x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Bloggers' big-money dreams are more likely to remain just that

Petite Anglaise was the blogging sensation of 2006, bringing her fame and financial rewards and, before either, the sack from a steady job.

Petite Anglaise was the blogging sensation of 2006, bringing her fame and financial rewards and, before either, the sack from a steady job.

Catherine Sanderson, the woman behind the pseudonym, was a bilingual English secretary working for a staid firm of UK accountants at their Paris office.

She blogged anonymously but with growing popularity as Petite Anglaise, her musings on life, love and work in the city of light eventually clocking up 100,000 visitors a month.

Although she named no one, her bosses became aware of what she was doing, took umbrage at unflattering references to senior executives and fired her. She told her story to the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, and her profile grew in extraordinary fashion.

A lucrative book deal followed, producing a memoir and a novel, and she even collected a handsome pay-off for unfair dismissal.

And while waiting for her employment issues to be resolved, she took advantage of contacts made through her blogging to accept occasional stints as an interpreter, using her impeccable French to help journalists sent to Paris to report on subjects as diverse as the French footballer Thierry Henry and tensions in the immigrant-dominated banlieues, or city outskirts.

Later, newspapers commissioned her to write for their features pages. She was already a single mother and, along the way, married a man she met via her blog, where he had been among the hundreds of admiring readers leaving comments.

Ms Sanderson thus became the epitome of the blogger who turns online scribblings into business. The book contract was unofficially estimated to be worth just under £500,000 (Dh2.8 million).

"My life became surreal for a couple of months …" she wrote at her own blog. "My story went global, including a stint on the front page of CNN.com, which caused my blog to crash for a while and I found myself being interviewed for television and radio. I had to say goodbye albeit reluctantly to my anonymity at this point, although I still do everything I can to protect the identity of my daughter and her father."

Ms Sanderson remembers the bidding war that erupted after her experiences hit headlines across the world. "Several publishers manifested interest in my blog and my story, a bidding war ensued and I was able to concentrate on writing full-time, after signing a two-book deal with Penguin in the UK."

Her second book appeared in 2009. Soon afterwards, on the birth of her second child, she decided to give up blogging. The site remains available online at petiteanglaise.com and many of the friends she made during her five years of writing it keep in touch with her at Facebook.

For all the praise she has received, along with some negative comment, Ms Sanderson, now 40, acknowledged some time ago that "writing being a notoriously precarious profession", she had no idea what the future would hold. "But whatever happens, I'll always be grateful for the opportunities I've been given as a direct result of writing this blog," she added.

Heather B Armstrong, an American blogger, had trodden similar ground. Like Ms Sanderson, she was dismissed - in her case from a job with a dot com start-up business - for publishing satirical postings about work at her blog, dooce.com. This led to "dooced" entering colloquial English to mean being fired for such activity. Ms Armstrong also went on to write books, one reaching 16th position in The New York Times Bestseller List.

So do these two women represent hope for all bloggers who dream of turning their efforts into moneyspinners? Ms Sanderson has acknowledged that while it is possible to make money as a result of being noticed online, such cases will always be rare.

She was asked by the website writerabroad.com: "Many writers hope they'll get a book deal from their blogs. What would you tell them?"

Her response: "You might have to be fired first. Seriously though, a blog can be a good place to experiment and occasionally, if the blog has a big following, it can be a 'shop window' to showcase your work. But the ratio of the number of bloggers who have been published to the number of blogs that exist must be 1 to several millions ...

"I don't have any illusions about why my blog got picked up. If I hadn't been fired and my case discussed in the media, publishers would never have come knocking."