If everyone's getting a book deal for their blog, why aren't you? Mostly because your writing hasn't gone anywhere better than a Gawker comment thread, but also because you haven't followed these three steps (note: not a joke article! Real advice inside) to getting a blog book deal. Short version: Start a blog that's short and sweet and high-concept, spread it on Tumblr and LiveJournal, send it to Gawker, and call Kate Lee.
1. Start the right kind of blog.
Your personal blog isn't good enough. Book deals for personal, story-telling blogs fizzled out a few years ago. There's just too much research for the publisher and no guarantee of mass appeal. The latest book deals look more like movie deals: A conceptual hook will draw people in even if some of the jokes fall flat. There are three kinds of blogs that recently got deals:
A. Whimsical Recognizable Aspects Of Everyday Life
Examples: Stuff White People Like, Postcards From Yo Momma
Likable, easy-to-understand blogs with a regular format. The title explains the whole concept. Make an idea you can explain in one short sentence. It's easy to market, easy to remember, easy to get blogged.
Suggestions: Ideas I Had In The Shower; Things My Kids Said
B. Unique Life Story That's Actually Many Short Stories
Example: The Secret Diary Of Steve Jobs
This is very tough, and I don't personally recommend it. You must either be a famous or extraordinary person or impersonate one. But you have to be a great writer too — there are two sites full of terrible spoof blogs.
Suggestions: Fake Obama; How I Was Actually Raised By Wolves
C. Tiny Works Of Art
Examples: Indexed, Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle, I Can Has Cheezburger
The perfect grist for a coffee-table or "tiny" book. "Indexed" is just little jokes in the form of graphs, "Cheezburger" is of course photos with captions, and "Obama" is simply random slogans about how much the presidential candidate is a cool guy, kind of like "Chuck Norris Facts" (which also got a book deal). Again, stick to one format and fully explore it. If doing the same thing over and over wasn't a path to success, you'd never hear of Jackson Pollock or Dilbert.
2. Discover yourself.
After a couple of weeks, you should have enough material to start spreading your blog around. Don't just wait to get discovered, but don't overmarket yourself. Put a copy of your blog on Tumblr and LiveJournal for readers that wouldn't otherwise follow you. (Since I started reading Tumblr blogs I find myself checking other blogs less.) Start following other people on those sites, which is less crass than commenting on normal blogs and putting your URL in your signature.
If your blog catches on there, you can start submitting to bigger blogs. But you might want to have a friend do it. I have a few regular tipsters who point me to good blogs by their friends. I'm more likely to follow their leads than someone self-promoting. Still, a well-written e-mail to Gawker's tipline might get you a mention. Same goes for Boing Boing. By that point linkbloggers like Jason Kottke and Rex Sorgatz will notice you if you're worthy.
If you do self-promote and no one picks it up, start over. (If you're reading this article, you're not in it for the love.)
Meanwhile back on your blog, don't stop writing. I stupidly gave up on my blog Bad Idea A Day just when people started to notice it. Now I'm restarting and I have to earn my readership from scratch. Also, have an about page so you're ready for Step 3.
3. Ask to meet an agent.
If your idea is wildly successful but no agent has called, find Kate Lee. The agent (who doesn't have an easily googleable home page) was profiled in the New Yorker in 2004 when blog book deals were still novel. Though Gawker didn't think the trend would stick, Lee kept selling blogger books. Last year she sold blogger Rachel Sklar's Jew-ish; this week she sold Postcards From Yo Momma, written by Jessica Grose of Jezebel and Gawker alum Doree Shafrir.
Of course you could talk to other agents; White People was sold by William Morris's Erin Malone.