Wendy McClure just wanted a place to type out her thoughts. It was November 2000 and the Chicago children's-book editor had started a new diet and needed a place to expound on body image. So she posted an online journal, called it Pound and started writing.
That was nearly five years ago -- long before the term "blog" was part of the mainstream pop culture vocabulary.
Today, McClure's site brings in upward of 3,000 daily hits. She also has taken her popularity off-line with her new memoir, I'm Not the New Me. It arrived in bookstores last month.
A blogger writing a book? Isn't there something strangely converse going on here? After all, people visit blogs because -- instead of being static, like books -- they're regularly updated, sometimes on the hour.
True, but I'm Not the New Me is joining a growing list of born-from-blog book deals. Over the last few years, this genre has produced everything from novels and memoirs, such as Mimi Smartypants' The World According to Mimi Smartypants, and how-to manuals like The Weblog Handbook by renowned San Francisco blogger Rebecca Blood. Actor Wil Wheaton has even published two books compiled from entries off his popular Web log.
Although McClure's book is based largely on her online journal entries, the 33-year-old writer says she didn't just throw together some Pound entries (www.poundy.com) and "slap a book cover on it."
"I felt like I had a bigger story than just that," says McClure, on the phone recently from her home in Chicago. "There was a bigger theme about identity and body image."
Still, it certainly seems that McClure had an edge over other would-be writers. She didn't have to labor for a book deal by going through an endless exchange of proposals and rejections. Instead, she wrote her initial proposal after a friend mentioned her Web site to a publisher. Ultimately, the book was the subject of a bidding war by those hot to get a writer with an established audience and talent.
Megan Lynch, an associate editor at Riverhead Books, was already a fan of the Pound site. She knew McClure had something to say that went beyond just counting Weight Watchers points and believed McClure's words could easily make the jump from the Internet to the printed page. Reading McClure's journal, Lynch adds, she recognized a "real writer," not just a way to cash in on the blogging trend.
"I fell in love with Wendy's book proposal -- it was enough to show me that her abilities went beyond blogging," Lynch says. "We would have published her book either way -- but the success of her Web site helped."
Readers can expect to see more bloggers-turned-book authors in the coming months. Jessica Cutler -- the Senate mail clerk who, in May last year, shocked Washington with her titillating tell-all online diary The Washingtonienne (archived at washingtoniennearchive.blog-spot.com), will publish a novel in June by the same name. Another Capitol Hill novel, Dog Days, by political gossip columnist Ana Marie Cox (www.wonkette.com), is due in October. In March, look for Jen Lancaster's memoir, Bitter is the New Black, based on the author's cheeky but intimate Jennsylvania.com blog.
Jerome Kramer, editor-in-chief of the online book magazine The Book Standard, agrees that one reason the trend is strong is because publishers can turn to the Internet to find a "pre-built audience."