Wednesday, July 9, 2008

To Blog or Not to Blog?

I write YA fiction on a blog, mainly because the illusion of having an audience motivates me to write. Does this hurt my chances of publication later because the writing has been public already? Or is there a point in the project when it is wise to remove the work or stop further posting? Is it necessary to disclose to potential publishers that the work is up on a blog? I'd love to hear your opinion on this, or if there are any established industry rules on publishing previously blogged fiction.
I (like many of my colleagues) am not completely familiar with all the implications of blog-to-book publishing. But I think Julie and Julia was originally published in blog form, yes? The publisher may want you to limit the blog's content as the book approaches publication, but I think we're all aware of the (cheap!) publicity possibilities of connecting with the internet community. You should let the publisher know that you're blogging, and give them some idea of how long and what kind of traffic you're getting.


Kristi Holl said...

This is certainly something that has changed over the years. I recall getting rejections on short pieces because it was considered "already published" if you could find it online anywhere. The most publishers would offer was reprint rights. Apparently "blooks" are changing the way publishers look at material already posted somewhere. Interesting!

Wendy said...

This might in part depend on to what extent your blog is cultivating a readership, since you say you write it because "the illusion of having an audience" is helpful. If you don't have any regular readers (or only a very few), then your blog is more a writing tool than anything else. It's the platform--the built-in readership--that's of most interest to publishers when it comes to blogs, and if you don't really have that, then your blog is not going to be a significant selling point when you try to publish a book.

I agree with EA here: you can tell a prospective agent or publisher that your work is online in blog form, especially if your audience is more than an illusion.

However, if you're really and truly just using the blog to help yourself write and don't think your site traffic makes your blog even worth mentioning, then I think it's better to take it down a few months before submitting your work in manuscript form. If you choose NOT to mention that you wrote the stuff online, then you shouldn't have it out there where someone can find it.

That said, publishers are pretty open to doing previously-blogged work, more so than they used to be. I published a book based on my blog in 2005, but when I was first talking to a publisher in 2001, they were a lot more skittish about it.

In short, either disclose that you have a blog, or else take it down once it's served its writing-motivational purpose.

Anonymous said...

Lots of nonfiction blogs are getting snapped up into book deals, but I've not heard of a fiction blog getting turned into a book. Of course, I may just not have heard of it. My agent and I were just talking about this (re: a nonfiction blog I have about food) and he said to make sure you hold something back, keep good notes, and get the word out so I have tons of traffic. Then I'd still have to convince him and editors that there's a need to take it beyond the web. It seems like it would be hard to do this with fiction. Holding something back would be the hardest part. But of course, this is just my opinion.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Wasn't "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" essentially blogged (ok, webcomicked or whatever) first?

If readers really like something online, they often want it in book form too!

And the "Stuff White People Like" blog is a book now too....

It seems that if your work is compelling and entertaining enough, blogging isn't a problem...

Though-- is humor more likely to move from Blog to Book than drama is?

Unknown said...

Wendy suggests taking a blog down before submitting if the blog itself is not popular enough to be a selling point. I can't speak on whether or not that's a good idea, but I just wanted to comment that it's very difficult to remove something from the internet permanently.

Google, for example, maintains a cache of your pages. Even if you take your blog down, chances are it will still appear in the Google search results with a "Cached" link which shows what the page used to look like. There are other sites that attempt to build an archive of web pages. So your blog may appear in search engines long after you remove the blog itself. If you aren't trying to build an audience with a blog, and if you are concerned that having the work "already published" will hurt its chances, then it's better not to post it publicly. Don't count on being able to remove it later.

Jennie said...

I'm not an publishing professional, so, I'm not the expert, in many of the web-to-book books I've read (Julie and Julia, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or even Bridget Jones Diary which was a newspaper column) there is a difference between the web content and the book.

Yes, large portions of Diary of a Wimpy Kid are available for free on Funbrain, but not all of it. Julie and Julia had to add new material, and even then, the main criticism I read of the book was that there was too much repeated material and not enough new stuff to warrant the purchase price.

So... I wouldn't blog your entire book. Keep a few subplots or key scenes to yourself. And, if it's fiction, maybe even the ending?

Mommy C said...

I think that having an online journal for your main character would be not only be a great way to get inside that character's head and test out your plot ideas with a live audience, but could also be an excellent companion to a forthcoming book. Readers could start off reading a "fictional" blog, then go out and buy a book about the person they feel they have come to know so well. Sort of like reading a book written about your best friend that was based on her diary. Because YAs already have a slightly blurred line between reality and fantasy, it could be a very strong marketing tool. But, what I am talking about are two different things- an online journal and a narrative book. Publishers are pushing hard for more web saavy writers, these days and blogs are becoming a frequently used tool.

As for publishers being shy of the blog, that seems strange. Dickens wrote many of his novels as bits for newspapers, and being previously published certainly didn't hurt him any, considering his books will still be reprinted a thousand years from now. Really good writing is really good writing with endless martketing potential. Books are even written, on occasion, after songs or movies have preceeded them.

As for me, I'm old school. I am addicted to a few blogs, but I would far rather curl up with them in a nice neat book than lug my laptop to bed, which makes my husband a little annoyed.

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