David Karp isn’t the only person who’s gotten rich or famous from Tumblr. A number of entrepreneurial bloggers turned their Tumblrs into publishing deals or promotional opportunities, cashing in on their clicky content.
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1. No. 1: Duncan Birmingham
Tumblr: Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves
Idea: “People had sent me a few photos of their really miserable, dressed-up pets, and I thought it was a funny idea,” says Birmingham.
How it went viral: “I didn’t have any online presence: I threw a couple of photos up on Tumblr, and it seemed to get a lot of photos … within two weeks it was in New York magazine’s ‘Cool Matrix.’”
The book: “I had worked on a serious novel for two years, sent it out to agents, and it never got published. I put this Tumblr together, and within a month and a half I got some emails asking if I thought about doing a book.”
Thoughts on Tumblr? Birmingham calls himself “computer illiterate.” “If it had been more complicated to use, I wouldn’t have done it,” he says.
Today: Birmingham writes and produces a show called “Maron” on IFC, and is working to develop “Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves” into a cartoon.
2. No. 2: Allie Hagan
Tumblr: Suri’s Burn Book
Idea: “I would sometimes make jokes about celebrity kids, but I knew that if I wrote as myself it would come across as really creepy and unnecessarily mean,” says Hagan. So, she created a “burn book” written from the point of view of Suri Cruise, daughter of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise.
How it went viral: “I started in July, and in August Time magazine named it ‘Tumblr fo the week.’ That was a big bump … When Tom and Katie broke up, that was a pretty big day.”
The book: An agent reached out to Hagan a couple of months after she started the blog. “I had always wanted to be a writer, and I never would have been able to take that leap without this on my résumé first,” she says.
Thoughts on Tumblr? Hagan is a huge fan of the platform and the Tumblr team. “They threw my book party … They’ve done so much for me, and I’ve given them nothing. It costs nothing to be on Tumblr and they don’t take any of my ad revenue. I have no idea how or whether Yahoo will want that to change, but I feel grateful for what I’ve already gotten from them.”
Today: The former D.C. lobbyist is now a full-time writer in Los Angeles. “I’m going to keep the site going for as long as possible,” she says.
3. No. 3: Gaby Dunn
Tumblr: 100 Interviews
Idea: “I didn’t like my job and wanted to be doing something that was in line with what I wanted to do as a career,” says Dunn, so she started writing longform interviews and posting them on Tumblr.
How it went viral: “Not a lot of people were creating original longform content on Tumblr, so [I] got a lot of attention and reblogging.”
The book: While Dunn was originally contacted about doing a book based on the Tumblr, she and the publisher decided to move in a new direction, as all 100 interviews were already on the web. A new book, based on Dunn’s childhood and as of now called “I Hate Everything About You,” will be coming out in the near future.
Thoughts on Tumblr: “[The acquisition] is surprising to me, because Tumblr doesn’t make money … I hope it doesn’t become more like AOL Kids, or flashier,” she says.
Today: Dunn writes for The Daily Dot.
4. No. 4: Walker Lamond
Tumblr: Rules for My Unborn Son
Idea: “It was my attempt to preserve some of the lessons and advice my late father had given me so I would have some clue before I had a son of my own,” says Lamond.
How it went viral: “It was due in large part to the early tumblr community. Tumblr users were really proactive about reblogging and promoting what they thought was good original content, and it was all very positive and supportive.”
The book: Lamond says he benefited from publishers scrambling to identify the next hit blog-to-book concept. “I think I was in the right place at the right time,” he says.
Thoughts on Tumblr: “Tumblr templates were like Instagram filters for your whole blog. The visual presentation of my content was very important to me, so Tumblr was a perfect fit.”
Today: Lamond works as a writer and television producer.
5. No. 5: Emma Koenig
Tumblr: F***! I’m in My 20s
Idea: “I was having a hard time transitioning into post-college life and was really unhappy. I felt like I needed to channel that unhappiness into something positive and productive that would alleviate my feelings and give my friends something to laugh about,” says Koenig.
How it went viral: “It was really organic growth,” says Koenig, who also was featured in a Huffington Post story on the “top blogs to waste time on” soon after launching.
The book: “A month and a half after the blog began, I was contacted by an editor at Chronicle who ended up being my editor for the book. It was a very fast thing I didn’t see coming.”
Thoughts on Tumblr: “It was the platform my brother suggested!”
Today: Koenig is living in L.A. and working in the entertainment industry; she turned F***! I’m in My 20s into a script for NBC last year, which was not made into a pilot.
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