Thursday, 9 June 2011

Survival of the Fittest – Karen Ball

Inspired by the launch of Nicola Morgan’s book, Write To Be Published, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about blogs and their ability to cement publishing deals. For anyone who doesn’t already know, Nicola’s book began as a blog called Help! I Need A Publisher into which she poured an incredibly amount of energy and a terrifying number of words. I don’t even want to think about the hours!

This week, The Guardian ran an article on the rise and rise of food bloggers and how they are becoming the new authors of cookery books. A sewing blogger, who I read fanatically - Gertie’s New Blog For Better Sewing – has found a book deal with STS Crafts/Melanie Falick Books. If my own fun sewing blog, Didyoumakethat?, found me a publisher I'd think I'd died and gone to heaven!

Finally, we can hardly ignore the food blogger who inspired a book and a film, Julie & Julia.

So, for some, blogging definitely works as a route to publication – it’s a free platform that laughs in the face of the ‘No Unsolicited Submissions’ banner on many publishers’ websites. (When I say ‘free’ I’m trying hard not to think about the blogging hours that could have been writing-a-jolly-good-manuscript hours!)

I hazard a guess that this route to publication works best in the non-fiction market. Someone has a talent or interest, shares it with the online community via well written, engaging and regular blog posts and a book deal may happen. If I was a commissioning editor for illustrated non-fiction, I’d be scouring the blogging community! (I’d love to know which way round things work. Does the blogger put together a pitch or does the publisher approach the blogger?)

How does this relate to fiction authors and publishing? Blogs provide a platform, for sure, but I’m not convinced a publisher would ever commission a novelist blogger, based on their posts. We can’t share extracts. Well, we can, but I wouldn’t advise it. It’s difficult to share the process – writing fiction does not necessarily move forwards in a linear way – and it’s probably foolish to reveal ideas.

Still, the fiction blogging community is thriving. Community blogs are popping up left, right and centre: Crime Central, Girls Heart Books and The Edge are three I know of. A group of US chidren's book professionals have had a collective blog for quite a while now, to be found at Blue Rose Girls. Forward-looking publishers have blogs, too – how brilliant was yesterday’s debate between ABBA and Nosy Crow?

Blogging is a living creature with its own evolutionary trajectory. Have we raised our knuckles from the ground yet? Are we cave men? Can we grip a pen in our furry fists to sign a publishing contract? (You betcha!) Or will traditional publishing deals lose currency as the world moves rapidly forwards? Will there soon be other credible options?

I’d love to know what you think to blogging as a route to publication and blogging as a profile builder. It feels as though 2011 marks significant shifts in this most glorious form of communication. What do you think is the next stage of evolution?

If you're not already blogged out, you can visit my writing blog at!


Elen C said...

And of course there's the WONDERFUL Cake Wrecks blog2book example.

Crafty Green Poet said...

My blog helped me to find a publisher for my poetry collection and has helped sales too.

Stroppy Author said...

A combination of blogging and twitter got me my current series deal.

JO said...

Blogging my travels honed my writing and lured friends, spawned short stories which won me a place on a mentoring scheme at Exeter uni; the mentor returned to the travels and encouraged me to focus differently, edit the book, edit it again, and it is now looking for a publisher. A tortuous process, but an exciting learning curve.

K M Kelly said...

For me, blogging is fun, and a good way to connect with people who share my interests. My own blog played so part in me finding an agent but reading other people's blogs certainly did.

karen said...

Wow! Blogging really does work. What inspiring stories.

Nicola Morgan said...

Karen - but actually, despite the examples above, you are completely right. Yes, there are some stories where it leads in some way to some kind of deal but those are the stories we hear about. Compare that with the millions (literally, I gather) of blogs that don't and which therefore don't become a story! It's almost always best to blog because you want to, much more than because you want it to achieve something specific.

But you know what, it's the same with books. As in, how many more books are written than we ever actually hear about? Your title says it all - survival of the fittest, remembering that evolution also allows for very very good things to be born but die by accident, not because they weren't good enough.

"Full many a flower was born to blush unseen" etc. It's often down to luck.

It's most usually as Kate said (with a little editing from me because I think this is what she meant!) "My own blog played no part in me finding an agent but reading other people's blogs certainly did."

Thanks for mentioning my bloggy book! (An example of a blog that was never intended to become anything at all!)

Katherine Roberts said...

I started my "fan blog" Reclusive Muse as a creative outlet. The writing there is not meant to be commercial - it's more of a place where creativity can flourish.

Young fans can post their stories/poems there, and I am currently running a series of Muse Mondays where other authors talk about their muses (several vacant slots this summer - so please get in touch if you'd like to do one!)

adele said...

I reckon it's a lottery! You have, as they say, to be in it to win it!

Nick Cross said...

I think it's definitely hard for fiction writers' blogs to become anything more than that, especially as many fiction editors are still very traditional in their choice of reading matter. Also, there are loads and loads and loads of unpublished writers trying to get noticed (yes, and me too!)

But it wouldn't stop me doing it - I think blogging is a fine way to hone your writing skills, develop an online voice, work to deadlines and connect with lots of nice people.

There's a section on blogs in my post about the SCBWI Marketing session held last month:


Kath McGurl said...

The Wife in the North blog is a good example of one which landed its author a publishing deal due to having a distinctive blogging voice.