I suspect an awful lot of bloggers would like it if their blog became a book one day. And how amazing would it be if that blog was then featured all over the media and soared up the best-seller charts.
So today I’m featuring a post from a blogger who has done exactly that.
Jane Common is a really fabulous journalist and a lovely person too. We’ve been friends since we met at journalism college in Cardiff.
Jane’s doggy travel blog evolved into a book which was published recently to masses of media coverage. I’ve bought a copy, even though I haven’t got a dog or any plans to travel. It’s a really great book, meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated. What a pleasure to see it doing so well.
So how do you go from blog to best-selling book?
Jane takes up the story:
“I started my blog PhileasDogg because, finding myself 40, single and struck down with a bout of depression my CBT therapist suggested doing something for half an hour a day that would take me out of myself and keep the bloodsucking inertia – I’ll just have another three hour afternoon nap – at bay.
I’d been thinking, for a few months, of writing a travel blog from my dog Attlee’s point of view.
Once or twice a month we’d catch the train to visit a friend in another part of the country or go and stay the night in a B&B – sometimes, I found, a trip with the black and white and brindle dog was quite effective at banishing the black dog, even for a short period of time.
So I knew what was available in terms of websites for researching dog-friendly places to stay and, while there were many good sources of information out there, none had much personality.
Mine would – it would have Attlee’s personality. After all, who better to review whether a hotel or pub was dog-friendly than the dog himself?
Around the same time I read an article in a magazine and one of the messages it contained resonated with me. If you have an idea, it said, stick with it. Most ideas fail because people give up on them too quickly so, the next halfway decent idea that strikes, persevere with it. Give it a chance to breathe before suffocating it and moving on.
I began Phileas Dogg with that in mind.
Writing it was easy – Attlee’s charismatic and has a strong personality so finding his voice didn’t prove a challenge. And ‘being Attlee’ as I wrote was good for me. Whenever I’m down, Attlee lifts my spirits and, for a perennial self-doubter like me, seeing the confidence with which he faces the world is uplifting. So spending an hour in his mind was therapeutic. For a short period I wasn’t depressed Jane – I was my cheerful and upbeat little dog!
The blog, initially a basic build and block design which I rather clunkily constructed, dawdled along for its first four months but praise from friends and the odd email from a stranger enquiring about our travels (always addressed to Attlee) kept me going.
Then, in January 2012, a friend offered to re-design it for me. He did a wonderful job and Attlee suddenly had a really professional looking outfit on his paws. John’s belief that Attlee’s adventures deserved a fine frame in which to be displayed gave me faith in what I was writing and soon Rover Reporters from around the country were keen to contribute their findings too.
When the website had been up and running for about nine months I contacted an agent who specialised in non-fiction. A couple of people had suggested I should try to turn the blog into a book and I was feeling stronger now – I had a focus outside work and was meeting new people through Phileas Dogg.
The agent was interested in a vague sort of way and suggested I write a sample chapter, which I duly did. Afterwards, he remained interested, but still only in a vague sort of way. The idea of blog becoming book stalled.
I carried on blogging. A journalist from Waitrose Weekend magazine featured the website in an article; various local papers interviewed Attlee and I when we visited their neighbourhood and then, the piece de resistance, The Guardian advised its readers: ‘Even if you’re not a dog-owner, we urge you to read this site’.
In 2013, I gave up the day job and went freelance.
Now I had time to think and breathe and I pondered again whether Phileas Dogg could not become a book. I decided to dispense with the idea of going through an agent and go straight to publishers themselves.
I could learn from Attlee’s confidence. Though his origins may be humble – he’s a Battersea boy – he will approach a pedigree in the park and demand equal status.
The first editor I wrote to liked it but said it was a ‘bit quirky for the current market’; the second, at Constable, said he would take it into the Wednesday morning meeting. (I think he liked the fact that the blog was different, in that it was written by Attlee, and that we had a fair-sized mailing list and Facebook and Twitter following.)
And then came more Wednesday morning meetings and more until – and I could hardly believe it – in May 2013 I signed a contract and Phileas Dogg THE BOOK became a reality.
Writing the book was exhilarating, as Attlee and I hared around the country on trains and buses (I don’t drive) researching dog-friendly digs. It was hard work too, as every web address and room price had to be checked and then checked again.
I finished writing the book in October 2013; then re-read and checked all the pages in January 2014 before my editor waved it off to the printers. And, at last, in April, a parcel arrived at my door containing copies of Phileas Dogg’s Guide to Dog-Friendly Holidays in Britain.
I wept with pride. We – Attlee and I – had done it. We’d written a book!
Of course I still have my down days. You’ll be single forever, the negative nagging voice in my head tells me. The fridge needs cleaning and you haven’t paid the gas bill yet. You’re hopeless.
Ah – I counter it now. But I am a published author!
It feels like an amazing achievement and I’m just so grateful to my little Battersea scruff for giving me the inspiration and confidence to go for it.
Phileas Dogg’s Guide to Dog Friendly Holidays in Britain by Jane Common (Constable) is £12.99 and available from Amazon and all good bookshops. Jane and Attlee blog at www.phileasdogg.com