Almost everyone should forget about making money directly from blogging. It’s so unlikely that it’s a total waste of your time trying. I am actually shocked at how ubiquitous the idea is that blogging is a get-rich-quick scheme. Or even a get-rich-slowly scheme. It’s not. Blogging is a great career tool for creating opportunities for yourself. But here are eight reasons you should stop thinking about money from blogging:

1. Big bloggers come from big media.
Usually I’m the first person to rip on print media as outdated and a dead-end career. But here’s something that maybe you don’t realize: Most big bloggers today have a strong background writing for print. For example: Erik Schoenfeld (TechCrunch), Owen Thomas (Valleywag), and I all wrote for Business 2.0 magazine at the same time. Ten years ago. Which means we had a ton of national media experience before we started blogging. Anya Kamenetz (Yahoo Finance) wrote for the Village Voice and had a very serious book published—before she started blogging.

2. Sure, there are exceptions. But you’re probably not one of them.
Let’s look at some people who have big blogs who didn’t come from big media. Heather Armstrong at Dooce. She’s a good one. Here’s what she has that you don’t: She’s a talented writer and a talented designer. She’s married to a developer who does all her tech stuff for free. And she has an amazing story to tell. She has the ability to translate her genius across many media—photography, memoir, twitter, and so on. She is a marvel. And you are not. None of us is. That’s why she is making so much money from her blog. Read more

I love RealSelf. It’s a site that educates women about choices for looking younger.

I have written a lot about how anti-aging information is essential for managing one’s career. Aging is not equal in the workplace. Women are penalized much more heavily than men. So women can gain power in the world through knowledge of the tools for looking younger.

But mainstream media is reluctant to recommend that women turn to a resource like RealSelf. Those reporters don't like the reality of the world they live in, so they don't write about it.

That's why public relations professionals should scrap the traditional pitch to mainstream media — saying that is almost cutting edge, except that Obama's team beat me to it:

Time magazine has great analysis on why Obama's campaign team was so effective. Read more

People ask me all the time how they can get a book deal. So I had my agent write a post on how to get a book deal. But really, I’m telling you, you probably don’t need to write a book. Every time I ask someone why they want to write a book, they have a terrible answer.

So instead of worrying about how maybe you need to get a book deal, consider these reasons why a book deal is no good for you:

1. People who have a lot of ideas need a blog, not a book.
A blog is more immediate, so you'll get better feedback. And getting feedback as you go is much more intellectually rigorous than printing a final compendium of your ideas and getting feedback from the public only when it’s too late to change anything.

Many people think they have a ton of ideas and they are brimming with book possibilities when in fact, most of us have very few new ideas. If you have so many ideas, prove it to the world and start blogging. There is nothing like a blog to help you realize you have nothing new to say.

And, if you do end up having an amazing blog that focuses on one, big grand idea with great writing to boot, then you can get a book deal from your blog.

Read more

When I was growing up, there was lots of chatter in the media about how models gave girls bad role models. Today that’s old news. What we should talk about now is how the media portrays moms.

Take a look at the spread in People magazine of Jennifer Lopez and her one-month-old twins. The photos are so elegant that at first I thought it was a parody. But in fact, it is mommy porn: the visual fantasy of what being a working mom could be. And it really could be that, if it weren’t that someone like Jennifer Lopez must have a household full of helpers in order to keep her career on track while she has kids: a cook, a trainer, two or three nannies, a cleaner, an assistant, a stylist. And others I’m sure I can’t even imagine.

Here’s another example of mommy porn: Angelina Jolie, and her fifty kids. She has a rule that the nannies (plural, yes, each kid has their own) cannot be photographed holding the kids, because it’s bad for Angelina’s image as a mom. But this is the problem: It looks like these very successful women have it all, even though they don’t.

Here’s what happens: Some reporter interviews someone about their big job. And then the person ends up talking about the mythic work-life-balance topic. And they say something like, “Throughout my career I did [insert something that is supposed to be wonderful for children] for my kids.” And now, of course, we must assume that the kids are doing fine. But why do we believe that? Why do we even ask? We have no hope of learning the truth. After all, there are very few people in the world who are in a position to say that their career is, as they speak, harming their kids.

So journalists writing about moms being moms are not reporting the truth. It is propaganda. It is parents saying that they lived their lives in a way that was good for their kids. But really, who knows? The reporter has little ability to check. So all we’re left with is the parents giving their subjective and hugely biased opinion that their kids are turning out fine.

I’m not saying that every kid is messed up from their parents’ careers. I’m saying that I’m sick of learning about how famous families want us to think they are doing by looking at what is really only mommy porn, what is really just parenting propaganda.

So look, in the interest of truth-telling, I’m telling you this: people are not being honest about what it’s like to be with kids. People are scared to admit that they would rather be at work than with their kids, because work is easier than parenting. (Notable exception: Sally Krawcheck.) If I have to read about how much someone loves their kids one more time, I’m gonna puke. Because we all know that parents love their kids. It’s not interesting. It’s not helpful. It’s not even very relevant. For anyone.

What’s interesting is the part where parents love their kids but don’t love being with them on a daily basis. It’s very scary to write. But I’m telling you, if the feeling weren’t ubiquitous then there would be no one to be in middle management working 9-5 because they’d all be home with their kids, doing freelance work after bedtime.

People are choosing to go to work rather than stay with their kids all day. But no one talks about making this choice because they are scared their kids will read it. I’m not sure what the right answer is. I just know that somehow there has to be a more honest discussion of parenting in this world.

So with all the mommy porn, the media does a lot to make us think that work life balance is possible, in the same way anorexic bodies without treatment for anorexia is possible.

So there’s real damage from mommy porn. Everyone begins thinking that every woman should be parenting gracefully while working full time. This gives people the temerity to ask me, nearly every day: Who takes care of your kids?

That’s right. The genesis of this rant is that I was meeting with an investor — a guy in his early 40s — and we were talking about my travel schedule and he asked, “Who takes care of your kids?”

I told this to one of my board members and he said, “What??? Why did you answer that question?”

I said I answer it because I get the question every single day. Literally. And I don’t think twice about it anymore. But in fact, it’s a totally offensive question. Here’s how I’m so sure: I tried it out on Mr. Sales Guy. And even though Mr. Sales Guy and I work the same number of hours, he said something to the effect of, “I’m not really sure what goes on with the kids all day, you have to ask my wife.” He answered the question as if we were doing girl talk. As if I had asked him, “What brand of tampon does your wife use?”

So I want to tell you something: Women earn more than men in most major cities today. And in corporate America, up and down the ladder, women and men are on equal footing in the workplace in terms of who gets paid what, as long as neither party has kids. But the level of expectations people have for parenting is absolutely insane. The mommy porn feeds this problem. Everyone is drawn to the ideal of Angelina Jolie as the perfect combination of careerist and mother like the Pied Piper’s tune, and these attitudes are more exhausting to me than any amount of actual parenting ever is.

Will everyone please shut up about the typos on blogs? Show me someone who is blogging every day and also complains about someone’s typos. Just try. See? You can’t. Because anyone who is trying to come up with fresh ideas, and convey them in an intelligent, organized way, on a daily basis, has way too many things on their plate to complain about other peoples’ typos.

There is a new economy for writing. The focus has shifted toward taking risks with conversation and ideas, and away from hierarchical input (the editorial process) and perfection.

As the world of content and writing shifts, the spelling tyrants will be left behind. Here are five reasons why complaining about typos is totally stupid and outdated.

1. Spellchecker isn’t perfect.
Everyone knows that Spellchecker misses some words. And everyone knows that sometimes we think we are making a stylistic choice when we have actually made a grammar error.

And anyway, it’s nearly impossible for us to catch the errors that Spellchecker misses. If it were tenable to proofread one’s own stuff, then there would never have been a copy editor to begin with. And there is research to show that if the first and last letter of a word are correct then our brain adjusts for all the letters in between. (My personal favorite of all Spellchecker problems: form and from. Try it—there are so many cases when both words will get past Spellchecker.)

So don’t bitch to me that I should use Spellchecker.

2. Spelling has nothing to do with intelligence.
Usually the person who is bitching about spelling errors also has to make some comment about how the blogger in question is a moron—but you might want to rethink the idea that a spelling error is a sign of incompetence.

Many people with dyslexia are very smart. Most kids who win spelling bees have many signs of Asperger’s syndrome (see the documentary on this, which I love). This means that many amazing spellers actually have brains that are developing intellectual skills (in this case, spelling skills) at the expense of social skills.

So people who have spelling problems might be super intelligent with great social skills—if you’d just take the time to notice.

3. You don’t have unlimited time, so spend it on ideas, not hyphens.
I am extremely knowledgeable about grammar. I can parse any sentence. I can sign the preposition song in my sleep. So I feel fine telling you that there are great writers who don’t know grammar.

Real grammarians, by the way, have memorized the AP Stylebook. Newspapers and magazines have people who are paid to enforce these rules. There is no way a blogger could hire for this, and few bloggers can justify spending the years it takes to memorize The AP Stylebook. So you could spend your life reading the AP Stylebook, or you could spend your life spouting ideas.

So what if your ideas have hyphens in the wrong places and you turn an adverb into a noun? People can almost always figure out what you’re saying anyway, but they won’t care enough to try without a great idea lurking there to attract their effort. And there’s a reason that people who have amazing ideas get paid twenty times more than people who have amazing grammar: Ideas are worth a lot more to us.

4. Perfectionism is a disease.
If errors bother you a lot, consider that you might be a perfectionist, which is a disorder. Perfectionists are more likely to be depressed than other people because no amount of work seems like enough. They are more likely to be unhappy with their work because delegating is nearly impossible if you are a perfectionist. And they are more likely to have social problems because people mired in details cannot look up and notice the nuances of what matters to other people.

5. Use the comments section for what matters: Intelligent discourse.
The comments section of a blog is a place for people to exchange ideas. The best comments sections, of which I think mine is one, is full of smart, curious people who don’t spend as much time finding perfect answers (are there any?) as finding good questions. The best comments sections are full of people helping each other to sharpen the questions we ask.

So blogging is not an homage to perfectionism but rather an homage to the art of being curious. And while old journalism was hell-bent on being Right and being The Authority, new journalism understands that news is a commodity and opinion-makers are the layer that goes on top of the news to make it resonate. So stop wasting your time in the comments section parsing grammar and start contributing to the discussion.

I just got fired from Yahoo Finance.

The long road to my quick termination started in the spring, when I grew friendly with one of the higher-ups in engineering at Yahoo. When he became my boss’s boss’s boss at Yahoo, he suggested that we meet if we were ever both in New York at the same time.

It turned out that we would both be there in December, so I asked him if he wanted to get together, and he said yes. His secretary said she’d email me the venue when the date was closer.

The week before, the venue turned out to be the Yahoo offices in New York. I thought that was weird for a casual meeting with a guy who did not even have his own office at that building. That is when I should have called to find out if we had a specific topic for the meeting.

When I got to the meeting my boss’s boss was there as well, so I knew there was a big topic. I told myself to never ever walk into another meeting in my life without knowing who is coming and why I am there. I told myself to stay calm and start looking for clues about our topic so I could mentally prepare.

They went on and on about some sort of technical problem that was happening that day. Of the three of us, two were nontechnical, so I realized this topic was selected due to nervous energy: A clue that this meeting would be really bad.

To his credit, the guy I thought I was friendly with got right down to the point: “We are not renewing your contract.”

The first thought I had was: When is my contract up?

And then I realized: Oh. Now.

The next thought I had was: Be poised. Do not break down right now.

I have been fired a lot. Sometimes it has not mattered, like when my grandma fired me from her bookstore because I kept reading on the job. Sometimes it has been a bad scene with me shaking because I was so scared – like when I was fired at Ingram Micro for using the computer for non-work-related stuff (Yes, people got fired for that in 1995.)

But I checked in with myself at Yahoo and realized that I was fine. I was not going to cry. I was actually in problem-solving mode.

So I asked why I was being fired.

Maybe you are thinking it’s because every week, 400 people leave comments on Yahoo saying how stupid I am. (And surely today’s final column at Yahoo Finance will break records for she-is-so-stupid comments.) But that’s not the reason my column was cancelled; Yahoo is about traffic, and according to Wikipedia, my column has some of the highest traffic on all of Yahoo.

It turns out that financial content gets a higher CPM (advertising rate) than career content. So while my column has a lot of traffic, Yahoo sells my career column to advertisers as part of the Yahoo Finance package, and I bring down the CPM of the whole package.

That’s a fair reason to cancel the column. And actually, if it were not resulting in a huge financial hit for me, it would be an interesting reason.

Here’s what a career advisor does when she is being fired: She tries to remember the advice she gives to everyone else when they are getting fired.

I asked if there’s another place I can write at Yahoo. This tactic is straight out of the book: Use your last moments to network, even if you are getting fired.

Here’s what my boss’s boss’s boss said: “You should write for Lifestyles. That is more women oriented.”

Immediately I was reminded of when my column was cancelled at Business 2.0 magazine. After I had recently announced that I was pregnant and said I did not plan to take any time off from writing the column.

My editor told me, as he was firing me, “Now that you’re going to be a mom you should try writing someplace like Working Mother.”

This advice from ex-bosses makes me question my own advice about getting help from people who are firing you. But still, discussions progressed at Yahoo to HotJobs, which is a Yahoo channel, and I could end up writing for them.

Also, a big trade publication called me last week to see if I want to write a column for them. The editor said that she sees me as such a huge risk taker, and she expects that the column will be a lot about that – how to take risks.

The thing is, I don’t think I’m a huge risk taker. I just choose the lifestyle I want first, before I choose my work. Lifestyle first means that I turned down entry-level bullshit jobs in favor of playing professional beach volleyball. Not because I was dying to have all my friends think I was a lunatic, but because I couldn’t believe people expect you to do mindless work after earning a college degree.

And the same is true now. I am a freelance writer because if I worked nine-to-five I wouldn’t see my kids. That’s my bottom line. There have been so many times when I’ve told myself that I can’t stand the instability of a freelancer’s life. But more than that, I can’t stand the idea that I would only see my kids on the weekends.

People ask me all the time how can they get this life that I have where I do something I love, get to make my own hours, and support a family. Seems great, right? But that life also comes with this: having no idea how I’ll get paid next. And it happens all the time.

Soon, I hope, I’ll be able to draw a salary from my startup. And my speaking career is going well enough that getting fired from Yahoo won’t kill me. But I am worried, and I think about not telling people that I feel worried because everyone who is negotiating with me now knows that money is super important to me, and I’m probably not going to walk away from an offer.

But more important than preserving an edge negotiating money is somehow documenting how hard it is to be true to yourself, how hard it is to be at risk all the time. It’s a tradeoff. Sometimes my life looks glamorous. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s all the same life though.

By A.J. Jacobs – For my last book, The Know-It-All, I tried to fill in the huge gaps in my learning by reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. I read from A to Z. Or more precisely, from a-ak (East Asian music) to Zywiec (a town in Poland) — a total of 44 million words. Admittedly, there were quite a few slow parts — the 21 pages on Portuguese literature comes to mind — but overall, I learned a tremendous amount of fascinating information. Including lot of great wisdom about jobs and careers. Here, a distillation:

If you’ve got a business idea, hurry the heck up.
Here’s a disturbing story: There once was a brilliant man named Elisha Gray. Ever hear of him? Probably not. That’s because he filed for a patent for the telephone on the morning February 14, 1876. Problem was, a couple hours earlier, another man filed patent papers for the telephone. That would be Alexander Graham Bell. Gray should have known: File for patent, then go grocery shopping. (In fairness, some claim that Gray did beat Bell to the patent office, but still lost the patent).

I’m no Gray or Bell, but I did have a troubling conversation with a fellow writer about a year ago, a nice man from Texas. He told me that when my book deal was announced, he was in the midst of writing a proposal for a book on reading the encyclopedia. There’s no such thing as a unique idea. It’s all about execution and timing.

Be totally inappropriate
The best networking story in the Encyclopedia comes courtesy of poet Langston Hughes. The man was ballsy. He was a busboy at a hotel in Washington D.C. While in the dining room, he slipped three of his poems beside the dinner plate of established poet Vachel Lindsay. The next day, newspapers announced Lindsay had discovered a — busboy poet. In other words, he refused to let his dreams be deferred.

Work anywhere
The British-born author Hugh Lofting wrote Dr. Dolittle while in the trenches of WWI. As shrapnel burst around him and his friends died, he wrote this lovely story about a guy who talks to animals. So if Hugh Lofting can do that, you can concentrate on a big project when you’re at a train station. In fact, I recently realized my work sometimes improves when I’m in chaos. It somehow lessens the pressure — it removes the crippling burden of perfectionism — which is key for writing.

Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, always certain
That’s one of the big things I learned in my quest to be a know-it-all. Say it with confidence, and you will be believed. If someone asks you what country had the greatest total number of Catholics, and you say, Mexico, without a hint of doubt, then few will question. The right answer is Brazil, by the way. Without a doubt.

Stick with your strengths, and bend the situation to cater to them
Be like Duilius, a Roman military genius. The Roman troops were excellent ground fighters, but were terrible at naval warfare. So Duilius came up with the idea: Turn the sea battles into land battles. The Roman ships would paddle up to the enemy boat and slam down a plank. The soldiers would board the enemy boat and go to town with their swords. In short, land battles on the sea.

The stakes in most of our lives are lower, thank God. But the strategy still works. Today, I was writing an article for Spin magazine. This, despite the fact that I know embarrassingly little about post-80s music. But since I just wrote a book about living by the Bible (The Year of Living Biblically), I had pitched a story about music and the Bible. That allowed me to board Spin and go to town with my word processor.

Juggle jobs
All the great figures of the eighteenth and nineteenth century had at least two simultaneous jobs, maybe more. My favorite was a woman named Virginia Woodhull, who was both a psychic and a stockbroker (a brilliant mix. Who wouldn’t want to invest with her?) But other combos were just as strange:

Lyricist/Mollusk scientist

Granted, it was easier back then. I imagine it took about three weeks to learn all there was to know about mollusks.

A friend of mine (and Penelope’s) named Marci Alboher recently wrote a book called One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model For Work/Life Success. It’s filled with tales and advice on the art of simultaneous professions. The double-job trend is making a comeback, and this is good news — at least for those who love a smattering of everything as I do.

A.J. Jacobs is an editor-at-large at Esquire magazine and the author of the new book
A Year of Living Biblically

There’s a new guest blogger on Brazen Careerist: A.J. Jacobs. He is an editor-at-large at Esquire, and from what I can tell, it’s one of the cushiest jobs in the world. He doesn’t go to meetings, he seems to have some sort of tenure-track thing where he would never be fired, and he doesn’t even have to write for every issue.

So you want to know how he got such a great job, right? He specializes. Which you need to do, by the way, if you want to have control over your career. And one of the best ways to find a specialty is to find what area you excel at that pays well, and find what personality traits of yours make you quirky. If you can place your career at the intersection of those two things, you’ll have a successful, specialized career.

So anyway, about A.J.’s specialty. He’s a great writer. But there are plenty of great writers who don’t have great careers.

Surely A.J. could write well in a lot of situations. Like, he would be great at writing ads for used microwaves — in fact, I might even subscribe to a daily dose of those ads from AJ because they’d be so funny. But the market for this would be very small.

Instead, A.J. decided to go the route of immersion journalism. The immersion journalist that you probably know is Barbara Ehrenreich. She does things like work in menial job for a year in order to write about how hard it is to live like that. Ehrereich does important work, to be sure, but I don’t think anyone would call her fun.

Though A.J. has never worked as a hotel maid like Ehrenreich, he wrote about outsourcing his life to a team of people in Bangalore, India, (reprinted in the 4-Hour Workweek), and he spent a year reading the encyclopedia and writing about it in his book titled, The Know It All. This book is hilarious and endearing, and every time I go to the book store I pick up a copy and read a few pages as a pick-me-up.

What I love about A.J.’s writing is that he is immersing himself in something crazy but he does not sound like a crazy person. His book reads like hanging out with a good friend. Who happens to read the encyclopedia for a living. He is working at the intersection of what he is great at (writing) and what makes him quirky (his ability to create a weird life for himself and write about it in a way we can all relate to).

No one with A.J.’s great sense of career management would be blogging without a purpose. This week he’s blogging about the encyclopedia, but in the coming weeks, it’ll be the Bible. That’s his new book, A Year of Living Biblically, which he is promoting, of course. He spent a year living according to the Bible. Literally. So he followed the Ten Commandments, but also the lesser known laws of the Bible, like don’t wear clothes of mixed fibers. And stone adulterers.

Sometimes I read A.J. to remind myself what is important about work. What A.J. does that no one else can do is write on insane topics with sentences full of joy. He is smart and funny but the thing that makes me absolutely adore his work is that everything he churns out is bubbling with enthusiasm and fun. And I think that, on some level, this is what we all want our career to be about.

Time magazine just hired me to write a piece about workplace trends among young people. One of the things I wrote about was how much people value the opportunity to volunteer for non-profit organizations through their company. And one of the best examples of this is

So I called the publicist there and set up an interview with the CEO, Marc Benioff. I also scheduled a Time magazine photographer to take photos of’s volunteer program in action.

But Marc skipped out on the interview. And, even though he was missing in action, the publicist went ahead with the photo. After about five phone calls I realized that Marc had disappeared and I was stuck with a photo from a company that I couldn’t get a quote from: useless.

So for my first thing I’ve ever written for Time magazine, I was going to miss my deadline. Everyone can be their best selves in the best circumstance. But in bad circumstances, it’s very hard to be your best self. We learn how pulled together we are by watching what we do when things go badly.

I screamed at the publicist. At first I screamed at him for letting the photo happen when he knew he would miss my deadline with the interview. At one point he told me he believed Marc was having a personal problem and I said, “Well it had better be a death in the family.” Yep. I said that. Nice, huh?

Finally, in a huff, I told the publicist I was not using in the piece I was writing. I was very pissed off and I wanted to punish everyone for messing up my article. But to be honest, I didn’t have another photo lined up. And I was pretty much screwing myself.

Then I got the voicemail from Marc Benioff. He knew that I was angry, that I took his company out of the article, and that he missed my deadline. Still, he left me a message. He told me he was really sorry, and then, instead of leaving a message which would be of no use to me, he left me a long message giving me every quote I could need for my story about and volunteering.

This was super smart of him, but most people wouldn’t do it. Most people would accept that they were pulled out of the story, most people would be too scared to call a journalist who has been screaming on the phone, and most people would not have the poise and composure to basically interview themselves on voicemail and do a good job. I liked seeing the difference between what a regular person would do and what a star performer does.

So I wrote my article (with, got it in almost on time, and then someone came to my door with flowers. From Marc. A big arrangement with poppies and bergamot and cabbage. Cabbage! Isn’t that interesting? When I saw it I got giddy. I’m a girl who loves getting flowers.

He sent a card that said he was sorry and what can he do to make it up to me. Apologizing was not difficult for Marc. It seems that for him it doesn’t matter who is right or not. He just wants to have a good relationship. He’s a good influence on me: As soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to call the publicist and apologize for being rude.

No one has ever sent me flowers to get into an article before, but you know what? It’s really smart. Some places I write for would fire me in a second for accepting flowers in exchange for an article. But my blog is different. So I’m gonna tell you that flowers can sway me. If you want me to write about you on my blog, send me flowers. And no carnations. This is not prom.

I’m going to tell you how to get a six-figure book deal from your blog. People ask me this question all the time, and I have been a little hesitant to give people advice because I had only sold one book, and maybe it was luck, because it’s hard to know how to do anything from just doing it once. But now I feel like I know a bit because I just got my second book contract, based on my blog.

Here are ten tips for getting a book deal of your own that is based on that blog you’ve been writing.

1. Solve a problem.
Non-fiction books define a problem and offer a solution. This is what makes the consumer buy the book. A blog can be a fun rant. A book needs to be more than that.

Do the “how to be” test. Can you say, “My blog is about how to ….” And finish the sentence? You need to be able to do that to turn your blog into a nonfiction book.

For my book, I said I’m solving the problem that most career advice books are irrelevant to the current market. I did a they say/I say section. For example, they say report sexual harassment/I say don’t. They say don’t lie on your resume/ I say be practical.

2. Have a big idea.
A blog is a big pile of small ideas adding up to a community of people talking about those ideas. A book needs to be more than that. A book needs to add up to a big idea. You get your advance based on how big the idea is. One of the hardest lessons for me was that I thought I would just put a bunch of posts together in to a book. But my editor rejected that when I turned it in. The posts need to be organized in a way that builds up into bigger ideas (chapters) into a big, grand idea (the book).

Aside from Seth Godin, who is an industry unto himself (mostly as a public speaker), there is no record of printing out a blog and having a six-figure-worthy book.

3. If you’re in a niche, make it a big one.
Editors don’t like to buy a book that is in a field where no other books exist. In the blogosphere, if no one is blogging about your topic, it’s probably because you’re in a very small niche. Niches are fine for blogs, but not for six-figure book contracts.

Also, ask yourself if you are solving a problem for a mass market or a niche market. If you’re in a niche, you need to expand your reach by choosing topics for a more broad audience.

4. Have a big audience, but say they are old rather than young if you want a lot of money.
Most blog readers are young and most book buyers are old. Therefore, books that are geared exclusively toward young people often come out as paperback originals, which don’t get huge advances. Figure out how to sell your broader portion of the population.

5. Have a lot of blogger friends to promote the book, but talk mostly about USA Today.
It’s true that a few books, like The No Asshole Rule and The 4-Hour Work Week, got to the top because of initial support from bloggers. But publishers aren’t making bets that they can tell which books this will happen with next time. So you need to tell the book publishers that you can get a lot of attention from conventional media outlets. Editors are more comfortable with traditional media. After all, that’s what book publishing is.

6. Follow conventions.
Most of the non-blog world sees bloggers as the Wild West, at best, and a freak show at worst. The publishing industry is wary of being able to translate bloggers into authors, and there have been a lot of high profile flops. So make your writing look like the kind of writing that agents and editors are used to dealing with. This means not only very high quality writing samples (which will probably be blog posts). But you also need to follow the conventions for writing a killer proposal.

7. Find someone to model yourself after.
I am not the only person to get a book contract from a blog. Here are some others: Gina Trapani at Lifehacker, Shauna James at Gluten-Free Girl, and Joe Bageant. When you were in sixth grade, you read five paragraph essays in order to figure out how to write one. When you started blogging, you read other peoples’ blogs to figure out how you wanted to do your own. Now you should read books by bloggers in order to figure out how to package your own blog into a book.

8. Put your blog in the marketing section of your proposal.
A book proposal is about the idea, and who you are and how you’re going to sell the book. If you have a large blog readership, you can say that in the marketing section. You can’t say they’ll all buy the book. If that were true, Gina Trapani would have the one of the biggest selling books ever. But you can say that the blog will provide a lot of buzz and a lot of customers.

9. Trust that agents know a good proposal when they see one, but try again if you get a bad response.
Here’s how I got my agent: I bought The Writer’s Market and picked out five agents. Here was my criterion: I only chose agents who said they weren’t accepting new clients, because I wanted someone who was established and doing well. And I picked people whose last names started with letters at the end of the alphabet because I thought other people who pick agents randomly probably start at the beginning, so people at the end must not get as much mail.

This experience makes me trust the agenting system. It’s not hard to tell the big agents – look at the books they represent. Send your proposal to agents who represent books like yours. If no one likes your proposal, admit that your idea is flawed. Figure out why, fix the problems, and try again with another proposal.

10. Use blog comments to train yourself for rejection.
If there is any way to prepare for the constant rejection from the publishing industry, it’s by answering the negative commenters on your blog. Respond in an even-handed, respectful way. This is how you’ll have to respond to agents and editors who try to poke holes in your proposal. For example, I wrote eleven proposals that my agent said no to before she sold my most recent one.

That’s a lot of work. But, to be honest, it’s not as much work as posting to a blog five days a week.


This is cross-posted at ProBlogger. Which, by the way, is the online resource that has been the most helpful to me over the past year as I have been figuring out the blogging world. ProBlogger has great answers to a very wide range of how-to-blog questions.