Blogger starts a blog. Blogger solicits photos or texts or emails. Blogger gets a book deal. That formula has been wildly successful for the last few years, but is showing signs of market saturation.
There were roughly 100 book deals involving blogs or Internet memes last year according to Book Publisher’s Marketplace.
Christopher Weingarten, 31, was one of them. A year ago, he decided to start a blog about dogs, dressed as hipsters. He gets readers to submit photos and attaches a witty caption.
Over three million hits and thousands of submissions later, he just recently landed a book deal, with the book hitting bookstores in July. While the freelance music writer discloses that his book deal was not six-figures, it was “certainly more than the $3,000 advance I got for doing a book about music.”
Blog-to-book deals have also changed the humor genre in general. “Now if you’re funny, you start a blog or a Twitter feed, and cultivate an audience that way and a publisher finds you,” says Patrick Mulligan, Senior Editor at Gotham Books, an imprint of Penguin, which specializes in blog-to-book deals.
One of Gotham’s blog-to-books is “Texts From Last Night”, which features random and funny texts sent from submitters, who are typically in a drunken stupor when texting. The blog on which it is based gets around four million page views a day. The book is in its sixth printing. The blog co-founders say the website brought in about one million dollars in revenue last year, and it’s now being converted into a TV show.
They bristle at the notion that they’re taking other peoples’ contributions and running away with the money from an ebook publishing book deal.
Usually publishers require bloggers to put in at least 70 percent new content into the books and often try to market them to a new audience.
“You can’t just sort of repackage the greatest hits on a website,” says Megan Thompson, Senior Literary Agent with LJK Literary Management which represents a number of blog-to-book authors, including the people behind “Geek Dad”, and “Black Heels to Tractor Wheels.” “Why would someone buy the cow if they can get the milk for free?” she says.
Penguin’s Gotham Books was able to find a new audience with the popular LOLcat series. “It’s 50 year old women from the midwest who have ten cats who are buying it,” says Mulligan. “When you make something a book and take it off the Internet, people who never stumble upon this website find it in book form.”
Some overnight authors are commanding lucrative deals, even if it isn’t as frequent as it once was. “When people were going crazy for this stuff, we got into really competitive auctions where people were spending into the mid six-figures for some of these books,” says Mulligan. “That just becomes tough for book publishers to make money.”
Still, the publishing industry is mindful that the genre has some staying power.
“It’s what happens in publishing,” Mulligan says. “Something becomes hot, it becomes over-published, and then it wanes, and then there will be this awesome new blog in 2012, and we’ll go crazy again for it.”