Do you have to be an OCD, rheumatoid arthritis, and anxiety disorder-suffering, dead animal-collecting daughter of a professional taxidermist to get a book deal for your blog? No, but as Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess's new book, "Let's Pretend this Never Happened" proves, it sure does help.
As The Bloggess, Lawson has won a devoted following for her snarky, profanity-laced posts detailing her life with her husband, cats, and collection of costumed, taxidermied animals. Yet for Lawson, like many successful bloggers, despite reaching audiences of upwards of a million readers a month, the book deal remained the holy grail, proof that her efforts were more than mere effluvia of the web. As Lawson wrote recently on her blog when her memoir got a write-up in a national magazine, "I suspected this is all just fever dreams from the coma I'm obviously in, but this pretty much proves it. I'll miss you all when I come out of this coma."
For all those whose writing aspirations start online and lead to authorial fame, here are four great examples of those who made the leap.
"Jeneration X" by Jen Lancaster
A relative veteran of the blogging world, Lancaster got her first book deal in 2005, based on a blog she started after losing her high-paying job as associate VP of a tech company. Her first book, "Bitter is the New Black," was followed by four more sardonic memoirs about her struggles with unemployment, her weight, and her attempts to lead a fabulous big city lifestyle. In her latest offering, she decides its time to finally stop eating cereal for dinner and grow up.
"Julie and Julia" by Julie Powell
Before the movie starring Meryl Streep, before the best-selling memoir, there was a humble blog, chronicling one amateur cook's attempts to make every dish in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in one year. On her blog, The Julie/Julia Project, Julie Powell would occasionally wonder if anyone was reading her besides her friends and her mom. By the time she'd finished her yearlong project, the answer was a resounding yes. In the resulting book, she wrote not only of her struggles with, and eventual admiration of, Child's exacting recipes, but also her draining day job and her imperfect marriage, as well as the thrill of finally getting that long-coveted book deal.
"Confessions of a Scary Mommy" by Jill Smokler
Smokler started her blog as a place to vent about the frustrations and challenges of being an imperfect mom to two young children. The blog was a hit, but really took off once she added an anonymous "confessional" page where readers could contribute their own parenting failures, such as the admission by one mother that she did her son's homework for him because it was easier than making him do it, or another mother who admitted to hiding in the basement with her laptop and a beer. Smokler's book contains new essays about mothering, as well as many of the most outrageous confessions from the blog.
"It Sucked and Then I Cried" by Heather Armstrong
A "recovering Mormon" who worked in Los Angeles as a web designer, Armstrong is the creator of the blog Dooce.com, where she chronicled her life on the job (until she was fired for writing about her work) and her life with her husband, Jon. The blog became so successful both Armstrong and her husband were able to quit their jobs and run Dooce full-time. Everything was going great until Armstrong's daughter, Leta, was born, and Armstrong suffered such severe post-partum depression she checked herself into a mental hospital. The experience soon found its way onto the blog and eventually became a book about her breakdown and why she now believes it's the best thing that happened to her family.