What’s every blogger’s dream? A book deal. Even better: a multibook deal from a single blog post.
Seth Adam Smith’s post “Marriage Isn’t for You” appeared on his blog, Writing the Way Forward, on Nov. 2, 2013—a Friday—and he thought that he would get 2,000 or 3,000 hits. “More than anything,” Smith said, “I was hoping that my wife [Kim] would enjoy the article, because we had just made it through a really difficult time.” By Sunday evening, the story, which is about Smith’s father’s advice on how to maintain a happy marriage, was viewed more than eight million times. “It was Kim’s birthday, and we went out to dinner,” Smith said. “We just sat there and stared at each other. Neither of us had any idea what to do.”
Even with his background as a editorial assistant at Berrett-Koehler in San Francisco, the 20-something Smith wasn’t sure how to capitalize on his success. He had started the blog on the advice of an editor he admired at B-K, who told him that most authors had it backward: “They expect to publish a book first, then get speaking engagements from the book. If your idea is compelling, you should be speaking about it now. You should start blogging and meeting like-minded people,” Smith recounted. “So I decided to start a blog and create a movement,” Smith said.
Smith’s idea was that life should be more about being selfless and less about yourself. As the marriage blog post surpassed 30 million views, representatives from morning news shows, talk shows, and major websites started calling, and he began hearing from publishers. He signed his first deal in January 2014 with Shadow Mountain Press, which released Marriage Isn’t for You in May 2014. The book has sold almost 3,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, a solid number for a niche publisher.
B-K then signed Smith to a two-book deal. It helped that he had worked for the company, but his writing and continued online presence are what nailed the deal. “There was a lot of back and forth on Seth’s book. Was this going to be a flash in the pan?” asked Kat Engh, social media strategist at B-K. “That didn’t happen. Everything he wrote after [the marriage post] continued to get hundreds of thousands of views.”
B-K’s focus is on business and personal development books, and that’s why it took a pass on Smith’s first book, which expands on the original blog post about marriage. Engh noted that the relationship with Smith made it “easy to look at ways to collaborate and work with him from the ground up.” His first book for B-K, This Life Isn’t for You, was published September 22. A bookstore tour is in the works for Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Florida. There are also plans for webinars, speaking engagements, and a video series to be released with the book.
Smith left B-K soon after he began the blog to focus full-time on writing. In addition to working on his blog and writing a second book for B-K titled You, Unstuck: You Are the Solution to Your Greatest Problem, Smith has been a guest blogger for other websites and contributes articles to various publications. He also has a TED Talk coming up on “The Not for You Movement.” He is also working on his first novel. “I had a fiction idea when I was at B-K and met with a publisher, and they were excited. But when the blog went viral, it overwhelmed the fiction. This summer is the first time I’ve had to work on fiction again.”