This perennial favorite may never be left off the agenda. We’ll again talk to authors, agents and publishers about what it takes to move blogging brilliance onto printed page. Come hear from author and blogger Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, self-publishing marketing expert Penny Sansevieri, new media publisher Yvonne DiVita and self-published author Deb Rox on how to hit the best seller list, whether self-publishing is the right option for you, and how to do it successfully. 

Blog to Book: The Threequel

Deb Rox from Deb on the Rocks – I love blogs! I'm crazy sick in love with blogs! I'm on blogs and Twittering all the time. I'm also a consultant and I have a few online biz that make money. Out of my love of blogs, I wanted to write a book to tell people why they should love blogs, aside from the big seven names. It's called Five Ways to ____ Your Blog.

Penny Sansevieri from A Marketing Expert – Our core focus is helping authors and publishers to market. How do you go from blog to book? Self publishing, etc. I'm an avid blogger and twitterer.

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor – I've written 3 books, and this is my third one. (Title very long) I'm published by Simon Schuster. I got my first book by a fluke, but I got my second book through the normal route by a proposal. I just finished my third book, and I have a deal for my fourth book, too. I know nothing about self publishing, and I don't Twitter.

Yvonne DiViaa – I'm a print on demand publisher, and I”ve also worked in the traditional publishing world as an agent. I wrote a book about marketing to women online. I wanted it to be provacative, so I called it Dickless Marketing. It's not about that! It's about Dick and Jane, and how Dick has to ask Jane for permission to buy anything.

Yvonne: Deb, how did you come up with the title for your book?

Deb: I wanted the title to reflect blogging. I liked how lists sometimes defined the content on blogging. The title fit my concept, which is that you can do anything in five steps. I left a blank because I wanted it to fit anyone. If you want to ruin your blog, it can help you. IF you want to monetize, it can help you do that.
We blog, and we think about it as second nature, but there are many many people who want in, but they're afraid. They might not know their concept before they start. I really wanted to make my book sound approachable and versativle.

Yvonne: And interesting. So Penny, what's the most important thing anyone should know about writing a book?

Penny: There are 1100 books published every day in the US. 80% of them are published without a goal. So you have to know what your goal is. The next thing you should do is start marketing your book before you have a book.

Someone shouted out “how?”

Penny: It depends on what your book is about, but generally, publishers want to see your platform. It could be your blog or your speaking engagements. Start getting the word out there. It's never too early. I mean, you don't want to go on Oprah before you're writing, but you need to get the word out.

Yvonne: That platform is so important. Someone I know got her book deal because of her platform. She knew people all over, and the publisher wanted to know that the book would sell.

Stefanie: I had no platform when I started, but I had something better. I had connections. Every single person in this room knows somebody who knows somebody knows someone who can help them get a book published. You have to have a voice. I personally didn't know what my book would be when I started my blog, but the publisher wanted to know. So I made something up quickly. You have to lie. I told them that I'd write about the first year of being a mom, even though my baby was only four months old. If they ask for sample chapters, go home and write them. Publishers want to know what the book is. They have to know what the beginning, middle, and end is.
If you can blog, you can write.
I wrote my own personal experiences. I thought I should take out the swear words, but my editor said “No. That's why we hired you.” But if you have a softer voice, don't change that, either. You have to be you. Being provocative is good, if you're provocative. I sent my URL to a bunch of my friends, and one of my girlfriends at the time was Chelsea Handler. She and I were doing stand up together at the time. I sent it to a lot of friends who would like it and give me feedback. I sent it to her, and she sent it to her editor who liked it. He asked me if I had more stuff, so I sent it to him.

Yvonne: So we're hearing a lot of

Lisa Johnson from Lisa Johnson Fitness: What is a platform? If you have 50 reallly loyal readers, I assume that's not going to get you a book contract. Is there some sort of magic number that gives you legitimacy in the eyes of a publisher.

Penny: I know a lot of publishers who ereally know the numbers, but don't know what to do with a platform. They'll publish it, but you still have to market it. You want to make sure that they know how to market the book. You need a very very detailed outline of how they're going to push that book using social media and other sources.

Stephanie: Most large publishers have an inhouse publicist. They might not work hard for you, but they're going to help.

Yvonne: I had 2 people on the New York Times best seller list who contacted me to ask for help because their publishers deserted them.

Penny: You need to know how much interaction a person gets. How much commenting, how many responses.

Audience: Kamey Weichoff, who launched She Writes: I just started She Writes. There are a lot of really experienced writers on there as well as brand new bloggers. If you want to write a book, the first step really is to write a book. It's greuling. If you don't work every day on writing a book. You can't go out and find a publisher and say “Don't you want me to write a book for you?” You have to hone your craft and you have to actually write the book. You have to have a finished manuscript to share with publishers.

Deb: You're going to have to market your book anyway. That's where the self publishing comes in. Self publishing means that you own the book. You will learn how to market a book. It can help you develop an income stream. You can show a publisher that you understand all that. I don't think we're as connected as we think. Some self publishers are finding that. It can be a really great way to do it.

Stephanie: You CAN sell a book without a finished manuscript. You have to have some of it written, yes. But I think a lot of us write better on a deadline. Yes, you have to have some. You have to be able to show them that you can write. If you can find somebody interested in it, you will have a deadline. Many of us write better on a deadline.

Penny: Publishers like things that people like. Once you self publish, a publisher might pick you up because they will see that people like you. They'll see that you've been successful already.

Audience question: What is it that you need and to whom do you present it?

Stephanie: Because I have a book published, people always send me proposals. I don't write a proposal unless someone asks for it. My agent will look at a few chapters. My agent is at ICM. She doesn't want to read a boring a proposal. She likes to see 4 chapters and a sentence about what it's about. If she likes it, she'll ask for a proposal. Then you can get on it and write the proposal. If you hurry, you can write a proposal in two weeks.

Audience question: I've been seeing a lot of book reviews and book giveaways online. The new thought is that people who are just getting started are creating buzz online, through social media. I think it's great for people who are writing new books.

Audience question: How do you make that transition from blogging every day to writing a book? Do I take old blog posts and beef them up? Blogs are time intensive.

Stephanie: When I was writing my actual book, I didn't blog that much. I went back and stole a few blog posts and changed it because I trusted that my editor wouldn't know they were already way out there. There are always exceptions, like Dooce whose book was her blog. Most editors will say that they don't want a book made of stuff that's already out there. They'll say that they want all new stuff.

Audience question: I want to write a fiction book. I have this personal blog. It's wonderful, and it showcases my voice. How important is a platform is I want to write a fiction book?

Penny: In fiction, your voice is everything. Your blog would give an agent a sense of that. Are you engaging? Do people like what you write? It's that kind of thing.

Deb: Just like every blog is different, every book is different. The way you approach it can be different. There's not one way to do it. How to books are very different from a memoir, for example. We all feel like there is a book inside us, but it might be many books.

Stephanie: I want to make a quick point about platform. In my experience, the publishers don't really understand blogging well. You could say you have a million readers, and they wouldn't know. You might have to instruct the publisher on what blogging is about, and who they need to contact.

Audience question: I don't actually blog. I'm a feminist scholar, and I do write books. I'm writing a book right now about women in science. The reason I'm here is to come to the conference and promote my books. There's a real disconnect between bloggers and traditional publishers. My book is being done with the Feminist Press. The first four questions they asked were blog-related. They clearly know that blogs are where it's at, but they clearly don't know what's going on there. I find it really ironic that there are all these bloggers who want to know how to get in books, and there are all these books who want to know how to get on blogs.

Stephanie: A lot of companies are catching on. My agent has a person who just looks at blogs, to see which ones might be made into books.

Audience question: I started writing blogs years ago. I always wanted to be a fiction writer, and I have had fiction published. IF you check the @TheWriterMama on Twitter, she has discussions about platforms and how to get started writing in fiction. She says not to blog your book, but you can blog about your research or about your character's interests. That would be your platform.

Audience question: I went through this process a few years ago. We had an agent, we were negotiating. And then they pulled the rug out from under us and someone else wrote and published our book idea. How do you protect yourself?

Yvonne: In the traditional publishing world, their goal is to own your copyright. If you don't have an agent, there are certain things that you must protect in your contract. You must get back the rights if they decide to not publishing it. You must get the rights back if they decide to pull it out of print. You have to have an agent looking out for you and protecting you.

Audiene question: IF you're looking for an agent, is there a format? What's the best way to go about finding one if you have worked your connections, and you can't find anyone?

Penny: Writer's Digest books and Jeff Hermann books. You cal also go to writer's conferences that are not on the craft of writing, but are about publishing. You need an elevator pitch. That's what going to sell the book to the agent. It can take a long time to hear back from an agent. Query them all at the same time. Most agents that I know do want book proposals.

Yvonne: Do not pay an agent to read your book. If you come upon an agent who flatters you, but wants to charge you to read it, skip them.

Penny: Make sure they're passtionate about your book. If they aren't passionate about it, they won't sell it.

Audienec: How do you evaluation agents and publishers and find out if you have a good one?

Penny: Publishers Market, $20 a month. Publishers Lunch Weekly will show you who's made recent deals. They should have made deals recently. You can Google their names, too. You'll find that information.

Audience: I rank #1 on Google for Women's Issues, but I have not had publishers beating down my door. I see publicists who work great for their writers. They won't take on just anyone, so if they take you on, they must like you. You can't expect your publisher to do the work.

Stephanie: I disagree. I think bloggers have more connections than many publicists. Bloggers have way more connections than they think. You can make the cold calls yourself that the publicist would make. Give them ideas. Make connections. Work the system. Get people to review your book.

Audience: Book proposal. I've had friends and gone to workshops about book proposals. 35 pages about why you are uniquely qualified to write the book, other books you will compete against. I write for a living, but I would be terrified about writing a proposal. I find the proposal intimidating, and I write for a living. How do we get through that?

Stephanie: It doesn't have to be dry. Nobody wants to read something dry. Write a proposal in your voice. Find someone who wrote a proposal that was successful and fun and stood out.

Yvonne: Get some help. Get help from somebody who knows how to do it. You have lots of connections who can help you. It doesn't hurt to get a book on Book proposals to use as a guide, but just use it as a guide. Make your porposal unique.

Audience: I went to a children's writing and publishing conference where I stood behind an agent for hours. He knew who I was! He told me to keep building my platform and keep doing what I'm doing. He did contact me and told me that he wants a book proposal from me. Should I blog about it?

Penny: No. Don't blog about the deal. I would wait. There's a lot that can go from start to finish. You might decide in the long run that it's not the right match for you. I had a publishing deal for my book because it was going to take 18 months to publish. I didn't want to wait that long, so I self published.

Deb: It's a 2 way street. There are a lot of different things you might want out of the book deal, but you are evaluating them as well as they're evaluating you. You can't let yourself getting run over just because you're flattered.

Stephanie: If you have an agent who's very interested in your book, they can work for you.

Audience: The agent that I had fizzled. He had others things that he had to do, and now I don't know. Do I re-turn out the same thing?

Stephanie: You have a great thing. Screw that agent. Bring it to another agent. Have somebody else read it. Change the title and go on to someone else.

Yvonne: Traditional publishers are looking at the cost savings of print on demand. About 40% of published books get returned to the publisher and ground into pulp. They're looking at ways to mitigate that cost, and print on demand is part of that. They don't give an advance and the royalties are very small.

Deb: There are hybrid publishers where they will represent you, but you have to do the art design and take care of the logistics yourself.

Audience: We had a very honest relationship with our publisher who said our first book was okay and our second book would be half as successful as okay, and they weren't interested in pursuing that.

Deb: There are many reasons to publish. The reason might be that your heart pushes you to tell your story. I do speak a lot, and it's very helpful to have a back of the room book sale to give people a connection to take home with you.

Yvonne: When you're asked to speak, include the back of the room book sale in the deal. They need to sell your book. As soon as you write a book, you become an expert. Book as business card. You're going to remember me a lot better if I give you my book instead of my biz card.

Audience: What are the basics of publishing? What do you pay? What does the publisher pay? What are the logistics of self publishing?

Penny @Bookgal: 2 forms of self publishing – Print on demand (see @BookGal for recommendations). Edit your book at least twice, preferably 5 times. You are hiring a company to print your book for you. They'll get you an ISBN #, get you on Amazon, get you in book stores, etc. It costs $1500-$2500. Print on demand takes care of a lot of stuff for you if you don't have the time. If you do have the time, you can do it yourself.

I have a ton of resources. You can DM me and I'll send you a whole list of self publishing resources.

Deb: Is there's an upfront cost? What will you make per book? Some publishers have a hybrid system. Look at your other resources. You have resources. I bought the services on a wonderful designer with an Etsy Shop. I hired bloggers to help me edit my book. We have the resources that other people are crazy for as far as putting your book together.

Audience: I just got a book deal. The main thing is your relationship with your agent. They need to understand Twitter and blogging and how to get it to a publisher.

Audience: I'm Jen Lancaster. My last book debuted at #8 on the New York Times Best Seller List. You have to be aware of what kind of books an agent represents. Pitch your book to someone who puts out books that you like or are similar to your book. I don't think that self publishing is an option if you want to be a “real” author.

Yvonne: I disagree. I don't look at the publisher when I pick up a book. I look at the book.

Audience: Do you have any tips for ?

Stephanie: It's all about the voice. If there are 10,000 books out there, you have to have a unique and interesting voice that has something interesting to say. You can't be fearful. You have to sit alone in your house and just writing. Don't self sensor. Have a few cocktails and write it. People want to read honesty.

Audience: Sleep is for the Weak. How do you keep a book that you have had published alive? I'm going to cry when my book goes out of print. What can authors do to increase the lifespan of a book?

Penny: The best way to sell your first book is to write your second. Unless your book has a very short lifespan, you can continue to market it year after year after year. I've put out many editions. I'm on the 3rd edition of my book right now.

Stephanie: Do you think it's better, money-wise, to self publish if you know that you have a really big platform (blogging and google, etc). Do you think you would make the same money self publishing than you would from an advance?

Penny: We work with the authors from Trader Joe's who've sold 45,000 copies self published. Publishers are coming after them because they are so successful, but they are making tons of money so they aren't interested in a publisher.

Deb: It's really the type of book you have.

Yvonne: I think it's opportunity. Maybe your platform will sell a million copies of your book, and that money would all go in your pocket. If you were with a publisher, a lot of the money would go into their pocket. Get really comfortable with your voice. Don't ever give up.

What's your takeaway? Build your platform.


(Unedited. Will edit ASAP)

Posted by Tara from Feels Like Home