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Publishers rush to turn popular blogs into books

‘Not everyone was convinced that the style of blog writing will work in real books.’

May 16,2009
She is the author of four books, selling hundreds of thousands of copies even as the country teeters on the edge of a recession. But it is not pen and paper, but the blogosphere that continues to inspire Moon Sung-sil, a stay-at-home mom and a self-acknowledged blog addict.

“I debuted through the blog, and it remains a limitless space that motivates me,” said the 34-year-old author who runs www.moonsungsil.com, visited from more than 2,000 computers a day.

Moon started blogging in 2004, uploading pictures of her newborn twins. What started out as a personal journal turned into something else altogether after she began to post “quickie recipes” for busy moms like herself.

The blogosphere loved Moon’s cooking advice, and so did the publishing industry. Within six months, Moon was contacted by editors and literary agents. Now she’s been dubbed the country’s pioneer of “wifeloggers,” author of “Preparing Meals while Raising Twins” and three more cookbooks.

“I never expected this much attention,” Moon admitted. “Publishing a book under my name was an overwhelming experience, but my heart remains in the blogosphere. I feel loyal to my first fans.”

In Korea, the world’s most wired country, the cultural phenomenon of blogs turning into books appears to have reached its apogee.

Thirsty for safe, and cheaper, investment materials as their budgets tighten, publishers are eagerly searching the Web for the newest “blogging talent.” They now call the blog-based books “blooks,” combining “blog” and “book.”

“Blogs are like a limitless sea of ideas - a real blue ocean for us,” said Kim Eun-joo, publishing manager at Yedam Books.

Several factors make bloggers’ books attractive, including built-in positive word-of-mouth, considered even more valuable and effective than paid advertising in many cases.

“These bloggers already have a platform of a built-in blog audience of easily tens of thousands - a safer gamble for us,” Kim said.

It was roughly around 2000 that local publishing houses began to turn to bloggers as potential authors. By 2005, there were dozens of blog-based books on local bookstands, most authors in their 20s to early 30s. “A Ten-Day Voyage,” “Picture Showing Finger,” “Setting the Table with 2,000 Won” and “Chanel Hits Art Museums” are among the steady-selling blog books.

Kim Yong-hwan’s Setting the Table with 2,000 won sold nearly 800,000 copies after its first printing at the end of 2003.

“I came across Kim’s blog while searching for materials to create a brand new cookbook,” said Kim Sun-sook, head of the book’s publisher, Youngjin.COM. “Instead of all the usual boring rules and explanations, Kim’s cooking method had a story. It was perfect.”

Many of her colleagues, however, were skeptical at first, Kim said.

“Not everyone was convinced that the style of blog writing would work in real books, but I actually loved the sense of immediacy and disposability,” she said. “Readers aren’t necessarily looking for high-quality information in these sorts of books. Rather, they find entertainment in the realness. It’s like taking a peek at a friend’s diary.”

But blog books are not a surefire hit at the cash register, with many failing to sell more than a few thousand copies.

“Not all are willing to purchase books when they can simply read for free on the Web,” Kim Eun-joo said.

“The number of visitors to the blogs is not the key factor in deciding whether or not to publish a book. We base the decision more on whether there is a possibility of creating something new that cannot be sought on the Web alone.”

And there is always a risk that the Internet crowd will get bored and move on to another trend before the book comes out, she said. “We need to move real fast to catch the wave while it’s cresting.” Yonhap



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