From Blog to Book: Moon over Martinborough

My name is Jared Gulian, and I’m still not entirely sure how I ended up living in paradise.

We asked Jared about his whirlwind of an experience landing a book deal with Random House New Zealand this summer, and how he’s built his audience using his blog.

It started with my blog, which is about life on ourtiny olive farm. My partner and I are both American city boys, and somehowwe ended up living in rural New Zealand with an olive grove.I wanted towrite about it, so I created ablog on WordPress.com in 2009.

After blogging for about a year, I slowed my schedule so Icould start turning the blog’s content into a book. It took longer than Ithought, and it was harder than I thought. I spent the next year-and-a-halfblogging and working on a book manuscript simultaneously. I took a break from the book to write new blog material, and then returned to thebook. When I was done with the manuscript, I let it sit for a while.

I sent the proposal to four publishers, and a week later I heard back from twoof them. Eventually, I signed a contract with Random House New Zealand. It’slike a dream come true.

It wouldn’t have happened without the blog. The blog helped me to build an audience and establish a platform that showed potential print publishers I had a viable, engaging project. It’s like my material had already been “user-tested” and proven popular.

When I started the blog, I knew I eventuallywanted to turn the material into a book. I saw my blog as a way toself-publish sections of the book as I wrote them. I’d been writing foryears, but before blogging I was writing mostly fiction. In fact, I have twonovels in the bottom drawer (where they belong), and a stack of rejectionletters from publishers.

The biggest result was that I began focusing more on humor than I’doriginally intended, because humor was what people were responding tomost strongly. This is completely different to my early fiction writing,which I did in isolation and which was a bit heavy-handed andself-consciously “literary.” Blogging has helped me to learn that I don’tneed to take myself so seriously – in writing as well as in life.

Produce good content. If you’re doing stuff people like, andif you keep doing it long enough, people will notice.Being a good blogger is a lot like being a goodcountry neighbor. You need to be sincere, helpful, and kind. You can’tintroduce yourself to your cyberspace “neighbors” with secret agendas aboutwhat they can do for you. Just join the conversation. Be warm and open.

Talk to people about what you can do together that willhelp both of you. And remember that if you ask for help, be prepared togive help in return. That’s how it works in the country, and that’s how itworks in the blogosphere.

I’m hopeful the print book will bepicked up by publishers overseas. This process so far has shown me thatanything can happen, so who knows?