Blooker prize gongs for best blogs

Judges have announced the short-list for a literary prize aimed at honouring the best books based on blogs. Among the 15 short-listed "blooks" is one which claims to have invented a new genre of fiction.
Last year's winning blook - Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously - has now sold over 100,000 copies and is being made into a film.

The prize aims to encourage cutting-edge literature, more of which is beginning life in the blogosphere.

"Blooks are the latest landmark in the history of books," said Bob Young of Lulu, the self-publishing website which sponsors the prize. I labelled each story as "Flicktion" and now writing groups have started using the term to describe writing stories about photos," said Andrew Losowsky, author and blogger.

Many people are not surprised that works of genuine literary merit are growing out of the ever-expanding blogosphere. Technorati, a blog search engine, estimates that some 175,000 new blogs are created every day and for those with popular weblogs there is a great incentive to go on and publish their web-based ideas in book form.

American artist Frank Warren's My Secret: A Post-Secret Book is one of this year's short-listed blooks. It grew out of his weblog PostSecret, which encouraged young people to mail in their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard.

It is now one of the world's ten most popular blogs, attracting 3.5 million visitors each month and has just won the Best Topical and Best Community categories at the annual Bloggie awards. While weblogs and related books is a new publishing phenomenon, the way many are written - in serial form - is not. It harks back to the Victorian era when novelists such as Dickens were exposed to the public in weekly chapters, published in newspapers.

Cory Doctorow, well-known blogger and former Blooker judge, believes blooks change the nature of the creative process involved in writing.

"Previously such jottings might have been kept in the author's notebook but something amazing happens when you post them online: readers help you connect them, flesh them out and grow them into fully-fledged books or blooks," he said.

The trend towards turning blogs into books is also creating new genres. Doorbells of Florence has been heralded as a cult book. The Doorbells of Florence - short-listed in the fiction category - comprises a collection of 36 colour photographs of Florentine doorbells, each accompanied by a story about the people or things that may be inside.

As the photographs that inspired the stories were first posted on the photo-sharing website Flickr, it has been dubbed the first volume of "flicktion".

"I labelled each story as "Flicktion" and now writing groups have started using the term to describe writing stories about photos," explained author Andrew Losowsky.

"Google the word and you'll see it appear all over the place. It's been discussed at geek conferences and in an academic paper, and taught in classrooms. My doorbells were the first," he said.

One hundred and 10 blooks from 15 countries were entered for this year's prize and increasingly traditional publishers are sitting up and taking notice.

"We've seen a big increase this year in the number of entries from traditional publishers," said Mr Young.

Well-known blogs that have become books include The Devil Wears Prada and Belle de Jour: The Intimate Adventures of a London Call-Girl.

The 2007 Blooker is offering a total prize fund of $15,000 ( £7,750 ) for winners in the three categories of fiction, non-fiction and comics. The overall winner - announced on 14 May - pockets $10,000 ( £5,170).

The best of the web's blogs have been recognised in another set of awards this week as the Bloggies - now in their seventh year - were announced.

The awards - voted for by the public - saw established brands such as Flickr and YouTube pick up gongs. Technology website Gizmodo won two awards, in both the Best Technology weblog and Best Designed sections.