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Tips For Mommybloggers Hoping To Get Book Deals

Tips For Mommybloggers Hoping To Get Book Deals

The holy grail for bloggers is still the book deal from a traditional publisher. This dream persists, in spite of all of the reports of how bad the prospects for the publishing industry have become, and how dismal sales are for everything other than the ebooks of already extremely well known authors. I think this may have something to do with the credibility that getting a deal with an established publisher carries with it, and admittedly this is not an idea from which I’ve even been able to easily wean myself. Below I’ve listed some of the pointers about the current realities of the publishing industry that I’ve gathered from attending conferences and talking to people who have managed to get book deals in the current climate.

1. Your book needs to have a market — and that probably means you are going to have to bring it with you.

These days, publishers expect authors to bring a ready made sales platform with them. This means that you need to have a market for your book that you are bringing with you to the publisher as a means of convincing them that you are worth the gamble. As a blogger with an established, audience you have a head start in this area, but simply maintaining a blog is not likely to be enough unless your blog is extraordinarily popular (in the millions of pageviews per month). Most mommybloggers do not (and likely will not ever) have that kind of traffic because the niche is just not big enough to support that kind of traffic (at least not right now, at least not for that many of us).

So what can you do? Think about what makes your book salable. Not only do you need to have a group of people who are your fans and who are likely to buy anything you write, you also need to figure out if there is even a market for what you are writing. If your book were to be published, where would it be shelved in a bookstore? What books would be in competition with it? Why is yours better than those? What does it have that those others do not? What are the sales records like for those other books that are comparable to it? Do they suggest that there is a viable market for this kind of a thing right now? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask long before you approach a publisher — ideally, you would be asking them long before you even start writing the book.

2. You need to have a marketing plan ready before you even approach a publisher with a pitch.

People like to think that bookselling is all about the love of writing and all that crap, but it’s a business just like anything else. Actually, it’s a business more than other businesses lately, because it’s been losing money for so long. Your marketing plan is really important to how your pitch is evaluated by the publisher, so you need to give this a lot of thought. Do you have an email list? Do you have the resources to start one, or to go on publicity tours? Because the publisher is not always going to be able to fund these things for you in the current climate. Be prepared to not only map out exactly how you are going to write the book but how you are going to sell it in your pitch — because even if you do manage to get a deal from a publisher, there’s a good chance that you will have to do most of your own marketing.

3. Right now, a traditionally published book is the best $25 business card you cannot buy. By next year, even that might not be true anymore.

The above is a cliche that you hear from writers all of the time: after your first book has been published, the main thing you gain is just the ability to say that you have a book published by a mainstream publisher. This gives you street cred and helps you get other gigs, but it doesn’t usually translate into a lot of money, particularly if it was a nonfiction book. Because of the need for publishers to have their own platforms these days, the power of publishing houses to help authors the way they once did is greatly diminished — the tools are all available to all of us, and though working with a publisher can make certain things easier, the tradeoff is not always going to be worth it.

This is why you will see, more and more frequently, established authors opting to go the self-publishing route (recent notables to have chosen the self-publishing route include Seth Godin and Leo Babauta.) I suspect that this move will become more and more popular with the more entrepreneurial-minded bloggers over the course of the next year. Financially speaking, there is no question that this is the right move for bloggers who have anything like a substantial audience, given the state of the publishing industry and the popularity of ebooks. The question will simply be how many people cling to the idea of having a book published by an old school publishing house, and for how long.

Comments (9)

  1. Jan 3, 2011

    That last bit is interesting, because the genealogical community has been talking lately about how 2010 was the year self-publishing lost its stigma altogether. This is the one area in which genealogy is ahead of everyone else; we’ve been self-publishing for years, because it’s such a small niche that publishers only want mass-appeal stuff for beginners (if that). This was the year that I noticed lots of credible, respected people in the field had skipped trying to get a publisher altogether. There are so many options for self-publishing now that it really changes the whole game.

    This will be one of those posts that’s fun to read in a couple of years, when we’re totally over this.

  2. Jan 3, 2011

    A book is so far off in the atmosphere its not even a whiff of an idea for me. So yay.

    But is it at all interesting that last night, after two hours of insomniac mulling over everything that I had a dream which, among other odd things, featured a part where I sat in a bookstore and it was full of mommybloggers. You were there, and for some reason a group of angry bloggers wearing sweaters were marching up and down the aisle where YOUR book was featured on the endcap?

    That’s weird, right?

  3. Jan 3, 2011

    Snort.

  4. Jan 3, 2011

    I’ll go ahead and add a couple of things to this. You’re pretty much right on the money, and to me the biggest thing for all of these is YOU need to be prepared to do the work. More and more, what a publisher can/will give you–both in terms of marketing & publicity and in terms of helping you understand what’s going on with your book–is small. Authors need to understand that the more tenacious they are, the better their book will do. This counts for self-published authors also. (I’ve seen some amazing success stories of self-published authors, both print and digital. They’re the most rabid, hard-working people you’ll ever see in most cases).

    My basic advice for anyone who wants to do a book, be it through a traditional publisher or on their own–you have to be more than a writer. You need to be a sales person. A publicist. A marketer. A number cruncher. You need to be the one who is most invested, not just in what happens to your book before it makes the printed page, but after as well. I’ve seen too many authors who think their job is done when the book goes to press (minus the whirlwind press tour, that will include Oprah and the Today Show of course) and then are surprised when their book doesn’t sell well. It just doesn’t work that way anymore.

  5. Jan 3, 2011

    That’s interesting about genealogy, and actually makes a lot of sense. They probably were very happy to see the self-publishing technology develop — it must have solved a lot of problems for them. I had suspected a lot of this stuff to be true before going to Blog World Expo, but sitting in on the publishing panels made it clear that things were even further advanced than I had thought. There are cases where people are taking book deals in which I have to assume it’s because they just don’t want to deal with finding the self-publishing apparatus for themselves, because the platform they bring is so clearly what is selling the book. I can understand that impulse, but they are giving a lot away in terms of profit in order to do that (in some cases, anyway).

  6. Jan 3, 2011

    That wasn’t a dream. That actually happened. 🙂

  7. Jan 3, 2011

    Thanks, Ginger — I was hoping you would chime in. People still have a really romantic idea of the book industry, I think — they always have. I think it has always operated in the popular imagination as something that is somehow untouched by the market, when that is of course impossible. But also, there persists this idea that if you are a “good writer” then somehow that will translate into a “good book” that will be “successful.” And I think that is where a lot of mommybloggers get tripped up.

  8. Jan 3, 2011

    I agree. Knowing how to avoid the passive voice doesn’t mean you deserve a book deal. That said, I don’t think some bloggers put enough emphasis on improving their craft. Others underestimate the level of talent required to land a deal in this market. Some do both. There are a lot of bloggers in for a rude awakening.

    From what I have read, an agent can receive upwards of 30,000 queries per year. Of those 30k, maybe 20 are sold. At least those are the stats one agent revealed. What I think many people have trouble with is the concept of “good.” It’s a relative term, yes, but I would wager that “good” for the publishing industry is pretty close to phenomenal among the average blogger. Most bloggers, myself included, just aren’t as great as they think they are. It sounds terrible, but I think it’s generally the truth. I once read a “goodbye post” by a blogger who stated she was leaving because she thought she would “already have a book deal by now.” I almost dropped out of my chair. Nothing I ever read from this person gave me the impression that she (1) was talented, (2) was capable of writing a book, or, most importantly, (3) had a story to tell.

    Delusions of grandeur abound.

  9. Jan 3, 2011

    This reminds me of the bit in Outliers where Malcom Gladwell is talking about how it takes 10 years of intense practice (like 8 hours a day) to get really good at something — and that’s for people who are unusually talented. So if you want to be what he calls an “outlier,” or a “genius” or a “prodigy,” (or somebody like Bill Gates, the Beatles, etc.) you have to 1) have that natural talent or proclivity; 2) have the drive; and 3) have the access to an opportunity in which you can work on your craft, full time, for ten years.

    Now, obviously, you don’t have to be THAT good just to get a book deal, but that kind of puts the unwillingness of people to work on their writing in perspective for me. I think of the Beatles in Hamburg or Bill Gates carrying cards back and forth at a computer lab.

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