Many bloggers dream of publishing a book with their Internet content. In fact, it seems that there is no need to write a book anymore; you can just gather all your blog posts, add some nice graphics, do some minor editing, and off you go; instant literary success awaits. As things are, this fantasy is not very realistic. Successful books created with blog content share some similar characteristics, and it is extremely hard to make it as a blogger trying to break into the literary arena unless your blog shares those characteristics too.
Hyperbole and a half is a successful blog by writer and illustrator Allie Brosh. It chronicles her awkward childhood, her even more awkward depression, and her general feeling of social ineptitude throughout her life. Her drawings are as hilarious and unique as her point of view. Readers have been drawn to the blog because they love dog stories (Brosh is also very passionate about her dogs), because they felt relieved to see depression discussed with a humorous note, or just simply because they love quirky humor and laughing about people in awkward situations. Her first book based on the blog was, indeed, an instant success; but that was nowhere near casual. Naturally, the rising popularity of graphic novel printingwas also an important factor in this case.
1. FAN BASE When Allie Brosh was tempted to create a graphic novel with some of her blog posts and a few new stories, she already had a solid fan base. Hundreds of thousands of people awaited her posts eagerly, laughed heartily when reading them, and shared them extensively with their friends. In a way, the book was a safe bet: the fans seemed passionate enough that they would buy it. TIP: Try to connect with your readers online in a meaningful way, keep creating valuable content, and build a solid fan base before you venture into the publishing arena.
2. SYNERGY Allie Brosh´s graphic novel worked because her drawings are perfect for her texts. This is a rare occurrence; having the writer do the art too. If you are interested in creating a graphic novel specifically, the success of your collaboration with graphic artists is one of the keys to the kingdom. Devoting enough time to your work with artists can yield great rewards. If the book is not a graphic novel. the same can be said of the editor. Some bloggers have no clue about writing books, and they need to work with a seasoned editor to turn their blog content into a coherent whole. The synergy created through these artistic collaborations is essential to the success of any book project.
3. KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE Allie Brosh and her publishers knew their audience. For example, they knew people who had suffered from depression were instantly drawn to the material, because the author´s humorous depression stories offered some self-help value to them. They knew which posts were the most popular, they were aware of the types of content the book must absolutely have to satisfy its readers. Targeting a specific type of audience is part of the ABC of publishing success. Some writers believe that if they write good stories, they will succeed, but if they don´t know who will be interested, success can be elusive. Especially if you are not a famous author, targeting a type of audience you know well is key.
4. EXCLUSIVE CONTENT The promotion for Brosh´s book always mentioned that the book had 50% new content. This refers to stories that are not available on the blog, new stories that hardcore fans had never read before. For someone who follows a blog, a book made up of 100% content he or she has already seen is not that attractive. Brosh found a nice balance in making half of the book familiar and pleasant to revisit for fans and the other half an new unknown territory to discover, albeit in the same beloved style they were already used to.
5. KNOWING YOUR PRODUCT “Hilarious stories about life’s mishaps from the creator of the immensely popular blog ‘Hyperbole and a Half’. Fully illustrated with over 50% new material.” This is what you will find if you go to Amazon and try to find Brosh´s book. It´s simple, straightforward, and it tells you everything you need to know. These are the book´s three selling points: subject matter (Stories about life´s mishaps), author/fan base (from the creator of the immensely popular blog “Hyperbole and a Half”), value/content (fully illustrated, 50% new material). Basically, if you don´t have two or three powerful selling points to create a tag line like this, maybe you are not ready to market your book just yet.
Writers often write their books and then figure out how to market them, but if you want to test the waters to see if it is a good idea to turn your blog into a book, you can try to create mockups of your Amazon page, your marketing strategy, your blurb, etc. If you can come up with a solid strategy that you think can attract the attention of a specific audience, you are on the right track.
I would love to hear about your book ideas and offer some marketing and editorial tips. Please use the comments section for this. I promise to reply shortly.
All post images by Hyperbole and a half