After Duncan Birmingham, a comedy screenwriter in Los Angeles, got one too many holiday cards featuring miserable-looking pets wearing fake reindeer antlers, he realized the photos were great material for a blog.
Mr. Birmingham started Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves in early January, uploaded the first entry and asked readers to contribute. Within days, visitors were supplying him with snapshots of bulldogs in bunny costumes and cats wearing wigs. The blogosphere noticed — and so did the publishing world. Within a week, he was contacted by editors and literary agents. By the second month, he said, he had sold a book based on the photos to Three Rivers Press, an imprint at Crown Publishing Group, for “enough money to buy a Lincoln Town Car” — with change left over.
But the latest frenzy is over books that take the lazy, Tom Sawyer approach to authorship. The creators come up with a goofy or witty idea, put it up on a simple platform like Twitter and Tumblr, and wait for contributors to provide all of the content. The authors put their energy into publicizing the sites and compiling the best material.
Publishers are hoping that millions of page views on a blog will translate into booming sales on the bookstand, he said. “I Can Has Cheezburger?” is based on a blog of the same name. It sold more than 100,000 copies and hovered on The New York Times best-seller list for 13 weeks.
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