Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kate Wicker, The Author of Weightless: Making Peace With Your Body

From Blog to Book Deal

In recent months, I’ve seen a handful of articles and erudite authors out there who claim bloggers aren’t real writers. I disagree. I actually started a blog after I’d been a real journalist - as in someone who made a living writing and editing.

When I became a mom, I knew I’d need to cut back on freelancing because I wanted to focus on motherhood and all those drooly grins and happy babbling. Not to mention, my first baby was a devoted nursling, and typing while trying to feed her proved to be distracting, difficult, and a multitasking act that really removed me from “living in the moment.” Yet, I couldn’t imagine a life without writing. I’d been keeping journals since I could first form my letters. So I decided to jump on the blogging bandwagon.

Sometimes I wrote as if I was writing in a personal journal and simply shared anecdotes from the trenches of new motherhood. Other times I wrote letters to the baby I was watching grow and change. Soon I started writing about other topics near and dear to my heart: faith, body image, and sleep (or lack thereof). Slowly, I built a modest audience.

Along the way, I began to realize that blogging was not a replacement for “real” writing. Nor did having an online presence turn you into a pseudo writer. Blogging was complementary to paid writing opportunities and a way of showcasing my writing style and publication credits. I continued to blog and occasionally contribute to various publications. I also continued to dream about writing and publishing a book. I’d always wanted to craft a Great American Novel, but I’d also started to consider writing about another topic that always seemed to generate a response whenever I marbled it into my writing.

I’d suffered from an eating disorder and had struggled with body image angst for a good part of my life. I’d sought healing in therapy, a multidisciplinary treatment program, and in books written by other women who had also dealt with body image problems, eating disorders, and/or food addictions. Yet, it wasn’t until I tapped into my faith that real healing began to take root. I wondered why more people (and more books) didn’t talk about God when they discussed how they made peace with their bodies. I started collecting quotes from saints and Scripture that had helped me overcome my own struggles. Then I decided to mention in my blog bio that I wanted to write a book about making peace with your body and/or or your appearance all through the lens of the Catholic Church. I never would have guessed my blog or this small wish would lead to a book deal.

But that’s exactly what happened to me, and it could happen to you, too. My first book, Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body, was recently released. The book came to fruition because an editor approached me about it after discovering my blog and reading my bio. (It also was pushed along with the support of an amazing friend, my husband, family members who were willing to entertain three little girls to give me time to write, and with God’s abundant grace!)

After the initial contact with an editor and several phone conversations and email exchanges, I ended up putting together a more formal book proposal. It was accepted, and then I started writing. And now here I am - a published author (someone pinch me, please!).

Maybe you blog because you want to sharpen your writing craft. Maybe you freelance write and don’t blog yet. Or perhaps you started a blog with the hopes of being discovered. I can’t promise that everyone who blogs will land a book deal or even grow a sizable audience. I don’t always understand the rhyme or reason to what makes a blog get noticed. I’ve read obscure blogs that are chock full of beautiful, witty, and excellent writing. On the other hand, I’ve also seen uber popular blogs that don’t appeal to me all that much or may not even be written well.

However, I do believe that bloggers can be real writers (even if they have no other publication credits to their name other than the posts they churn out) and that a blog, while it can’t guarantee a book deal, can’t hurt your chances of getting one if you embrace some simple, common sense wisdom.

Five tips that might help you go from blogger to author:

1. Find your voice. After I’d been blogging for about a year, I was ready for more than just Mom to be reading my musings. I started studying popular blogs and decided to try to write about topics I thought other people might want to read about. Likewise, I sometimes forced myself to use a voice that wasn’t really my own. Did my audience grow? Nope. It may have even decreased. Besides, I wasn’t having fun anymore. Blogging felt like work, so I started to write from my own heart again. I encourage all bloggers to do the same. Don’t write to please others. Don’t try to adopt a voice that isn’t yours or doesn’t feel right. Now let’s say you do try to write in a way that doesn’t come as naturally to you and a publisher or agent likes what she sees and asks you about writing a book. Now imagine writing an entire manuscript in someone else’s voice. Writing pages and pages isn’t easy no matter what. But writing while pretending to be someone you’re not? Pure agony. Be yourself. An authentic voice is what draws most people to blogs any way. Aside from using your own style and voice, write about what interests you. My mom recently sent me a quote (I’m not sure of the original source) that speaks to this: “Better to write what you like and have no public than to write for the public and hate what you write.” Wise words indeed.
2. Put your best work forward. I’m the first one to admit that blogging as an at-home mom means that I’m going to sometimes have typos in my posts or even things that might not make complete sense to anyone other than another bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived mama. However, I still do try to challenge myself and write well. Don’t post just to post. Don’t consistently put sloppy work out there for the public. Write as if you were writing for a published market. You never know who’s watching and who might stumble across your blog.
3. Make your writing goals known. If your dream is to write a book or secure a column, be sure to mention it on your blog. Whatever your writing goals, speak up about them. If you really are blogging because you’re hoping to get a big break, go ahead and mention it. If you have an idea for a book, say so. Just don’t give too many details. Unfortunately, it’s easy for people to steal your ideas, so you do want to be careful about sharing the nuts and bolts or major plot lines and themes of your book ideas.
4. Keep your audience in mind. Okay, this tip might seem to contradict tip number 1, but here’s what I mean by this. Definitely do write what interests you rather than what you think others want to read; however, if you find certain topics seem to really appeal to your readers, then consider building yourself a niche around what piques the interest of your audience. Let’s say, for example, you’re an outdoors aficionado and whenever you recount the time you spend connecting with nature, readers seem to comment or compliment your writing. Well, maybe you should consider molding yourself into a naturalist blogger. This doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally stray from your primary topic (I sometimes include some pretty random posts on my blog), but if you’re finding that an audience built around a niche topic is emerging, go with it. Making a strong connection with a well-defined audience is important and can even attract a publisher or editor’s eye more than the sheer number of comments or traffic your blog generates. Publishers are looking for bloggers who have built-in potential buyers. You can create these by first identifying who makes up your primary audience and then, second, by writing what seems to appeal to them.
5. Remember blogging will only get you so far. Remember blogging is a complement to building a writing career. Even if you have a brilliant blog, the best way to snag a book deal - especially a nonfiction one (fiction generally requires having an agent these days) - is to write a top-notch book proposal.Then you use the fact that you write a blog as a selling point for your book within your proposal. You show that you already have an online presence and a marketing platform for your book in the form of your blog.

Whatever happens down the road, have fun blogging. Enjoy the process of writing and building an audience. Be patient and know that it takes time to connect with readers. And just keep writing. Most of us wordsmiths don’t string words together to get rich or famous. We write because we want to, and that’s reason enough to keep plugging away, day after day, word after word.


Kate Wicker is a wife, mom, and author of Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body. She is a senior writer and health columnist for Faith & Family magazine. Learn more about Kate at her blog:

1 comment:

Kate Wicker said...

Thanks again for inviting me to post on your blog! Blessings!