Friday, September 29, 2006

Can Bloggers Be Successful In Other Forms?

The Boston Herald reports that some of those publishing deals offered to bloggers have not resulted in big sales for their books at the cash register.

Shoot. I'd been encouraging young relatives to start blogs hoping they would turn into a way for these guys to make a living.

Not really. I know you can't make a living writing.

I think the disappointing book sales could be the result of two factors:

1. Great expectations. Notice that the article claims one blogger received a six-figure advance, which an unnamed agent said was $500,000. (There are six-figure advances, and then there are six-figure advances.) Here's the thing about advances. That money has to come from somewhere. Publishers expect it to come from the sales of your book. You have to sell a lot of books to equal that kind of advance. And, remember, it's only the author's, say, 15 percent of the cover price of the book that counts toward the payback of the advance. So if your percentage of the book is $3.00 and you sell 30,000 copies (which I'm told is the kind of figure you see for a lot of books), your share of the money coming in is $90,000. If your publisher has already given you a $500,000 advance...ouch. Someone is taking a bath.

However, say your advance was only $50,000. If you sell those same 30,000 copies, you'll still make $90,000, only $50,000 of which was advanced to you before the book was published. You've exceeded expectations! Happy, happy, joy, joy.

You, the author, are still making the same amount of money. People just perceive you as being successful instead of a failure.

So perhaps way too much was expected of these books.

2. The second reason some of these books may not have done well is that blogs may be a totally different type of writing. The kind of skills that can crank out a short, possibly topical piece nearly every day may not be the same kind of skills you need to create an extended piece of writing. Certainly people who maintain blogs on personal experience or about personal opinion are going to have to do some major shifting to turn around and write a novel. And they may not have enough material for a nonfiction book or know how to handle that amount of material.

So perhaps a good blogger isn't necessarily good at other types of writing.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

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