I Can Has Book Deal?!

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I Can Has Cheezburger? Book CoverOn October 6, 2009, the YPG hosted the much-anticipated I Can Has Book Deal?! Brown Bag Lunch. A lively and humorous romp through the world of blogs-to-books, the panelists Ben Huh, the owner of icanhavecheezburger.com and GraphJam.com, Erin Malone, a literary agent at William Morris Endeavor, and Patrick Mulligan, a Senior Editor at Gotham Books offered the YPG-ers valuable insight into the art of turning great blogs into books that sell. 

When it comes to blogs-to-books, the panelists were in agreement: Getting a book out while the blog is still popular is key. Ben’s organization, Pet Holdings Inc., signed a book deal for I Can Has Cheezburger? only 8 months after they bought the website. That seems fast, but the incubation period keeps getting shorter, putting more pressure on publishers to anticipate the next big thing. However, as Erin was quick to point out, not all popular blogs make good books. She went on to stress the importance of writing quality, longevity, the community surrounding the blog (and iron-clad “terms of use”). Ben very aptly described a book-worthy blog as an “instant zeitgeist.” 

Discussing the struggles that publishers face when trying to sell and market books based on blogs, Erin argued that, while incredibly helpful, the built-in online audience is not enough to adequately market a book. To be profitable, a book must be able to stand on its own merit, making traditional book marketing key to reaching traditional media and breaking into the mainstream. Patrick sighted store placement and shelving as another main concern, and all agreed that, to sell this kind of book, it needs to be placed where it can be seen and handled by the customer. Because of the aggressive sales estimates made necessary by the high cost of producing full-color books, the difference between face-out and spine-out can make a big financial difference to a publisher.

 When asked to predict whether the current blogs-to-books trend had real staying power, the panel concluded that blogs were fast becoming a must-have for aspiring authors. Erin recognized them as a good outlet for a new author to find and grow an audience, and Ben and Patrick agreed that blogs can be a useful way to prove to a publisher that there is an audience for a given subject, and that the author is skilled enough to write to that audience.  Blogs can also be a good way for an author to demonstrate his/her ability to produce a wide range of content while demonstrating that they are part of the community that they are trying to engage. Established blogs can lend authenticity to an otherwise unknown author by showing the consistency of the quality of their writing, and the readiness of their audience to engage with the material.

 As our panel acknowledged, there is a bright future for blogs in the publishing world, but nobody is quite sure exactly what form that future will take.

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