How do I pitch my website to publishers in order to try and secure a book deal?
June 8, 2010 11:58 AM   Subscribe

How do I pitch my website to publishers in order to try and secure a book deal?

My little website that could has started to get some serious traction in terms of traffic. It's basically a big collection of weird and funny things that people have actually Google'd. It's the kind of site that would probably lend itself really well to the coffee table book format, as it's something you could pick up and browse through relatively easily for some quick laughs.

I've received a little bit of online press.

I know that other sites similar to mine, such as This Is Why You're Fat, Look At that F-ing Hipster, etc., have received book deals recently. I'm wondering how I actually can get in contact with these people to try and sell them on my idea. Basically, help me sell out to the man because I think it'd be neat.
posted by DrDreidel to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've heard that Kate Lee (ICM?) does a lot of blog-to-book. Gawker concurs, and has some possibly relevant tips.
posted by acidic at 12:11 PM on June 8, 2010

Well... you could go to the people who have purchased the similar books. This is doable. But since you're interested in 'selling out,' I have to tell you that there's not very much money, and a lot of annoying work, in transforming one's website into a book. In fact, there's almost always nothing on the back-end (by which I mean, from book sales, after the advance) because these books don't really earn out their advances. (A few do! Almost none.)

There must be better routes actually to selling out for you, including in book form and up to and including print on demand self-publishing. Like, yes, you could maybe get a $25 grand advance (after agent commission and taxes that's, um, $10 grand?) and that's a great thing! Yay $10 grand! But you will also most likely have a book that then tells publishers that you can't "move" a book. Owning your *own* book, and making your own money off it, while also making money off your website, is really the way to sell out properly. (And keeps you out of a LOT of annoying marketing meetings.)

Please feel free to email me if you'd like to talk about this more.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:13 PM on June 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Mod note: removed links, please put them in your profile if you'd like people to take a look at them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:27 PM on June 8, 2010

The trick is getting publishers to come to you. Focus on improving your site and driving traffic to it. Add features, social networking material, stuff like that. Get more fans on Facebook. Continue doing what your'e doing to get press. The more popular your site, the better your potential book deal is going to be.

I work for a publisher and my boss periodically asks us to send along sites that we think would translate well into books (we're more new age/spirituality, so I wouldn't send yours along, but you get the idea). From my limited experience I'd say that from the looks of your site, I would have trouble immediately envisioning how it could work as a book. More content and features would probably change that impression...if you do end up sending proposals to publishers (as RJ Reynolds suggests, go to those that have published similar books in the past), make it explicitly clear how you think your site would work as a book. The publisher won't necessarily produce your book the way you envision it, which is the not having control piece. But it might get the proposal past the editorial assistants sifting through hundreds of proposals.
posted by prior at 1:08 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it's the website on your profile, then I don't see it working that well as a book - it's very internet based, if you see what I mean. No cutesy pictures like Cheezburger to get people wanting to own it in book form, and not enough text for someone to want to read it dead tree. (I bought the TV Go Home book because it was text-heavy enough for the paper version to be easier on the eye.) Having said that, I'm a reader, not a publisher. I can only tell you what I'd pick up at the tills - and the Passive Aggressive Notes book sold well. Perhaps you should think about how it would work as a book - what would go in there, how it would look, why someone should buy it instead of looking at the website for free.
posted by mippy at 3:15 PM on June 8, 2010

I think most of these come from the blog being discovered by a publisher after it's really caught on. You have to sell an awful lot of books to be worth the printing. And by "caught on", it's not just regular traffic, but huge quantities of traffic. "Enough traffic that you're probably doing pretty well on ads and everybody who knows internet memes knows who you are" kind of levels. Not "there's a few comments here and there and some regular readers" levels.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:40 PM on June 8, 2010

You've received some good advice in this thread already. Let me add my own.

I write a popular personal finance website. It receives 750,000 visits a month (500,000 uniques) and has over 75,000 RSS subscribers. It's been featured in a variety of books and magazines and newspapers. I just published my first book, and it was a direct outgrowth of my blog.

First, let's compare some numbers. Assuming we're talking about SEOlol, the site linked in your profile: Alexa shows it with a traffic rank of 467,789 (U.S. rank of 87,127) and only three sites linking in. Compete shows SEOlol has a rank of 171,845 and gets about 250 visitors per month (though it scored 10,000 uniques in April -- congrats!) Voice of reality here: This is not serious transaction, not even with 10,000 uniques. Plus, even if you're at 100,000 uniques, you've only been there for a month or two.

Now compare those numbers with my site. Alexa shows Get Rich Slowly with a traffic rank of 14,412 (U.S. rank of 4,173) and 2,673 inbound links. Compete gives my site a rank of 6,648 and shows it gets 300,000 uniques per month. (This is about half what Google Analytics says, but that's another discussion topic.) I've had this much traffic for several years now.

I'm not quoting these numbers to initiate a pissing match. I'm trying to ground things in reality. I've been fortunate that the size and popularity of my site has led to many publishers and agents contacting me, asking me if I'd like to do a book. I was in the awesome position of being able to wait for the right offer to come along. (And now that the first book is published, I'm getting offers for a second book.) But my situation is rare, and is a result of having a platform as well as a timely topic with broad interest. (Everyone wants to know how to improve their money, especially nowadays.)

My book has been out for almost three months, and the publisher is pleased with sales. But sales are hardly what most people would expect. You don't write a book to get rich. It's very unlikely to happen. And publishers don't put out books that they don't think people will buy.

In your case, if we're talking about SEOlol, you've got something of a problem. Your traffic isn't very large. And if it's growing, it's only just beginning. A publisher is going to want to see proof of long-term sustained interest in the subject. What's more, SEO is something of niche nomenclature. Who is your target audience? It's not very broad. My mom wouldn't buy your book. Neither would my brother. Even my geeky friends (those who might be most interested and would get the SEOlol references) would be unlikely to buy it.

I'm not trying to discourage you from pursuing this, but I'm trying to be a voice of reason. If publishers and agents aren't contacting you already, then you'll have to follow the traditional route for all non-fiction books: You'll have to write a proposal, submit it to an agent (and/or publisher), and go through the process of finding a fit. There are a number of great books about writing a book proposal, and I recommend you find one that makes sense for you. (Just search for "book proposal" on Amazon to see what's out there.) As part of the proposal, you'll have to explain who would buy your book and why, and how many you think you could sell.

Bottom line: If you want to sell out to the man, you're going to have to find a way to make your idea attractive. Otherwise, the man's not even going to give you a second look.

Postcript: Let's be clear on something. Writing a book isn't a lark. It's a hell of a lot of hard work. Or at least it was for me, and for all of the people I know who have been through the process. In fact, the esteemed Mr. Haughey even tried to talk me out of writing a book because the experience has sucked for him. It sucked for me, too, and if I'd known what I was getting myself into, I wouldn't have done it. (Or I would have asked for very different terms — like eight months to write instead of four.) I've run the numbers, and unless something drastic happens, I'm going to end up having earned less than minimum wage for my book. Is minimum wage worth selling out the man for? That's your call. I know what my answer would be...
posted by jdroth at 7:45 PM on June 8, 2010

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