“What I discovered as a blogger is that could write even when I didn’t want to,” says Molly Wizenberg, blogger and author.
Moderator: Can you explain the difference between writing for a blog and writing for print?
Molly: Writing for a magazine has a different time frame. A blog is more immediate, for instance, but for magazines I might have to be thinking about strawberry jam in December. When I’m writing for a magazine or a book, there is an expectation that there is a fully hatched narrative, with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Victoria: When you are blogging, you are the boss. When you are writing for a magazine, you have to fit in with everything else that is being written and how fit into that package. You may have autonomy as a food blogger, but you don’t have fact checkers and copy editors either.
Molly: What I love about blogging is that I get to write what I want. I like the collaborative feel and effort that goes into producing something in print.
Kirsty: If you are a blogger and you want to publish in a book, you loose control. If we publish books that aren’t accurate, bloggers will be the first ones to point it out!
Moderator: How can food bloggers best position themselves for print publication?
Victoria: One thing that Molly is able to do in her blog is that she is able to create a mood and use language really well. That is exactly what we are looking for, a level of excellence.
Kirsty: Passion is one quality that is attractive to publishers, someone who is having fun with what he or she is doing. Having a purpose and perspective, point of view are also appealing qualities in a writer. A clearly presented idea is what will draw readers, fueled by the passion of the writer.
Moderator: What can bloggers learn from the transition from blogging to print?
Molly: It is really hard work! I can’t tell you, when I found out that my book had bought by a publisher, I was standing by a crate of oranges in the store and got a call on my cellphone, and I burst into tears! It is just so much work. The blog was an amazing companion for me, a place where I could try things out, a place where I can practice. To figure out what works and what doesn’t for when I write for print. With print, you don’t get to go back and fix thing later. With print, I need to have all of my wits about to because I just have that one shot. So in the blog I’ve learned what feels comfortable to me and what feels like my voice.
Kirsty: The blog helps in the publishing of things. “Cake Wrecks” was published, we agonized as a team how the book should be published after it had been found online by someone on our sales team. We got the blogger Amy Wheeler to post various photos on the site and asked her readers to vote on which photo should be the cover. The already established audience also helped to put the book on the New York Times bestseller list the first week it was released.
Victoria: Writing is like a muscle. If you don’t use it, it gets flabby. One of things that will get more important as print publications and website that are getting interconnected more and more we are going to be looking for writers who can bring an audience with them.
Molly: A great thing about a blog is that it will force you to write even when you don’t want to. I really loved to write as a teenager, and people used to ask me if I want to write as a living and I would say no, if I tried to to write for a living, I thought the muses would leave me. What I discovered as a blogger is that could write even when I didn’t want to.
Moderator: What do you predict for the future?
Victoria: I think we are kind of a shake out period and I don’t know how long it is going to last. This is such a complicated topic, anything I say won’t be true six weeks from now. I think people are getting smarter about what they are reading online and I think people are seeking out truly excellent publications online. I don’t think online publishing will be as democratic as it as been as the cream rises to the top. We are looking for people who are really good at social media, who are really good photographers. The versatility that you guys will be something very valuable to you in the future. My husband is a writer, and he doesn’t understand why he should have a Facebook account and Twitter and a website and I keep whacking him over the head! That’s very old school.
Kirsty: I think we are sitll in the golden age of making books. The digital age has really forced us to make beautiful books. As we navigate through this new world order, there will be a place for beautiful books as well as e-books and the blog. The digital world is changing and the fact that you guys are taking photos, all of these skills set you are like mini documentarymakers. Moving forward, as a publisher that kind of versatility is what I’ll be looking for.
How do you seek out new writers?
I am always seeking them out, and I receive things from agents. But I am much more open to receiving e-mails. I’m easy (Kirsty). Also, spell my name right. Not all publishers are the same, know what your publisher is looking for, do your research.
I am looking for people who understand what we are doing with the magazine. You been successful by creating content that works really well with my publication (Victoria)
What trends are you watching for?
The comment about foraging on Friday night, because that seems like an extension of the sustainable movement. Foraging may be great in Seattle, but it might not work in Kansas City. How do you make a topic viable that a wide audience will be interested in? You have to find a universal theme (Kirsty)
Our lead time is anything with 3 months to a year. The great thing about a good writer is that they are able to articulate a trend even before you realize that it is happening. For instance, someone pitched to me a story about pop-up famer’s markets, people who are selling their own produce. (Victoria)
I write for three different magazines and websites. I’ve met all my editors in person. I don’t have a lot of success cold-pitching editors. How many writers do you publish that you’ve never met?
Hardly any. It is very seldom that I’ll give an assignment to someone whom I haven’t met or haven’t had recommended to me. It is very unusual that someone I don’t know reaches out and makes a pitch and I hire them. You really need to know that this person can deliver. Sometimes if someone persists with their pitches, that can help. (Victoria)
With bloggers you want really high level of excellence, with quality photographs, and video, but you don’t really want to pay for that.
The marketplace has depressed payment for blogs quite a bit. I think that will shakeout. I think online content online will have to be valued more (Victoria).
I think the economics are changing, self-publishing is giving more power to bloggers. There are many ways to slice the financial model. I think publishers are struggling for their existence as well. Your greatest advocates will be your editors and publishers who love your work and want to bring it to fruition, to have your talent recognized. We can’t do anything without you, so the partnership is changing. It is not helpful to see it as an adversarial relationship. (Kirsty)
It was fun to hear more from Molly about her thoughts about writing. I paid a visit to her restaurant last year the day before it opened.
This post was blogged live from the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle.