How to get a book deal with your blog

How to go from blog to book–the 3 things publishers and literary agents look for in bloggers!


“Can you give me a number I should aim for?”

I could hear the hopefulness in her voice, the resolution to get started. I shifted in my desk chair and moved the phone to my other ear. I hate this question.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I loved this blogger and her writing. I’d admired her work for a long time, and it had been so much fun to finally talk to her and hear the behind-the-scenes of her blog.

But there was just one tiny problem.

Her author platform wasn’t big enough yet for a book deal.

from blog to book deal

She was doing all the right things—writing consistently, sharing her work, getting to know her readers and other influencers in her space. But I knew publishers would want her stats to be higher for a book deal, and I knew she would need to have a bigger readership to make a book successful.

I squirmed and gently suggested that she wait a little longer to pursue a book deal.

I knew she had a book in her, and I could just see how beautiful and inspiring it would be. But I also know I’m not doing anyone a service if we put a book out too early in an author’s career, before they have thousands of loyal fans who are clamoring to buy it. It’s worth doing a book at the right time in your career.

But how do you know if your blog can get you a book deal? How can you gauge whether you have enough readers to support a book? What are the blog traffic and social media numbers to aim for?

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7 Things You Can Do Today to Get on The Bestseller Track

7 Ways to Become a Bestselling Author (text)

But first, the publishing stories worth reading this week:

Amazon is Quietly Eliminating List Prices (David Streitfeld for The New York Times): A fascinating look at the deterioration of the list price/discount marketing tactic and how it’s influencing online commerce, including the massive online book business. I thought this was a must-read this week, and it’s definitely a trend worth watching for anyone involved in online commerce.

Training to Be a Good Writer (Leo Babuata of Zen Habits): “You get good by doing it a lot, and caring. You’ll never be perfect at it—goodness knows I’m far from perfect — but the only way to get better is to practice. And to care about what you’re doing. Do that every day, and every step of the struggle will be an amazing one.”

My Top 5 Favorite Marketing Books (Chad Cannon): “They say that reading is a key habit for success–that our society’s leading thinkers, investors, and decision-makers must be readers. I fully believe it’s true, and I love this quote from Warren Buffet. Once, when asked what his key to success is, he pointed to a stack of books and said: ‘Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.'”

Do You Lock Your Best Ideas in a Vault? (Benjamin Percy for JaneFriedman.com/Glimmer Train): “For every story or essay or poem you write, you withdraw one image, two characters, maybe three of the metaphors you have stockpiled—and then slam shut the vault and lock it with a key shaped like a skeleton’s finger. I used to be the same way, nervously rationing out my ideas.”

 

7 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Become a Bestselling Author Tomorrow

I hope everyone had a delicious and fun Fourth of July weekend! The fireworks in DC were a bust with all the rain, but Jarrett and I spent the first half of the long weekend exploring Louisville and Lexington. We ate:

  • Brisket and smoked sausage at the Blue Door Smokehouse (picked by Ashlea Halpern of Condé Nast Traveler as one of her two favorite BBQ joints in the country!)
  • The most glorious country ham on an Eggs Benedict at Proof on Main inside the 21C Museum
  • A 4-course tasting menu of delight at Edward Lee’s fantastic 610 Magnolia
  • Really very naughty sandwiches at Ouita Michel’s Wallace Station (that Hot Country Ham and Pimento Cheese sandwich…oh my.)
  • And because we couldn’t help ourselves: more of Ouita’s food at Smithtown Seafood. They’re participating in the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project that challenges chefs to create more sustainable burgers by adding mushrooms to their patties. This makes the burger better. In fact, it was the best burger of my life. Yes, I said it. Go try it and tell me if I’m not right.

I think we did some other stuff in between there, but mostly we ate, and a lot.

Which brings me to the question: what productive things can you do as a writer or blogger when you are, say, too gut-bombed on Southern food to concentrate on your manuscript? Not every moment needs to be write-or-die, and there are so many things that can contribute to your skill-set that have nothing to do with typing away.

Here are 7 of them, which I first covered for Bustle Books, and which I hope make for some easily digestible reading no matter how gluttonous your holiday was!

7 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Become a Bestselling Author Tomorrow

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The One Piece of Advice I Give Every Single Aspiring Author

literary agent advice for writers to get published

But first, the book publishing stories worth reading this week:

Your Biggest Book Marketing or Platform Building Roadblocks – And How to Overcome Them (The Book Designer): This is a wonderfully detailed guide that tackles the 5 biggest obstacles writers face when trying to get their books out into the world. If you’re having trouble reaching your “dream readers,” feel like you don’t have enough time or money for a platform, or are struggling to see engagement on your platform, this is a great place to start.

J.K. Rowling posts letters of rejection on Twitter to help budding authors (The Guardian): “When she pitched under the name Galbraith without revealing her true identity, she faced many more snubs. Since then, Galbraith has published three successful novels but the first was rejected by several publishers, and Rowling was even advised to take a writing course.”

The Art of Influence: Who’s an Influencer, Who’s an Endorser, and How Do I Talk to Them? (Chadwick Cannon): “People don’t trust brands. They rarely trust strangers. But they do trust familiar people.”

The Charming Doodles Charles Darwin’s Children Left All Over the Manuscript of ‘On the Origin of Species’ (Brain Pickings): “In contemplating family, work, and happiness, Charles Darwin proclaimed: ‘Children are one’s greatest happiness, but often & often a still greater misery. A man of science ought to have none.’ And yet he and Emma had ten.”

Relevant (Literary Agent Donald Maass on Writer Unboxed): “Being relevant is not the same as being topical. Nor is it the same as being resonant. Topical stories have the quality of being current, ripped out of the headlines, a take on what is happening right now. Resonant stories are less immediate. They echo in the mind. They cause us to reflect and ponder. ”

The One Piece of Advice I Give Every Single Aspiring Author

The weather is gorgeous here in DC, submissions to publishers are in full swing, and the spring publishing season is chockfull of wonderful books. (Try this gorgeous cookbook, or this personal favorite.)

And today I’m on Kirsten Oliphant’s podcast, Create If Writing, chatting about everything from how the traditional publishing process works to what I look for when signing clients. Kirsten is incredibly savvy and hard-working–she writes books, hosts a podcast, leads online courses, and writes a blog, all while being a mom and wife. I actually think she may be the Beyoncé of our little writing blog community. All signs point to yes.

We were able to get in deep and talk about some of the most important topics that plague aspiring writers today:

  • How to get excited about building a platform (even when you really, really don’t want to)
  • Why you don’t need to be a used car salesman for your book
  • What a typical day in the life of a Literary Agent looks like (spoiler alert: a lot less glamor than you’d think)
  • How to avoid a lie-awake-at-night-in-fear book launch
  • How focusing on your own personal development can also help you in your writing career
  • Why you should buy your name as a domain (and how I failed at this)
  • The one piece of advice I give to every single aspiring author

Click here to listen to the full interview!

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4 Common Mistakes Bloggers Make That Hurt Traffic and Engagement

How to build a nonfiction platform

I spend a lot of time looking at blogs and websites. Maybe too much time. Sometimes I feel like if I have to see one more watercolor Facebook icon or read one more About Me page, I will just flop over, dead from too much Interneting.

But 95% of the time, I just love it. It’s fascinating to see the front end of a blog or website and then talk to its owner and learn more about their back end stats and strategies. I guess it’s sort of like seeing how the blog sausage is made. (“Blog sausage” sounds wrong. In a hilarious way. I will now have to dedicate my remaining years to proliferating this phrase.)

ANYWAY. It’s become so incredibly important to have a strong online platform before you launch a book that it’s impossible to overlook the power of a well-done website or blog. Yet if there’s one thing I’ve seen from speaking to hundreds of bloggers, it’s that very few of them know what the heck anyone else is doing. Sure, there are plenty of online courses you can take that could help you build traffic, but there’s nothing like seeing how that traffic converts into real business (as in product sales) to show you how important certain overlooked areas are.

There are 4 areas that I think are especially overlooked, and where I think many people are stifling their engagement, throttling their traffic, and overall slowing down the growth of their businesses. Here are the mistakes I see most often:

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