From blogs to books

Net venting turns to profit for some writers

Jess Anders Apr 10, 2006

Productive Bitterness = Published Books?

How do you turn your bitterness about life into a productive and creative escape? You create a blog that gets noticed, and then get a book published.

In the last few years, more and more people have jumped on the blog bandwagon in an effort to bare all their secrets and desires or to release anger. Blogs can be anonymous, so there is no fear of the harsh backlash you’d get from screaming at your boss. Many of these blogs are created out of hatred, fear, or anger, but more and more people are finding that their opinions online may transfer into real money — and a real publishing deal. And while we hate to admit it, their blogs have become part of our everyday life, and we enjoy them. A lot.

Jen Lancaster, author of the newest blog-to-book sensation, Bitter Is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass, or Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office, is just one of many bloggers turned authors in the last few years. In the book, Lancaster goes from having a well-paying job at a Fortune 500 company to being laid off and falling just short of being evicted from her apartment in the ghetto. In between, though, she lays the foundation for a funny, moving, and inspirational story that is deeper than it first appears on the surface. She first gives us the impression that her superficiality has no hope for change. In short, she is a spoiled rich brat about to face the worst of the world. But the last few chapters show us a changed, reformed brat who learns to appreciate her family and not her collection of Prada Bags.

Before being laid off, Lancaster’s only goal was to buy that $7000 couch she admired. But after being laid off from her overpaying job, she finds herself in a fierce battle with the rest of the nation looking for a job. Faced with having to leave her comforts behind, she decides to file for unemployment. And as the title may remind us, who walks into the unemployment office with a Prada bag? Apparently Lancaster does, and with almost none of the style and grace with which Prada is associated — she runs into doors, walks into the wrong office, and is almost recruited for the Army. Even the unemployment staff doesn’t like her from the beginning, including the woman who speaks in Spanish, and the computer technician who yells at her for being too good to be a janitor because she has a college degree. And though she frantically submits her résumé to all the companies she can think of, Lancaster is not hired. Ironically, with her credentials and experience, no one wants to hire her, including the janitorial company.

With no luck at finding a job, she is left with no choice but to leave the comforts of her expensive Chicago penthouse apartment and move into a shady neighborhood where no one speaks English. While waiting for various companies to contact her in response to her resume, she created jennsylvania.com, a website dedicated to bashing every company that either didn’t respond to her résumé or wouldn’t hire her. After a while, her public ranting and not-so-ladylike way with words drew a small fan base of people in similar situations. Some people even sent her packages of nail polish and food as a thank-you for her bitter but realistic advice.

Without knowing it, though, Lancaster creates a problem for herself that happens way too often with bloggers. She is denied a job because she publicly bashes clients of the company on her website. Instead of taking it to heart, she laughs the matter off and decides that it was probably for the best. Who wouldn’t laugh at her creative outlet of frustration and anger?

Lancaster is not the only blogger whose story has been picked up by independent publishing houses, or by imprints of bigger publishers. There’s a market for new memoir writing, and it began in the form of a blog. Take Frank Warren, author of PostSecret, for instance. He first created a blogsite online to showcase ordinary people’s extraordinary secrets. PostSecret, a collection of homemade postcards with the secrets of the authors scrawled on them, has gained quite a following since its release in December of 2005. The market for juicier and more anonymous writing has become a big one lately. From Madonna’s website encouraging people to call in and leave their darkest secrets, to music videos about being someone’s “dirty little secret,” it seems that secrets are not so secret after all. People are now comfortably dishing out their secrets and opinions online or writing letters or postcards to people thousands of miles away, revealing themselves in more ways than one.

Blogs are quickly becoming the wave of the future. The number of people who are getting published because of their blogs’ increasing notoriety goes to show that we are watched, even when we don’t think we are. Our personal lives online are not so personal anymore. And while many new authors are finding their beginnings in posts on various blog sites, some bloggers are worried that their most inner thoughts and feelings can be publicly viewed by everyone, including their prospective employers.