The best way to land a book deal -- start a silly blog
If I were in search of a book deal (not that I am... well, I might be -- it depends who's asking), I could spend years slaving over the first draft of a shambolic, 700-page novel about angsty twentysomethings.
I could spend six months somewhere with mosquitoes and no internet access and compose an earnest travelogue.
Or I could dream up a silly idea for a blog over breakfast -- one that requires just a few Google searches, or a spot of simple crowdsourcing -- and then sit back and wait for the publishers to call.
In the last month, at least two such blogs have acquired book deals.
Texts From Last Night (textsfromlastnight.com) collects text messages submitted by people who've woken to find regrettable messages sent to or from their mobile phone (for example: "We couldn't find her phone in the morning so I called it and found it under the bed. My name came up as 'regret'.").
Despite being all of six months old, TFLN recently signed a contract with Penguin subsidiary Gotham Books.
I can understand what excites a literary agent about these potential publishing sensations.
Their appeal is proven in advance by their viral popularity -- TFLN supposedly averages about 3.5m hits per day -- and the book itself is complete before the ink dries on the deal.
They're instant, ready-made loo reading, doubtless due out in time for Christmas.
When the publishing industry's love affair with the blogosphere began, a blogger was at least required to actually write something.
The first Blooker Prize, for books based on blogs or other online content, went in 2006 to the Julie/Julia Project, Julie Powell's account of her attempt to prepare all 524 recipes in Julia Child's classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It is now a film starring Meryl Streep.
But how hard do the latest generation of bloggers with print dreams really have to work? All they need to do is find a funny subject to collect pictures of, then make pithy comments about them.
Come up with a decent idea for a picture blog tomorrow, and you too could have a hefty book advance by October.
You wouldn't even have to be the one doing all the work.
Two crowdsourced Twitter books are racing each other to the shelves this autumn, courtesy of authors Nick Douglas and David Pogue, whose job is to collect 140-character examples of wit and wisdom from other Twitter microbloggers.
For aspiring Blooker-winners, this is the pot of gold at the end of the interweb rainbow -- the book other people write for you.
Incidentally, if anyone has a novel kicking around that they fancy donating -- one ideally a little less than 700 pages long, and not, if you can help it, solely about angsty twentysomethings -- let me know.
I'd be delighted to take it off your hands.