You’ve heard all the stories of bloggers who have landed traditional book contracts, like Christian Landers (Stuff White People Like), Julie Powell (Julie & Julia) and Jenny Lawson (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened). They didn’t do much more than create a successful blog, and publishers sought them out. With a traditional book deal in hand, they booked their blogs (rather than blogging their books) and went on their ways to fame and fortune.
Today, the publishing industry still looks for successful bloggers because their huge unique visitor numbers and subscriber lists continue to represent successfully test-marketed book ideas. However, the large New York legacy publishing houses, and the agents who pitch books to those publishers, want to see more than just unique visitors and subscribers in an author platform.
What You (Might) Need to Land an Agent
I know agents who have been in the industry for many years and who only pitch to the large publishing houses. They say they rarely find aspiring authors, or even published authors, anymore who meet the criteria required to approach acquisitions editors at these houses. That means they take on fewer and fewer clients.
While on Facebook, I recently saw a posting in a writer’s group made by an agent. It was in response to a query about what it takes to land an agent. She claimed that to gain literary representation, an aspiring author needed the following seven items:
- A Klout score of 60+
- 20+ paid speaking engagements annually of $5,000 or more
- A subscriber list of 25,000
- A social media following of 150,000+
- A syndicated column
- A TV or radio show
- A position blogging for a major blog or blog site
Now, this may be true for this particular agent, but it isn’t true for all agents. Having all seven items on this list might, indeed, land you an agent and a publishing deal if you also have a good and marketable idea. (I might note that many people think Klout scores are meaningless.) However, having even a few of these items could help you land representation and a book contract.
What You Actually Need to Land an Agent
In fact, many different types of publishing houses exist, and many agents represent authors with smaller platforms because they are willing to pitch book ideas to mid-sized and small publishing houses, not just to large publishing houses. Additionally, the changes in the industry have caused some agents to become well versed in self-publishing, and these individuals will help authors with this endeavor as well or even make hybrid publishing deals for their clients.
In my experience, it’s possible to land an agent with a small or medium-sized growing platform. That means that you have all or some of the following:
- 10+ speaking engagements annually
- A subscriber list of 2,000+
- A social media following of 5,000+
- A blog with 3,500+ unique visitors
- Frequent guest blogs on popular sites or a position blogging on a popular site
- Frequent articles published in popular print publications
- Frequent appearances on podcasts or radio shows
- Your own podcast with a subscriber list of 1,000+
I say this because I had some of this when I landed my agent(s), I continue to see my students and clients land agents with just some of this. Also, many agents and acquisitions editors realize that the size of your platform may be less important than the level of engagement you’ve achieved with your followers.
Now, these aspiring authors’ books likely will not be pitched to the large New York legacy publishing houses. But there are plenty of other places for agents to sell books, if they are willing to do so.
What Book Bloggers Must Do to Land Book Deals
That begs the question: What must you do to land a book deal if you are what I call a “traditional publishing hold out”? If you are blogging your book with the hope of being discovered or landing a book deal in the end, here’s what I suggest.
- Blog frequently and consistently—2-3 times per week—on topic (blog your book or blog about your book’s subject).
- Be active on social media.
- Look for guest blogging opportunities.
- Look for opportunities to have a blog on another major site.
- Consider starting a podcast or radio show.
- Query magazines and newspapers with article ideas.
- Pitch radio stations and other podcasters.
- Create a newsletter and mailing list, if you haven’t already, and make building it a priority.
- Apply to speak to as many places as possible.
- Find as many ways as possible to be visible, increase your reach, build your authority, and create more influence in your market—create author platform.
Don’t just assume blogging your book, or blogging, will be enough to land that book deal. Spend you time building author platform and becoming discoverable in as many ways as possible.
In fact, no matter how you publish your book—indie or traditional, you need an author platform. Without it, you can’t sell books—to readers or to publishers.