Not everyone agrees with the premise behind blogging a book—writing a book and building author platform at the same time (and maybe even hoping or trying to get discovered by a publisher at the same time). Yet, I do encourage writers to blog their books.
In fact, I did blog a book. I even blogged a book about how to blog a book, and I did land a book deal. I stand by my belief that blogging a book provides nonfiction writers with the easiest and fastest way to write their books and promote them at the same time. That said, there are some reasons not to blog a book. I’ve heard most of them before. So, when I woke up this morning to read Jane Friedman’s post, “Please Don’t Blog Your Book: 4 Reasons Why,” I wasn’t too surprised by her remarks. She made some valid points, many of which I often stress as well. Therefore, I thought it appropriate to address them. I began doing so in a comment to her post, but it got so long that I decided to write an entire post on the topic!
Let me begin by saying that I highly respect Jane, and I don’t totally disagree with what she wrote; in some cases I totally agree. But let me go through her points one by one.
First, I agree that writers should think carefully about whether or not blogging a book is the best course to take to publication. Bloggers—those who are purists—would say you cannot blog with a book in mind. The blog and the blogged book are two different forms. A blog is a conversation, or should be if you blog well. It’s a place to communicate and to speak with your readers via the comment function, hashing out thoughts and ideas. That may or may not be conducive to writing a book. If this is what you want to do, don’t blog a book.
Book bloggers, aspiring authors blogging a book using blog technology, and those blogging for business or to create an author’s platform or any other type of expert status or platform, definitely should consider blogging a book (or later repurposing their posts into a book). A well-read blog in and of itself is a platform and the basis for a business. It remains a way to communicate with and engage readers of your book, as well as with potential clients. And some authors blogging books (and bloggers) find the comments incredibly useful in the book writing process; I think comments provide an essential and valuable tool. Lots of reader engagement in the form of comments also could be conducive to getting discovered by an agent or acquisitions editor. But, if you began as a purist and didn’t set out to blog a book, you’ll need to do a lot of work to “book your blog,” as Joel Friedlander calls repurposing your blog content, after the fact.
Writers planning to blog a book need to ask themselves if their ideas are marketable in both the publishing world and the blogosphere. That means taking it through what I call the proposal process—looking at the blog and the book idea through the lens of a book proposal or through a publisher’s eyes. See it as a business venture. After all, publishing is a business. Publishers want ideas and books that sell, and they are looking for business partners (not simply authors). If you want to blog a book, realize your blogged book idea will compete with the blogs in its niche—and later with the books in its niche. You can’t just assume that by blogging a book your blog will “get discovered.” It takes work—lots and lots of great and consistent content production and good promotion of that writing on line and off.
Second, let me address the four reasons Jane give not to blog a book by changing them into reasons to blog a book:
1. Blog writing can be book writing.
She says blog posts must be optimized for online reading and, therefore, writing posts differs from writing a book manuscript. You can blog a nonfiction book and, by staying focused on your topic (which you should do naturally), you will use keywords over and over again in your content; thus, your blog will get SEO without you even trying. You can and should us images with each post and provide links, when appropriate, all of which also help your SEO. It’s true, however, that depending upon the type of book you are writing, you may not have as many links. Memoirists and novelists, for instance, may not have links at all.
You can even tie into breaking news and current events, if you wish, by occasionally breaking the flow or your blogged book to discuss newsworthy issues related to your book. It is still a blog after all. Or you can choose to have an author blog in conjunction with your blogged book where you write about other things related to your book. Or you may just want to blog your book.
Blogging holds merit on its own no matter how you approach it, and those who blog their books should not see this work as “less than,” only different. I love having a blog where I can write about other things outside of the topics of my books (see www.asthespiritmovesme.com, a blog still related to some of the topics of my “other” books but which allows me the freedom to write about what I like in depth). There is no reason that the writing in a blog intended for publication has to be of a lesser quality than in any other type of blog or in a printed book (and there are lots of different types of blogs as well). In fact, a good writer’s blogged blog should be of equal caliber to any and all of his or her writing. The only difference between the blog and the book should be that the posts show up in short form—250-750 words or so at a time. Great posts written one after another, flowing one into the other in a well-thought out manner eventually form a book—if you do the planning in advance.
2. Blogs can make for very good books.
A blogged book (or even a booked blog) that gets no professional editing prior to its release as a printed or ebook becomes a “bad book.” I wouldn’t want to read it. Not only that, a blogged book that wasn’t mapped out from the start with a vision for its final printed or ebook version will fail. To create a good blog-to-book product, the writer must from the start have an idea of how the finished book will benefit readers, and that end product must offer something in addition to the current blog content—extra features, benefits, chapters, information, etc. Once the book they finish the first draft by posting all of it on line, they must take the manuscript they (hopefully) have created and begin the editing and revising process; then they must hire a professional editor to finish the job. Yet, many booked blogs consisting of just blog posts and now new content have successfully been edited for flow, their numerous links removed, and readers have loved simply being able to easily read all or part of the blog from start to finish.
Never, never send a blog over to one of those programs that simply prints every post as a book. That’s a recipe for failure. Like all “good” books, a blogged book needs great professional editing and design to succeed.
3. Nonfiction, narrative and fiction blogged books get book deals.
Although it is more difficult to land a deal like Julie Powell (Julie & Julia), memoirists can and do blog books successfully. It’s a bit harder for novelists, but I hear tell of successful fiction blog-to-book deals as well. If you’ve got a nonfiction book, however, you stand a high likelihood of success as a book blogger. Any subject that falls into a how-to category, such as business, spiritual, or self-improvement, lends itself to blogging. I highly recommend niche blogging for aspiring nonfiction authors. Humor and parody do always goes over big, as Jane mentions, as does any close look into an uncommon lifestyle (see Hack by Dimtry Samarov).
4. Some people love books with short, easy-to-digest chapters written in a blog-like style.
While I understand that some people don’t like to read books with short blog-post-like chapters, many time-crunched people (like me) do actually enjoy and appreciate such books, which is why more and more books are written in a format similar to blogs. I surely wouldn’t want a novel I choose to purchase to read like a blog, but I do like my nonfiction books to have shorter chapters—maybe not 500-word chapters but 1,000-2,000-word chapters—so I can read them in small chunks as I have time.) If a blogged book is written and edited well, it should not read like blog posts. It should be fleshed out from its original first- or second-draft stage seen online into something much more in-depth and meaty. It should read like a typical book and not like a blog. Even a reader with a trained eye should not know the book was once a blog. It can, however, meet the needs of the reader who wants a book that offers more than a blog and/or the reader who wants a book that is a quick, easy read.
I loved Jane’s “indicators that blog-to-book deal might work for you.” They are right on the money, so I’m going to take the liberty of reprinting them. (Read the whole post here.) They are:
- You’re blogging in a nonfiction category, especially if your blog focuses on how to do something or solves a problem for people.
- You’re focused on your blog for the joy of blogging, and you have the patience, determination, and drive to keep blogging for years. You won’t get recognition overnight, and it takes time to develop a following. Ultimately, it’s the buzz you generate, and the audience you develop (your platform created by the blog), that attracts a publisher to you—not the writing itself (though of course that’s important too!).
- You agree that the book deal isn’t the end of the road, but another way to expand your audience for your blog (or services/community connected to your blog).
As you consider whether or not to blog your book, realize that not all blogged books “get discovered.” Sometimes you have to go out and help a publisher find you. If you can write a great proposal to go with your blogged book, turn out a couple of well-edited chapters, show how your printed book will offer something of benefit to your loyal readers (and new readers), and prove that you’ve developed a readership for your blog that is growing daily, however, you might land a book deal anyway.
If you’ve blogged a book or read a blog that was turned into a book, what has been your experience? Do you think blogging a book is right for you?