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Blogger to Watch: Torre de Roche talks about her journey to big publishing deal

This is an guest interview by Jade Craven.

It is my honour to share the story of Torre De Roche, and her journey from blogger to author with an impressive publishing deal.

I first mentioned her on Problogger as one of the bloggers to watch in 2012. I was impressed with her self-published memoir and her creative approach to blogging. In 2011, she sold the rights to three publishers and sold the movie options.

Torre is a natural writer. Her memoir, Love With a Chance of Drowing, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. In this interview, I talk with her about her creative process and the books journey to publication. I recommend you check out the blog posts I’ve linked to; her story is really compelling.

You’ve previously said that you put a lot of effort into developing your personal brand. Can you walk us through the process?

Before I sold the book to publishers, I learned through my research that agents and publishers look for authors with platforms, like popular blogs. So I began brainstorming blog ideas that would:

(a) Fit with the theme of the book,

(b) Inspire, or offer the reader take-home value, and,

(c) Align with my voice and my self-deprecating sense of humour.

One day, while touring New Zealand by van, an idea struck out of the blue: the Fearful Adventurer! This theme would allow me to be open about my fears, while gently inspiring other fearful people to take leaps. Once I had that idea in place, I began designing a look and feel to align with that theme.

You write less frequently then most bloggers, but your posts are of a very high standard. How much effort do you put into the average blog post?

I don’t use a timer because that would be like weighting myself after a large, delicious meal, but yes, I always put a lot of effort into my posts. Some of my posts contain illustrations and when there is paint involved, a post can easily take me 16 hours or more.

I don’t plan them out—I let them evolve on the page. Sometimes that happens quickly over four hours, sometimes they’re created slowly over a week.

I don’t call it ‘work,’ though. It’s creative play.

Tell us more about the concept of creative play. How can non-artistic bloggers be more creative with their blog?

I don’t believe in the term ‘non-artistic’! Everybody is artistic. Creativity comes easier to those who embrace that trait in themselves and exercise it daily, but it’s a core part of who we all are.
Stephen Colbert once told a story about an epiphany he had in being able to fully be himself on stage: “Something burst that night, and I finally let go of the pretension of not wanting to be a fool.”
One more thing: ease off on reading How-To guides, and start filling your creative piggy bank with stand-up comedy, art galleries, books you wouldn’t usually pick up, and independent films.
To be creative, you have to surround yourself with creativity. There is no How-To guide that can replace that.

You’ve written about the difficulties trying to blog and travel at the same time. How do you manage to write such captivating blog posts while living a nomad lifestyle?

It’s tough to surrender into a ruminative creative headspace if you’re moving around a lot or worrying about where you’re going to sleep at night!

Travel gives me a lot of inspiration for what I create, but generally I have to wait until I’m fixed in one spot before I can process those ideas into any kind of art. I wrote Love with a Chance of Drowning a year after the voyage was over. By that time, I’d had a chance to process the experience retrospectively and make meaning out of the whole experience.

There’s a lot of value in fully experiencing the moment while you’re in it, and then turning it into art later on when you have the time and the headspace to spare.

Read:  The Problem with Being a Travelling Writer

You’ve talked about how you suffered from creative blocks, something that many bloggers would sympathize with. How did you overcome this?

Art is uncertain. Sometimes, in order to feel the delicious comfort of certainty, you might try to make art while grasping onto some idea or technique that seems safe. If you do that, your writing will come out stiff and contrived because you’re not creating, you’re imitating.

Loosen your grip. Let go of control. Embrace the freefalling sensation of having no idea where you’re going with something.

Good art comes from risk, experimentation, and play. A good way to discover this again is to take up a new form of art, one that you can’t control: sculpture, life drawing, ceramics… Squeeze some clay between your fingers, laugh like a child, and remember what it feels like to play without all that seriousness. Now, create from that space.

Read:  The Trouble With Blogging

The book

You were gaining traction for the self-published version of your book during 2011. What motivated you to accept a traditional book deal?

Before the book went to auction, I did some numbers to work out what the book was worth to me. I’d already invested a considerable amount into the self-publishing process, so it wasn’t good business sense to take a token advance just so that I could call myself a ‘published author.’ I also tallied up what I could reasonably expect to earn as a self-published author, factoring in all the limitations with distribution, etc. That’s how I got my magic number.

When the first offer came in, it was right on my number. I couldn’t believe it! We negotiated up from there. So I took the deal because the advance was considerably high, and because it was well above what I felt I could earn as a self-published author.

One of the things I loved about your book was that it was extremely polished. I’ve found that this is a rare quality in many of the self-published books and ebooks I read. How important is the design and editing? Was it daunting investing so much without knowing how people would react?

I spent several years writing my book and, while I doubted myself daily, I wouldn’t have written it if I didn’t believe in it. Investing at the end stages was a small price to pay on top of the time and energy I’d already spent writing the book.

Design and editing are extremely important! We live in an era of information overload, and people are now extra precious with how they spend their time. The cover has to immediately communicate one firm promise: This will be worth your time. Your purpose for getting the book professionally edited is so that you can come good on that promise.

You should strive to make your book worthy of the reader’s time from the moment they first lay eyes on your cover, to the moment they turn the final page. Otherwise you’re just creating noise.

 What role did your blog play in getting the book deal?

I wouldn’t have sold the book without my blog. It helped in several ways:

1. A Hollywood film producer randomly discovered my profile on Twitter two weeks after I self-published. He clicked through to my blog, read an excerpt of Love with a Chance of Drowning, and DM’ed me to request a copy of the book. I sent him a copy, and he ended up buying the film option.
2. A UK publisher chanced upon my book in much the same way: through random clicking that led her to an excerpt published on my blog. She also ended up putting in an offer to buy the book.
3. When my agent was pitching the book to Australia and the US, publishers could see that I had a blog and a following. This upped the value of the book. It has since sold to five publishers.

 More about her book:

What bloggers are you watching?

I follow a lot of blogs, but there are only a few that I visit regularly:

Hyperbole and a Half  – I discovered Allie Brosh a few years ago, and no other blogger has since made me spray tea out of my nose like her. It is, without a doubt, the most hilarious blog in the world.

Almost Fearless  – I’ve been following Christine Gilbert’s blog for several years now. Her life story is interesting to follow and she’s also damn good at the business of blogging.

World Tour Stories – This is a blog about a really, really good looking couple who are sailing the world. They are exceptional at telling a story through stunning photography.

A city girl with a morbid fear of deep water, Torre DeRoche, confronts her deepest fears after falling for an Argentinean man with a leaky sailboat and a big dream.

Set against a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful and remote destinations, Love with a Chance of Drowning is a sometimes hilarious, often moving and always breathtakingly brave memoir that proves there are some risks worth taking.

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Comments

  1. Hi Jade, Torre,
    Jade, thank you for your insightful questions – we need more interviewers like you. Torre, thank you for your thoughtful answers. I can’t think of anything that I disagree or any point that was brought up the contends with how I approach blogging, designing my websites or the striving to bring a high degree of attention to whatever is before me – which is what I receive from this post. Curious how the quality and sensitivity of the post promotes the same in the reader. Wishing you success with the movie, Torre. Keep up the marvelous work Jade!

  2. Gjivan says:

    Wow, very inspiring interview, enjoyed fulltime reading through. Darren and majority of celeb pro-bloggers usually say to think BLOGGING as a business perspective rather as a hobby and this post ultimately verifies this statement. Blogging itself doesnt make money but it creates opportunities like this which can be a perfect medium to mometize talents like this. Really interested to read these kind of success stories!!

  3. I listened to an interview of Torre on a podcast and loved every minute. It’s so inspiring. To up and change your life and for that to be the foundation for so many great things – wow! I took a lot of that conversation and took another look at my own blogging and what I learned was to appreciate the moment and not to focus so much on the end game. I’m loving blogging again after that change.

    Kim

  4. jerrylewis says:

    An inspiring story from a well renowned writer, I guess hard work and dedication to writing pave the way to success. I really like reading a success story from people who strive hard in their forte. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Ferb says:

    Always love interview, they reveal success. Most people say that posting frequently is not important and post when you have something new to tell your readers. So keep researching is really need for new quality post.

  6. Janet Huey says:

    Torre’s language flow alone wants me to read more! Thank you both for introducing us to such inspiration.

  7. Inspirational story and its always good to see bloggers being recognised and getting their name in print. Its a wonderful thing as well to see a brand that is so well linked together.

  8. Rishi says:

    That’s true, “Everybody is artistic”! And if you are doing what interests you and what you actually love to do, it will help you get out of the crowd and stand above. And it will be than a “Creative Play” for you. Thanks for inspiring me.

  9. Waqar says:

    That was a very nice post, I had a talk with James Altucher about self publishing, if you search it on copy blogger you will find his article there, It is good for new self publishers

  10. Thank you Jade and Torre for a candid post! Often the ‘secret’ of publishing success is only partly revealed. I completely agree that having a ‘Platform’ such as a popular blog is crucial to building your brand. I wish Torre much continued success.

  11. This is definitely an inspiring story, keep it up Torre de Roche!

  12. Diana says:

    I love your writting style. It makes me to want to read more :))
    I don’t know how many readers do you have on your blog, but now you have one more!

    Take care,
    Diana

  13. Edson Hale says:

    It is a success story or we can fairly say it a struggler’s story but it has lot of inspiration for newbie blogger; such stuff put new spirit in those bloggers who are facing little challenges in their blogging struggle

  14. Rahul Bansal says:

    I really like you story Jade, you shared a success story that inspire many peoples as well as I also inspired with your story.

  15. YazeeDOT says:

    Many thanks Jade and Torre for any genuine write-up! The ‘secret’ of creating achievement is partially uncovered. When i absolutely acknowledge that using a ‘Platform’ for example a common weblog is necessary to help building your current brand. When i desire Torre a lot carried on achievement.

  16. Amit says:

    there are lot of learning curves in life thanks for the article

  17. Josh Brancek says:

    Jade, such an inspiring story!!! Best of luck to you in the future!!!

  18. Guy Hogan says:

    What a great story. She is an inspiration to every blogger who dreams of success.

  19. LOVE Torre’s book, love this interview and especially love this answer: “One more thing: ease off on reading How-To guides, and start filling your creative piggy bank with stand-up comedy, art galleries, books you wouldn’t usually pick up, and independent films.”

    YES! Nice work, Jade. Thank you :)