FAIL blog LOLcatsThe FAIL blog is a blog for our times.  It’s a visual celebration of human foibles and fallability.   The Wikipedia describes the site and its community thus:

. . . a comedic blog website originally created by Leechio in January 2008. The blog steadily grew in popularity, and in April 2008 was sold to Pet Holdings Inc., owner of I Can Has Cheezburger?.  The site prominently features pictures and videos of someone (or something) failing at something they are supposed to do, or displaying blatant stupidity or incompetence, captioned with the words “fail” or “epic fail”.

The site has become wildly popular and fostered its own FAIL community.  Visitors can upload their own fail pictures or videos and also vote on their favorite fails.  The success of the site has led to the word “fail” becoming the go to adjective or noun used for any kind of wacky failure.  There are degrees of fail – e.g. EPIC FAIL.  The inevitable imitation fail blogs have begun appearing – there’s even a FAIL-book social site.


FAIL Nation book coverNo surprise then that the folks who started the FAIL blog and I Can Has Cheezburger Blog sites have published a book based on the blog content called FAIL Nation.  Described as “. . . your silent guide and handler to the not-even-close-to-perfect nation of FAIL, chock-full of irrelevant tips and useless suggestions” the book has defied its title and marched to an Amazon sales rank of  6,873 since it’s release in October. 

Much like the print success of Frank Warren’s Post Secret series, FAIL Nation has proven that its highly visual blog material can translate to book success.  Can Hollywood be far behind? 

Sometimes FAIL is WIN.

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365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen.
Julie Powell (The Julie / Julia Project – August 25, 2002)

Julie and Julia movie posterBlog to book success stories have been around for awhile.  Now Julie & Julia has entered new territory – making a profitable  transition from blog to book to movie.  The first month’s box office receipts topped $70 million.  Sales of Julie & Julia (the book – Amazon rank 90) were brisk and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Amazon rank 4) have sold more this past month than they did in entire years past.

julie_powellFor the aspiring writer, are there attributes that augur well for a blog in terms of turning it into a book and perhaps a movie?  What was it that made Julie & Julia a hit?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Celebrity – The blog involves a celebrity – in this case Julia Child.  What made the whole thing interesting was that she would have the conversation with Julia Child (who was not supportive of the blog) as well as her readers.
  • Drama – Julie Powell made herself the story; setting out her challenge in a very pubic way.  And she had a definite deadline; there was no ambiguity about whether she would succeed or flop.
  • That could be me! – Julie Powell took on the fears of EveryCook – preparing difficult recipes and sharing all her travails with her audience.  Each day, her readers could empathize with her discouragements and celebrate her triumphs, but be glad they weren’t going through it themselves.  In some respects, it was like reality TV.

All the right elements for any good story. The blogging medium might be new, but the formula for success is age old.  Bon appetit!

Julie & Julia movie trailer

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Lori Smith photoLori Smith has explored her passion for the life and work of Jane Austen, both literally and figuratively.  In July of 2005, she set off on a month long trip to England to follow the life of Jane Austen.  She describes the experience as “searching for a connection with the writer whose books (and the movies based on them) had become like literary comfort food to me.”  Lori is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Washington Post Book World, Publishers Weekly , Washingtonian and Today’s Christian Woman.  She is also author of The Single Truth and creator of the popular literary blogs Following Austen and Jane Austen Quote of the Day.  She has now turned her blog musings into a book,  A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love and Faith.   She recently shared another journey she has taken – this one from blog to book.

FPP – What interested you most about Jane Austen?

Lori – I had been reading her books since college, and felt very close to her (which many of her readers do, I’ve found, and which I can’t entirely explain). I had read the books over and over — they’re like literary comfort food to me — and when I felt like I had nowhere left to go, started reading biographies and her letters. I wanted to see the places she lived, the countryside she loved. The book grew out of a month-long journey following her life.

FPP – What do you think attracts modern readers to Jane Austen’s life and work?

jane austen portraitLori – She wrote very intelligent romances. The falling-in-love journey is an awful lot of fun on its own, but there’s so much more to Austen than that. We still recognize her characters today; the dialog is pitch-perfect. She had a wonderful wit and energy for life which comes through in the stories. But I also think the solid foundation of her stories is that character was so important to her — moral character. I think the real triumph for Austen — possibly more important than the romantic conclusions of her novels — is when her heroes and heroines are willing to recognize their faults and change. I think we’re drawn to their character, too, perhaps without realizing it.

FPP– What was the most unusual thing you learned about Jane Austen during your research into her life?

Lori – The fact that she had an opportunity to marry and chose not to. Harris Bigg-Wither, a dear friend of the family and heir to a great estate, proposed one night when Jane was visiting. She accepted the offer, apparently stayed up most of the night reconsidering, withdrew her acceptance in the morning, and left the house in disgrace. It would have been a nearly perfect match — except that there wasn’t love, and for Jane that would never do.

FPP– What inspired you to start your blogs?

Lori – I started Following Austen to begin to connect with readers, and start to build an audience for the book. The Jane Austen Quote of the Day I really started as a marketing tool. Of course, I love the quotes, and there were so many I wanted to share anyway, but I thought it would be a great way to reach the Austen fan base.

FPP– How would you characterize your blog readership?

Lori– I’m afraid I don’t know much about them, other than the fact that I assume they are die-hard Austen fans. I know that about half the daily syndication for the quote of the day is on LiveJournal, where it’s reproduced on people’s friends pages for others to read. I think that’s great.

FPP– How much of a role did your blogs play in the development of your book?

a walk with jane austen book coverLori– I really enjoyed getting initial pieces of the book out there and getting good feedback from readers. In the beginning stages, writing is such a lonely process that hearing from readers who loved it meant so much to me. It didn’t really affect the development of the book though, in terms of structure or how I wrote it, except perhaps that I learned to think of it in bite-sized pieces that would work on the blog. We ended up working it back into longer chapters, but I think that helped me tackle it initially.

FPP– Have you found your blog to be an effective marketing platform for your book?

Lori– Definitely. I’ve connected with a whole world of Austen bloggers, who’ve been enthusiastic about the book and in turn have blogged about it. It’s also given me a place to send people for excerpts and more information, and a kind of legitimacy. There are so many opportunities for online promotion now that are completely free, and a blog is central to that. I would recommend it to every writer.

FPP – What other things would you still like to know about Jane Austen?

Lori – Much of her life is hazy. She didn’t keep a journal, and her sister burned most of her letters. If I could talk to her, I’d ask her about writing — and about her faith, which she was hesitant to discuss. (She felt it was more important to live it than talk about it.)

FPP– Do you think if she were alive today, that Jane Austen would have a blog?

Lori – I don’t think so!  She was very private.  I think she would find the trend – and our celebrity-obsessed culture – full of fictional possibilities.

FPP – What is next for Lori Smith?

Lori– I’m not sure yet, but I’m guessing there will be another book — and another blog!

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Blook Looks

by Cheryl Hagedorn

Cheryl Hagedorn authors Blooking Central, which examines
published books to discover what makes for a blookable blog.

It’s not that Lawrence R. Velvel, Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, isn’t well known or that the web isn’t littered with his essays that makes talking about his blook difficult.  It’s just that beyond this bit about the book deal from Publishers Marketplace, there’s nothing to be found regarding the blook’s construction.

31 March, 2006
STANDPOINT: 2004-2005, the best postings from, to Doukathsan Press, in a nice deal, by Massachusetts School of Law (world).

In fact, the deal suggests that Velvel slapped a cover on all the posts between Jan. 1 2004 and Dec. 31 2005, and sent it off to Doukathsan for printing.  (I’m guessing that 2004-2005 means two years’ worth of posts – the blook has 500 pages.)The blog Velvel on National Affairsis self-described as “A progressive blog setting forth the personal views of the Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law on national events.”  Trust me, these are not grandma’s posts about her garden nor a collection of postcards with secrets plunked on a blog, ala Frank Warren’s Post Secret.

The lengthy entries found at Velvel’s blog are essays.  Carefully crafted and, no doubt, reread and revised many times before posting.  They are just the stuff of a blookable blog.  But what about the order of appearance in the dead tree version?  Were they left in chronological order?  Considering the many blooks I’ve examined, I don’t think so.

In fact, in his post on August 11, 2006, Velvel refers to page numbers in the blook:

But there are, of course, many other opinions that are themselves dishonest or reward the dishonesty of parties. Last year I wrote about the Arthur Andersen case, in which the Supreme Court wrote a ridiculous opinion letting Arthur Andersen off the hook for its dishonest misconduct.  (The post is dated June 20, 2005, and is printed at p. 460 of Blogs From The Liberal Standpoint: 2004-2005.)

Okay, so my guess that the blook covers two years was correct.  Good.  But that doesn’t tell us much about organization; the post is 2005 and it’s near the end of the book. But then he continues:

I also wrote about the judicial approval of the government’s dishonest screwing over of soldiers who were told and thought they had signed up for the reserves for only a one year trial, but later were told that the fine print had them hooked for several years and so they were going to be sent to Iraq.  (This post is dated December 6, 2004 and appears at p. 14 of Blogs From The Liberal Standpoint:  2004-2005.)

Thine Alabaster Cities Gleam book coverThe post he refers to comes from late in the first year yet appears on page fourteen. That’s enough to convince me that posts were collected topically, not chronologically.  Something which I was unable to discover is whether or not the blook includes all the posts from that two-year period.  If not all made it onto paper, I’d love to know how Velvel decided what to put in and what to leave out.  I also found it curious that the blog carries no hint of the blook in the sidebar. On the other hand, Velvel’s Thine Alabaster Cities Gleam merits a cover image and description as well as a link to Amazon.

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