Blogger-Cum-Author’s Advice: ‘Don’t Shoot Your Load All At Once’

Gillingham-Ryan and Malice [photo: Brian Van]

Listen up, bloggers who wannabe authors. Michael Malice has some sage advice: “Don’t shoot your load all at once, media-wise.”

Malice, revealing himself as a poor man’s Jessica Cutler, warned against “oversaturation” at Monday night’s panel discussion “From Blogger to Author: How Bloggers Got Book Deals and What This Means for Publishing,” moderated by frequent mb contributor and Village Voice columnist Rachel Kramer Bussel.

Malice and his partners started Overheard in New York, a blog with “truly tasteless jokes,” to score a book deal. “The blog-to-book deal is a mixed blessing … The book should not be a cut-and-paste job of the Web site.” Once they landed a deal, the bloggers went into a media blackout, emerging nine months later to do publicity.

“The Overheard blog has the illusion of community: everyone else does the work, and we get the money,” Malice said. “I think I did it right with that site.”

For the struggling writer looking for a book deal, Seal Press editor Laura Mazer said the imprint looked seriously at a writer’s blog when considering a new writer: “Not having a blog doesn’t hurt, but it’s not going to help you. With new authors, we need to decide if we’re going to give you money for your book. Because if your book is backlisted, we’ll be in bed together for years. A blog can show if you have your head on straight.”

Mazer disagreed with Malice’s pre-planning of book publicity, citing that online publicity directly correlated with book sales. But ICM agent Kate Lee sided with Malice’s warning of oversaturation: “Why buy the book when it’s online?”

Unlike Malice, cooker-blogger Julie Powell fell into a book deal for Julie and Julia, her book about her year of cooking her way through Julia Child‘s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the top selling blog book to date. “I was totally an anti-blogger … I had no clue about publishing a book. I feel strange being here because I’m not a good blogger at all.” Though Powell said she doesn’t know what “a hit” is (she said “hit!” how quaint!), she still landed a deal with Little, Brown after the New York Times profiled her blog project. She’s currently working on her second book that’s “too personal to spew out as a blog.”

Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan thought blogs helped struggling writers reach editors. “The question is, is a blog really a book deal? Blogs equal self-publishing. Blogs are an amazing opportunity to publish yourself, get feedback, and put yourself on [an editor’s] desk with a click.”

But what happens when you get the book deal? Robert Rummel-Hudson started a blog about raising his special needs daughter, Schuyler, and ran into trouble with “extremist parenting groups” online. He started posting on “safe” topics when he realized his new editor at St. Martin’s Press was reading his blog. “Maybe a book deal makes you smarter, or has a chilling or smartening effect on your writing.”

Apparently, the perks of book deals outweigh the paranoia. “Working by the hour is not as good as having books sold while you’re sleeping,” Gillingham-Ryan said.

Just remember that not every blog with tons of traffic (you know, “hits”), gets anywhere. Lee cautioned wannabe authors: “Don’t quit your day job.”

— Pearl Wu

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