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“and visions of book contracts danced in their eyes”

April 2, 2008

Admit it.  Most bloggers secretly dream of writing the next great American novel.  Or a business tome that insipires many and brings fame and fortune.  At the very least, we dream of seeing our names on the front cover of a fresh, newly published book. 

Well, blogs are the new black in the book publishing world, at least according to the NY Times.  In an article that should be considered jumping the shark for book bound bloggers, they detail how the folks behind “Stuff White People Like“, a really funny blog, just signed a deal with Random House to author a book based on the blog.  The price, according to the article, is rumored to be $300,000, and yes, I agree that is an astronomical and probably unjustified amount to be spending on a book. 

Not sure what signal is being given here.  A lot of times trade houses sign the big names to six-figure book deals almost as loss leaders, to give the house the prestige of being associated with these folks.  In these times where the economy is on a downturn and book publishing is suffering, even a six-figure deal like this must be looked at as suspect, especially as these are not folks who have written before and have no track record in the marketplace. 

Part of me says, good for them.  They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them, but that’s a great deal.  The other part wonders whether other bloggers will consider the bar raised, and be looking at getting sums like that for their work.  That seems to be a trend in publishing.  Someone in a certain field or with a select experience gets a big contract, and then everyone else expects the same terms.  One or two books do really well, but the majority do not succeed, and the marketplace becomes too crowded and bookstore buyers and editors declare a “fatigue” for the topic, and we move onto something else.  Which if it happens here, will be a shame. 

For the bloggers who think they’re up to writing a book, talk to any blogger who has done it, and they tell you that there is a big difference between feeding your blog content day after day and creating a manuscript.  At a recent author dinner at SXSW, everyone agreed that they had no idea how much work writing a book would prove to be.  Rewarding beyond belief, yes, but certainly no walk in the park. 

I guess my point is meant for bloggers who really want to write a book – don’t think it’s going to be a walk in the park, and don’t think you’re a failure if you’re not pulling down the big bucks that get you featured in a NY Times article.  This is one deal out of hundreds that go down every week and should not be considered the norm. 

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2008 11:07 am

    You know I’m scared of the work behind writing a book. $300K would make me a lot less scared. 😉

    I remember Gina Trapani mentioning when she spoke at BlogHer07 a sum far less than that for LifeHacker. And I’ve never heard of “Stuff White People Like”. Sounds to me like Random House just got punk’d, or am I missing something?!

  2. April 2, 2008 1:19 pm

    I can’t speak for Random House or even for my publisher, but from what I hear, that figure is similar to what a mid-level celebrity (say a cable TV host) or a business book author who has a success or two under his/her belt would fetch. That dollar amount for an unproven author, and sorta popular blogger is an anomaly. Chit chat tells me that is it substantially less than what Fake Steve Jobs received, and he’s much better known (fake or not). That book hasn’t performed well, which you can monday morning quarterback all you want, but it’s a lesson here.

    You on the other hand, have a platform and even more importantly a message that is of value to so many people (something not everyone can say), and I’d certainly love to see you write a book!

  3. April 2, 2008 1:43 pm

    Aw shucks, Ellen – thanks! I say that deserves a hug, but you don’t like hugs, so I’ll say it deserves a warm, fuzzy thank you from the bottom of my heart. 🙂

  4. April 17, 2008 11:48 am

    As someone midway through a first draft of a proposal, here are my thoughts: there’s a lot that goes into understanding exactly why someone is going to buy this book over another book. I tend to think (like I imagine all bloggers think) that my stuff is inherently useful, and of COURSE people would buy it, if it were a book. But really, what comes next?

    Next, in my mind, was thinking from the POV of how my table of contents, my first page, my everything, will convince someone that this book will make their life better, improve their business sense, and give them money back in their pocket. Turns out that’s a little harder to CONVEY than it is to write. When I stare at my proposal, it’s not the same thing as what I’m saying on a daily basis, and yet, the proposal is helping me focus myself into something that will make sense and be salable.

    I’ve got the platform, and I’ve got the web-lebrity, but now, with a book idea staring me in the face, I’ve got to galvanize that idea into something I can build upon, support, refine, and distribute.

    If nothing else, the experience has been amazing.

  5. April 17, 2008 12:16 pm

    Hi Chris – not to pressure you, but I would preorder a book from you at (insert name of online retailer here) in a heartbeat. When I see the name Chris Brogan, there’s an implication of thoughfulness, usefulness, and quality. There are a lot of books out there on social media that are good, but for me they end up being same old same old – they spend a lot of time essentially taking what should be marketing sense, and teaching the reader how to apply it to the social space. That’s what a lot of these books do, which is good for some people new to the field. I’m ok there – I either want to read radical new ideas, or contra-ideas. How about – this goes against all the rules of social media marketing, but it worked, and here’s why. Or, social networking is a load of crap, and here’s why. Something different.

    You bring something different to the table. A lot of what you blog about is stuff maybe I’ve seen before, but you present it in such a way that it’s fresh and causes me to think. You could do amazing things in a book, Mr. Brogan.

  6. rbtroj permalink
    April 17, 2008 12:25 pm

    THAT would explain all the new, unwanted content I’m seeing on “Stuff White People Like”. They need to stick to their snarky derisiveness and stop trying to please their publisher. Then again, I don’t blame them for “selling out” if that figure is real.

  7. April 17, 2008 12:29 pm

    I am glad Chris Brogan’s twitter post led me here. I will become a regular reader. So many people have asked me to write a book, but I find the thought very intimidating. I think it would have to be more a “how-to” about all the information that we are learning about web2.0 education and the easy mobile lifestyle as a family, but having time to gather all that we know and organizing it, seems a huge job in itself.

    Not sure when or if I will ever do a book, but I guess the first part is learning more about the process. Thanks for this post!

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