August 02, 2005

Blooks by Blauthors

Yes, the title of this post is a desperate attempt to coin a new word. It occured to me that just as there was the need to concisely describe online journals, or web logs, as blogs, we now may be entering a time when we need a new word to describe books borne from the fruits of blogging. What would you call them and the people who write them? Help me out here.

The fall of 2005 will see the first big crop of books by bloggers released to bookstores. (Which might one day become blookstores, if I want to hit this neologism with all the subtlety of a jackhammer.) Julie Powell's book, which I am looking forward to, will be released in September. More are set to follow, as the publishing industry catches up to the fairly recent growth in blogging, a phenomenon that has really only come into its own in the last two years.

The real measure of these blooks' success will probably be measured thusly: will readers pick up a book even if they have no knowledge of the author's roots as a blogger? Powell's book, with its likely strong writing, will probably be a big hit, especially since its premise is something that can be easily described: a New York woman spends one year cooking every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Original and quirky, no? I can already picture her promoting the book on The Today Show and Anderson Cooper.

It remains to be seen how other bloggers will translate their online popularity into critical and commercial success. Anonymous commenters and blog readers are a lot less critical than book reviewers and people who have forked over $24.95 for a hard copy book. Stephanie Klein's online exploits are inarguably popular, but I'm not convinced that her conversational style of writing will translate into book sales beyond the beach reading set. How many more books about headstrong single women living the life in New York City can fit on the "Summer Reading" tables at Barnes & Noble? If the book does become a breakout success, I think it will be the result of a strong marketing campaign - Judith Regan is the publisher - and the ancillary popularity of her in-development TV show, should it make it out of the development and pilot stages and hit the airwaves at the right time.

I started thinking about the blog-to-book parade we're going to see in the coming year because of this article from The Book Standard. (Via RKB.)

“Bloggers have an audience; they have a connection with readers,” acknowledges Sophie Cottrell, associate publisher of Little, Brown, which has one of the hottest current blog-to-print properties: Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia, which is scheduled for release in September. “This can provide the publisher with a great, solid foundation of ready-made fans.” Still, she says, talent has to be part of the equation. “The transition from the blog to the printed page is a crucial one—the writing has to be great. The book’s blog roots should be invisible.”

Many people assume that my book will be a virtual cut and paste from these online pages to printed ones, but of the nearly 64,000 words in my manuscript I'd say that only about twenty percent of the material is adapted directly from PlanetGordon. Yes, there were some entries that I knew would have to find a way into the book, but for the most part I had to design my outline from scratch. Because my book is a guide and not a fictionalized account of a Gen-X New Yorker finding true love in the outer boroughs, I had to do a bit of homework and a bit of, yes, writing. I wouldn't want to put myself in the same company as the bloggers who are writing full-on novels for a general audience - my book will fill a noticably smaller niche - but I do agree with the idea that no matter what book a blogger decides to write, it has to move beyond the confines of the computer screen.

For most, blogging success will never translate into publishing success. (And vice versa: Tom Clancy might be able to craft movie-ready thrillers, but if he started a Navy- or military-centric blog, I bet it would be the online equivalent of Sominex.) So the coming year will be a real test, in my opinion. Which bloggers will actually distinguish themselves as writers?

Posted by Doug at August 2, 2005 12:47 PM

More than half of the "blooks" are going to suck, just like books in general. Lots of trash out there. Not a dig on you, just the odds in general.

Posted by: G at August 3, 2005 05:48 PM