At the end of July I came across an interesting blog-to-book deal featured in The Huffington Post, and I quickly contacted the author. Again, it’s a booked blog, but a very cool idea from a very cool young lady. (When will bloggers start blogging books and make their lives easier when they land these book deals?) On her blog, 24-year-old Emma Koenig documents the typical and trying life of 20-year-olds hungry for work outside the service sector and love outside one-night stands. And her experiences seem to have made good—no great—fodder for both a blog and a book. Why? She took her experiences as a 20 year old and turned them into content that targeted a niche market.
That said, Koenig’s latest life developments, as reported by The New York Times—such as, signing a book deal with Chronicle Books and moving out of her parents’ home to live in Los Angeles with a new boyfriend—might leave her searching for blog content focused on this topic. If she can’t continue to produce posts that interest her readers (and that support her book), blog readership could drop. Time will tell.
Koenig’s Tumblr blog, ‘Fuck! I’m In My 20s,’ showcases handwritten notes on the general anxieties facing the 20-something generation as it steps into a turbulent job market. Her book, of course, follows this theme, and shares the same title as her blog. The deal came with a $10,000 advance (Lest you think that is small, it’s actually large for a first-time author in today’s publishing world.) last summer and can be found in Urban Outfitters as well on Amazon and in brick and mortar bookstores.
Here’s what Koenig, a “writer/actor/singer figuring things out in Los Angeles,” told me about blogging successfully, booking her blog and landing a book deal. It’s an interview worth reading, and she’s a blogger worth learning from (even if she is half my age).
She describes her blog, F*ck! I’m in My Twenties, as “a collection of illustrations alongside handwritten commentary about my experiences after college.” The book by the same name is about 50 percent blog material and 50 percent new content.
What process did you use to find or choose the blog posts that went into your book? And out of how many posts did you have to choose?
When deciding which existing blog posts to include in the book, I took into consideration which posts were most popular. but I tried to trust my instincts of what felt best for the book, regardless of “success” on Tumblr. I had a few months worth of material to cull from. Ultimately, it came down to discussions with my editor, and we kept the content that we both felt strongly about.
How did you then organize the posts into a book manuscript, or did you keep the flow that you originally constructed?
My blog isn’t a linear narrative, so it didn’t feel necessary to try and squeeze the material into a new framework for the book. That said, the organization of the pages isn’t totally random. I tried to arrange them in a way that made sense to me.
How much new content did you later add to your book? Did you plan for this content in advance or was it simply added during the editing process?
From the initial conversation about FIIMT possibly becoming a book, I knew that there would have to be an abundance of supplementary content created. I had to make double the amount of new material than what could actually be included in the book. Some of those rejected pages ended up on the blog and some will never be seen by anyone except the Trash icon on my computer.
What kind of editing did you need to do to make the blog posts work in a book?
I think the properties of the pieces allowed me to stay pretty true to the original feel of the blog.
How much editing was necessary to complete your booked blog and make it flow? Did you run into any problems particular to booking a blog?
The editing process was pretty painless. It was just about making some minor adjustments and putting the pieces of the puzzle together. I imagine this is because of the nature of FIIMT. If I were dealing with a lot of written passages or if I were writing a novel, it would obviously be a much different experience.
Did you take your readers input (comments) into account before the manuscript went to press. How did comments affect the final version of the book?
I definitely paid attention to the posts that seemed to really strike a chord with people, but it’s impossible to please everyone. So I had to trust my intuition.
How did blogging a book or booking your blog make you a better writer?
It’s hard for me to say, “I made this blog, and now I’m a better writer because of it!” I’m not sure if the blog-to-book experience itself inherently makes one a better writer than they were before. Furthermore, someone who has written a blog and/or book is not necessarily a better writer than someone who has not. I would like to think that the best way to become a better writer is to write constantly, regardless of what form that takes. Since I’ve spent the last year holding myself accountable to personal and professional deadlines in a more intense, focused way than I’ve ever experienced before, I do think that I’m growing as a writer.
Did booking your blog make you a better blogger (and how)?
I definitely feel motivated and empowered by the life that FIIMT has taken on. I have never stuck with a creative project for this long, particularly one this personal. Experiencing the ups and downs of this process has taught me a lot. I don’t know if I’m a better blogger through maintaining this blog, but I am undoubtedly more aware of the nature of human behavior on the internet, particularly how people use social media.
What advice would you offer to aspiring writers who might want to turn their blogs into books or blog a book?
I know that sometimes it can be almost impossible to operate without agenda, but ideally, one should focus on creating work that would be personally fulfilling whether or not it results in a book. Before FIIMT, I created many, many things that didn’t take off. I had no clue this project would be any different. I just knew there was a voice inside telling me I had to make it and that was enough to devote my time and energy to it and feel like I wasn’t wasting my time. If getting a book deal is absolutely the only goal, you should concentrate on creating first and then getting the word out. One way might be to reach out to blogs with similar content to cross-promote for each other.
Do you have any tips you can offer on blogging books or booking blogs?
My advice would be:
1. Create material you’re passionate about. If you’re only deriving joy from the promotion and not from the process, you are making it a lot harder for yourself.
2. Favor quality over quantity, but do not be so precious about your work that you are never putting stuff out. Consistency is important.
3. Support the work of people you admire. Obviously, you’re not going to like everything you come across, and it’s not your job to do PR for every other blog. However, singing someone’s praises and sharing their work with others is a lot more inspiring than wasting your time bitching about all the blogs you hate. This is not to say all your material has to be positive and cheery (Anyone who’s familiar with FIIMT would see there are a lot of complaints on there), but you don’t want to detract from your own strengths by pouring your energy into criticizing other people’s internet efforts.
What one thing did you do that increased your traffic or brought in more unique visitors?
Early on, a friend suggested I submit my blog to a particular feature on The Huffington Post, so it was posted there, which brought in some new followers. But for the most part, I wasn’t pushing to increase the traffic. It developed fairly organically.
How long did it take for you to gain blog readers and can you pin point any certain event that created a tipping point when readership increased noticeably?
I feel like FIIMT’s audience has, up until recently, grown largely from word of mouth. From the beginning, my friends have been such powerful supporters by sharing it with new people. The followers on Tumblr have also been pretty incredible. In some ways, they are like an internet street team!
How did your blog-to-book deal come about?
I got insanely lucky, and the right person discovered my blog and believed in its potential. This was a personal project that I began in reaction to my seemingly unending unhappiness, which ended up having much more universal appeal than I would have ever imagined.
What’s the most important thing a blogger can do to get noticed in the blogosphere and build an author platform or fan base?
This might seem counter-intuitive, but I think the best way to build a fan base is to strive to create great stuff and not to focus on building a fan base. At least initially. I often get invited to “Like” something or “Follow” something before any content is posted! Those things should come after there is something to share. I think it makes more sense to keep pumping out things you’re excited about and then reaching out a bit so a wider range of people can experience it. The reverse, trying to build up an audience and then having to generate more goods to keep them interested, seems exhausting and frustrating. If you’re in a place where you are ready to build an audience, I would become super knowledgeable about people who are creating similar things and support each other. Be aware of the community your blog is going to appeal to and focus on hitting up the internet havens for that demographic. Trust that your audience is out there. They just haven’t found you yet.
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