attentionNetwork with published authors as much as you can. Many deals are made because an established author suggested a new one. Remember, many publishers lose the first third of their advance because a new author never delivers. This isn’t the time for them to take risks, and a well-placed referral can make all the difference. Attend writers workshops…on the COASTS. That’s where the agents are!! In a nutshell…you’ll be very lucky if you go viral. That’s the book deal lottery. Instead, develop a promotional plan for your blog that includes traditional media, national if you can find it. And remember, publishers are not looking for good writers necessarily…they want great salespeople who can help them push the product.
www.flotsamblog.com – St. Paul-based writer and contributor to MPR Alexa Stevenson started blogging about five years ago. Her readers have seen her through fertility treatments, a newborn, and most of her life since. Her blog has been featured in the London Sunday Times, on Jezebel, and by the California chapter of the National Organization for Women. Her new book Half Baked was out this past August from Running Press, an imprint of Perseus Books. Great example of a writer who used speaking, traditional media, radio and an excellent, heartwarming story to gain a book deal. Matt Logelin lost his wife in 2008 and began blogging as a way to express his feelings in www.mattlogelin.com . So far, he’s been featured in Oprah, People, Rachael Ray, CBS LA, and many others. His social media platform is not huge – it’s under 300 fb fans and 10,000 Twitter followers. But again, a heartwarming story with a non-profit foundation (the Liz Logelin Foundation, for whom the photographer today is donating her time) led to a book deal and a book that will be out spring of 2011. (Note; People Mag loves these kinds of stories. Pitch yourself to them all the time, especially for the “heroes” section)www.bbqaddicts.comis interesting because it’s a commercial site using a PR hook – “the bacon explosion”. They’ve been featured the Today Show, CNN, GMA, in the New York Times…and this commercial endeavor resulted in a hefty advance and deal from Scribners.
You still need a great proposal and query letter, especially if you are pitching an agent. They say never to call, but I always do. Send the letter as a follow-up and alert them to your blog. They may not do anything now, but believe me, they will watch it if it’s of interest. Choose an agent that ‘sells’ your kind of niche, or story. Again, check the resources I give you at the end of this proposal to find out the right folks to pitch, the Shepard Agency lays out some nice guidelines for you in preparing your materials. IF they want you, they’ll help you get it ready for a publisher. Can you say what your blog is about in ten seconds? If not, keep working on it. You have to have an incredible elevator pitch. Too often, folks get a bad taste in their mouths because they aren’t with the right publisher. Business and social media? Go to Wiley. Spiritual in nature? Hay House. Quick book? Harper. Having the right agent will help you understand what the publisher will do in terms of distribution and marketing. But keep in mind, you have to be committed to marketing your product – writing the book is about 20% of the work. You’ve promised a great platform and a guaranteed audience. You have to make sure you deliver that or there will be no more book deals in your future.
Publishers Weekly has a list of new book deals each week. This is a great place to see who’s selling what to whom, and to get ideas for how to shape your unique niche.Alan Rinzler is a publishing insider with tons of information about the industryWriters Market is a great resource for workshops, agents, etc. I would definitely invest in the directory if you canNathan Bransford is an agent with Curtis Brown in San Fran – definitely gives you the agent’s POV Robert Shepard is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. His website explains everything you need to do to approach him (or any agent) in great detail.Again, Christina’s book is great and her website has some wonderful advice as well
Blog Your Way to a Book Deal
Blog Your Way to a Book Deal<br />Bonnie Harris<br />Wax Marketing<br />
Publishing Today<br />Zero tolerance for risk<br />Advances shrinking<br />Publishers and agencies failing<br />Yet they’re scouring the web looking for the NEXT BIG THING<br />
What are they looking for?<br />Prior track record<br />Celebrity<br />National/int’l scene<br />Quick books<br />Heartwarming stories <br />Niche audiences<br />Food<br />
Building a Platform<br />Write your posts to get attention<br />It’s more than a blog<br />Traditional media is a MUST<br />Speaking engagements<br />Network with other authors/bloggers<br />Writers workshop<br />
Examples of Book Deals<br />Flotsamblog.com<br />Half Baked, August 2010 Running Press<br />Mattlogelin.com<br />Two Kisses for Maddie, April 2011<br />BBQaddicts.com<br />BBQ Makes Everything Better, Scribner <br />
Getting A Good Book Deal<br />Write a succinct proposal and query letter<br />Pick your agent carefully<br />Have a killer elevator pitch<br />Make sure the publisher is right for you<br />Understand distribution and publicity <br />Commit to marketing<br />