In recent years, blogs have started birthing highly trumpeted, occasionally successful book deals. From Julie and Julia (which started as a blog, became a book, and was eventually filmed), to “Sh*t My Dad Says” (which started as a Twitter account, became a book, and then a short-lived TV series), to PostSecret (which started as a blog/art project, became more centrally a blog, then a dual book/blog platform), publishing houses keep turning to popular blogs to make a little extra money.
The next level has been adapting Tumblr microblogs into books. Tumblr even has a spotlight category devoted to blog-to-books, which features some of the Tumblr accounts that have become books. What does it take for a Tumblr account to become a book? Here are six Tumblr-to-book success stories and what may have helped them become famous. (Hint: pop culture references and appealing to a limited audience.)
While this particular Tumblr account recently retired, this is still one of the most popular Tumblr-to-book deals. Juxtaposing images of Ryan Gosling with feminist platforms, theory, and praxis, this Tumblr was effective because it targeted a specific audience: highly educated young women (and, to be fair, young men). Few blogs manage to speak directly to graduate school feminists, but this one combined pop culture with heavy duty theory. It also spawned a variety of copycats, from the fascinating Feminist Harry Potter, which looks at the ways the Harry Potter series failed to be as feminist as it could have been, to the even more niche Shakespeare Ryan Gosling, which juxtaposes images of Gosling with lines from Shakespeare, and Jane Austen Ryan Gosling, which places lines from Jane Austen literature over images of the actor. While none of these have become nearly as popular as Feminist Ryan Gosling, they all demonstrate what was so effective about the original blog: speaking intelligently to people who are also engaged in popular culture.
Suri's Burn Book is ostensibly the Tumblr account of Suri Cruise and the place where she rips apart the terrible fashion of her fellow celebrity offspring (occasionally she compliments them, too). She has a special hate for Jaden and Willow Smith, loathes the Pitt clan (especially Shiloh), and really can't stand the fashion sense of Violet and Seraphina Affleck. On the other hand, she loves Louis Bullock and idolizes Sasha and Malia Obama. This Tumblr is so effective because it offers what all of us really want: truth that celebrity kids are bratty, jealous, insecure, and catty — basically, that they're human. Again, this Tumblr taps into pop culture, but it also uses celebrity culture — and the way we rabidly read tabloids for proof that celebrities are just as messed up as we are. Of course, the best part is just how vicious “Suri” can be — but then again, we may just like this Tumblr because of how insecure Suri is about the impending birth of HRH the Baby of Cambridge.
I'll admit this Tumblr is a little bit of a stretch — Liz Climo has several book deals, but hasn't released a book just yet — but her Tumblr is so perfect, it's impossible to pass her up. Liz mostly features animals and pays no attention to normal predator/prey relationships, or even geographical proximity, but her drawings are neat, adorable, and often thoughtful. She doesn’t dive into pop culture much (although she obviously enjoys Star Wars), which breaks the pattern of the other Tumblrs I've pointed out, and instead concentrates on day-to-day interactions and events, from holidays to families. So what makes her successful? Probably the very gentleness of her images. She draws a world where everyone is friendly, where friends take care of each other, and where parents play with their children. Sure it's idealistic — but it's also a welcome relief from the bitterness of the rest of the internet.
Here's another Tumblr that features pop culture, but the interesting thing about this particular one is the fact that most of its pop culture is from a previous era. This isn't a blog that features particularly current celebrities, instead focusing on famous stars from earlier ages of Hollywood. Most of the images are in black and white, most of the stars are deceased, and all of the bikes are old fashioned — but there's something special about the way this Tumblr harkens back to a previous era, a simpler time when people could wear suits or dresses while riding their bikes from one film set to another. Just like Feminist Ryan Gosling, this Tumblr appeals to a certain niche audience — or two different niche audiences, people who are engaged with the Golden Age of Hollywood, or people who like bikes — and by appealing to a limited audience, the blog succeeds.
Another blog that is aimed at a very particular audience, Literary Tattoos (or The Word Made Flesh, it can go by either name) appeals to people who like literature, people who like tattoos, or, even more importantly, people who like to combine the two. While some of the pictures are barely safe for work, and others are a little gross because the tattoos are brand new, overall this Tumblr presents an interesting subcategory of body art that isn't usually seen.
This Tumblr appeals to the Liz Climo school of minimalism. The posts are simple lists, charts, or pictures, usually in pen, that describe some part of daily life for twenty-somethings. Part advice column, part sociological analysis, part exploration of what life is like nowadays, this blog appeals to a limited audience — young, dissatisfied, college-educated, and (probably) white people—but isn't as niche as Feminist Ryan Gosling or Rides a Bike. This Tumblr is self-consciously aimed at all twenty-somethings, in a way that Feminist Ryan Gosling isn't. Fun fact? The person behind Suri's Burn Book is friends with the person behind Fuck! I'm in My Twenties — which means they did joint book launches and occasionally mention one another. Does that mean that Fuck! I'm in My Twenties will appeal to the same audience as Suri's Burn Book? Probably, but not necessarily. Suri's Burn Book is devoted to celebrity culture, whereas Fuck! I'm in My Twenties is less pop culture-heavy and more about everyday life.