Sunday, March 30, 2008

When lightening strikes...

There was an article in the New York Times today that noted that the fellow who writes the blog Stuff White People Like (Christian Lander) was apparently offered a $300,000 advance for a book based on that blog.

Now, this is wonderful for Mr. Lander, but this is also the sort of thing that makes me nuts. First, that's a whole lotta money for a concept and a list.

Second, it's going to make many people think all you have to do is start a blog and wait for the offers to come in, the same way, back when websites were new and shiny and some people got book offers or agents based on the writing on their sites, lots of people thought all they had to do was post their work on their websites and wait for the offers to roll in.

Which isn't that much different from the even older days when people would think all they had to do was simply get their work to an agent or a publisher and the offers would come in.

Many people still have this belief -- and that's because these sorts of lightening-strike successes are reported often enough to reinforce the notion that yes, Virginia, it really is that easy.

If only.

For the majority of authors, publication does not and will not come so easily. Long hours of work and doubt and hope are required before they get the life-changing phone call.

Unfortunately, those long-term struggles aren't nearly as exciting as "I was just writing my little stories to amuse myself and posting them on my blog for something to do when suddenly, I got an email from a Big New York Agent who landed me a six-figure deal!"

But even if the author's initial sale does come easily, publishing is still a gamble. The article also says, "A book based on a popular Web site focused on fashion disasters has sold 2,000 copies in its first seven weeks of release, according to Nielsen BookScan."


It's true that lightening does strike in the book business. A book is pulled from the slush pile by some under-paid assistant who loves it, champions it in house and it goes on to become a huge bestseller. Or, in the case of the first Harry Potter book, an assistant to an agent is intrigued by the unique clip holding the manuscript together, takes it home to read and...the rest is history. But these are the exceptions -- that's why they're reported. They are not the norm.

Time will tell if books-based-on-blogs sell well. I have my doubts. After all, there's a difference between clicking on a blog and shelling out money for a book. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

But then, I thought Transformers were the dumbest idea for a toy I'd ever heard of, until I wound up spending a small fortune on them for my son and his friends. Then I wished I had stock in Hasbro.


Kimber Chin said...

The funny thing is that in the blog world, he wouldn't even be considered a legitimate blogger yet. Ya gotta be blogging for at least a year (and some say 2) to get that status.

I'm thinking they're buying the marketing potential (quite clever, not my thing but I can see how it would sell), not the actual content.

Kimber Chin said...

Okay, Kimber Question of the week...

You've written 50 some novels. That is a lot of names to keep straight. Do you reuse secondary character names (excluding Kings, etc)? How do you track what names have and haven't been used? Do you have a giant worksheet?

I have a terrible memory. I'm thinking I have to get a system in place before it gets any more complicated.