Which came first, the book or the blog?
So far, my posts about blogging have looked at blogging from the perspective of an author who already has a book (or manuscript in process) and is looking for a solid, high-ROI way to get the word out there quickly. As you may have noticed, I’m quite fond of the blogging and think there’s no more direct way to make your mark online – provided you follow all the rules we’ve laid out again and again:
- Quality content
- Regular posting
- Use of images with every post
- Effective commenting
In Mason Stoller’s post, “Blogs aren’t books” for StayOnSearch.com, he advises bloggers not to write their posts as if they were drafting chapters of their books. Though his commentary is a bit snarky, there’s some good stuff in there, too – including the following tips for writing your blog:
- Use easy to read features like bullet points, lists, quotes, etc
- Make key phrases & ideas bold, italicized, underlined
- Blend in images and video as your post runs on, this helps break the information and keep your readers interested
- Don’t write longer than 5 or 6 sentences without a break, spacing helps the reader move through the words and concepts
- Change font size to emphasize and point out specifics
Today, I want to flip the telescope around and look at the idea of a blog becoming a book. The good news is that quite a few blogs/websites have found book deals and been published as books, though from the reviews, that’s not always a good thing. Read a few of the reviews in AVClub’s November 2008 post, “Why buy the cow?” and FreelanceWritingGig’s February 2010 post, “13 Blogs that Became Books.” Please note, 9 of the better-known books are mentioned in both of these posts.
Then there’s Mashable.com’s December 2009 post, “Blog to Book,” that delves a bit deeper than the review posts mentioned above. Limiting its coverage to just 6 books (This Is Why You’re Fat being the only title here also to appear on the other two lists), this post takes more of an interview format, asking the authors questions about the blog-to-book process. Though the questions vary a bit with each author, each interview touches on topics such as:
- Blogger name
- Blog title/URL
- Book title
- Public reaction to the book and blog
- Traffic-driving methods
- Highest traffic point
- How the book deal came about
- Why the book
- Which earns more revenue – the blog or the book?
- Any future ventures?
The subscription site mediabistro.com has a multi-part video interview with authors and literary agents who have had books converted from blogs. In one segment of the video, several authors and agents are interviewed, among them, Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia. Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, author of Apartment Therapy, shared his experience, “The biggest challenge for me was finding time to go away from the online world. … There’s instant gratification with the online world. It’s a luxury – you don’t have that with a book.”
However, literary agent Kate Lee, who represents ICM, offered this piece of inspiration, “If you have a blog and you’re profiled in The New York Times, you’re going to get a nice book deal. … It’s not necessarily because you have a blog, but because you were profiled in The New York Times.”
So let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Will your blog become a bestseller? Wellllll – it’s unlikely that you’ll land a six-figure book deal from a major publishing house, but I have a philosophy of never saying never. If you’ve got an outstanding topic, fantastic writing, great traffic, and loads of subscribers and commenters, you might just want to put together a proposal and hit up the traditional publishers who work in your genre.
Let’s alter the question, though: Can your blog become a book? It’s definitely possible, particularly in this age of self-publishing! My goal is to help any socially conscious writer with a dream to see their book published – and then sell as many of those books as possible. Blog-to-book is a great way to begin because you’ve already done a lot of the writing!
Of course, a few things need to happen first – you can’t just slap all your posts into a PDF and call it done. You’ve got to go through the same process any author does when drafting their book. First – put the thing in some order. A couple hundred random blog posts does not a book make. Give some shape to it by making sure your posts have a reason to their order.
People often express concern that if it’s already out there in a blog, no one will want to buy it in book form. That’s a non-argument, in my opinion. Reading through one post at a time is not in any way the same as reading the information in one contained place: a book. Additionally, chances are pretty good you’ll need to do some further writing to get those posts manuscript ready. Are there gaps? People you need to interview or research you need to do? Are your facts and figures still current? Does every post need to be included? Have you learned something that’s given you a new perspective about a topic from your blog?
Next, you’ll need to have it edited. Of course I always advocate for spending the most money you can afford on the editing – but however you get it done, have someone else (preferably a professional) take a look at it for you.
Then you’ll need a cover and layout/formatting. The next step are the printing and distribution considerations, and all the other things that come with managing the self-publishing process. Of course, after all that, the real work begins: MARKETING your book, which is why you’re here in the first place, isn’t it?
If you haven’t started your book yet but you have a good blog going, it couldn’t hurt to think about turning it into a book.
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