[NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS] SHOULD YOU BLOG YOUR BOOK?

Recently on a writers’ listserv to which I subscribe, a woman asked for advice about turning her nonfiction book into a blog. She has queried agents to no avail and is anxious to get her message out to the public, book deal or no book deal. Another writer suggested she read How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book One Post ... by San Francisco author Nina Amir. After all, dozens of blogs are turned into books each year. What could be the harm in blogging your book?

In my Blogging for Beginners class at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, I advise my students NOT to blog their books, and here’s why:

 

1.) Plagiarism. Writers steal content and ideas all the time. And unless an excerpt is copied word for word, it’s difficult to prove copyright infringement in court. If you’ve got a great idea for a book and you’re hoping to land a traditional book deal, think twice before you blog your book.

2.) Novels and memoirs don’t blog well. There are exceptions, of course, like the blog that became Julie & Julia, but most blogs that turn into books are nonfiction how-to or humor books like Sh** My Dad Says and Stuff White People Like. In fact, when someone posts chapters of their book on their blog, I tend to skip over them because I don’t visit blogs to read books. I visit blogs to be informed or entertained.

 

3.) Perceived Loss of Value. Why should I buy your book if I can read it for free online? Again, there are exceptions  like those books mentioned above, which make great gifts, but by blogging your book, you risk devaluing the content—both to readers and potential publishers.

 

4.) You can build a platform without blogging your book. You don’t need to blog the content of your book in order to build a platform for your book. If your book is set in Victorian England, you can blog about all things Victorian without posting a single excerpt of your book. You can even give your readers a flavor of your writing style through your blog posts.

 

5.) Blogs make bad books and books make bad blogs. Blogs are typically written in short chunks. Books aren’t. Books provide an opportunity for both the author and the reader to delve deeper into a topic or a story. Posting a chunk of that story, out of context, probably won’t make for a great blog post and therefore won’t help you to build your author platform. Likewise, taking a series of short, choppy blog posts and stringing them together probably won’t make a great book without considerable editing.

If you do have a great nonfiction idea that you think will translate well both into a blog and a book, Jane Friedman suggests reading Chris Guillebeau’s 279 Days To Overnight Success, which you can download for free. Just be prepared to spend a great deal of time strategizing and marketing and promoting your blog. If you already have a book written, and you’ve had no success getting it published, you may want to self-publish and blog about topics related to your book without blogging your book. You’ll have better luck building an audience, and you may even make a few bucks.

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Comment by Karen Szklany Gault on June 29, 2016 at 11:43am

Great post, Meghan.  I was thinking along these lines.  I want to finish writing my novel first, but was thinking about blogging about subjects related to it as a way of promoting it.

Comment by Norine Dworkin-McDaniel on June 20, 2016 at 2:06pm

I agree that it makes no sense to serialize your book on a website and call it a blog. There's no reason for readers to pay for a printed-bound version of what they can read for free online -- even Justin Halpern's Sh*t My Dad Says was vastly expanded from its original 140-character Twitter-feed origins to create his hilariously insightful ode to his dad/ coming of age memoir. That said, there is a right way for your blog and book to work together to grow your audience for your book AND keep readers entertained between books. One of the best examples I've seen of the blog-book meld is Jerry Mahoney's memoir, Mommy Man: How I Went from Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad. His memoir (which grew out of an incredibly beautiful Modern Love column) is about he and his husband deciding to start a family and how they did that using donor eggs and surrogates. His blog, also called Mommy Man, is about the family in the present day. He built a wonderful audience for his book by blogging about being a gay dad, whetting his readers' appetites for the How That Happened story told in his book. Reading his blog, you can't help but get wrapped up in his family's fun and funny experiences. When the book came out a few years ago, there was a ready audience who wanted to know the convoluted and at times heart-wrenching story of all that he and his partner went through to have the kids he's writing about today. The blog and book work together and support each other by telling different ends of the same story. It's brilliant. 

My business partner Jessica Ziegler and I also used our blog, Science of Parenthood, as a means to get to our book, also called Science of Parenthood, out from SWP in November. We started with the idea for a book, but worked on our blog for about 2.5 years before we started writing it. Ours is an illustrated humor blog that uses math and science to "explain" parenting situations. We used  our blog to build audience for our concept, to network with other parenting bloggers who ultimately helped us with the promotion of our book when it came out, and to road-test material for the book. When we started, we knew we wanted to create a book, but we didn't know exactly how we wanted to do it so that it would be different from other gift books, different from other parenting humor books. So we experimented with concepts till we figured out what we wanted to do. 90% of our book is brand new, never been seen before material, created just for the book. But through our blog, we'd cultivated an audience for our humor and our cartoons, an audience that was ready to buy the book when it came out and promote it to their friends and leave reviews on Goodreads and Amazon too.

So, should you blog your book? If you're thinking about a Dickens-style serial, no. Something like Kindle Singles would be better for that (Julian Fellows is doing just that with his novel Belgravia.) But authors should absolutely look for ways to use blogs in the service of their books. Blogs are one more tool in the writer's tool box.

Comment by Norine Dworkin-McDaniel on June 20, 2016 at 2:05pm

I agree that it makes no sense to serialize your book on a website and call it a blog. There's no reason for readers to pay for a printed-bound version of what they can read for free online -- even Justin Halpern's Sh*t My Dad Says was vastly expanded from its original 140-character Twitter-feed origins to create his hilariously insightful ode to his dad/ coming of age memoir. That said, there is a right way for your blog and book to work together to grow your audience for your book AND keep readers entertained between books. One of the best examples I've seen of the blog-book meld is Jerry Mahoney's memoir, Mommy Man: How I Went from Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad. His memoir (which grew out of an incredibly beautiful Modern Love column) is about he and his husband deciding to start a family and how they did that using donor eggs and surrogates. His blog, also called Mommy Man, is about the family in the present day. He built a wonderful audience for his book by blogging about being a gay dad, whetting his readers' appetites for the How That Happened story told in his book. Reading his blog, you can't help but get wrapped up in his family's fun and funny experiences. When the book came out a few years ago, there was a ready audience who wanted to know the convoluted and at times heart-wrenching story of all that he and his partner went through to have the kids he's writing about today. The blog and book work together and support each other by telling different ends of the same story. It's brilliant. 

My business partner Jessica Ziegler and I also used our blog, Science of Parenthood, as a means to get to our book, also called Science of Parenthood, out from SWP in November. We started with the idea for a book, but worked on our blog for about 2.5 years before we started writing it. Ours is an illustrated humor blog that uses math and science to "explain" parenting situations. We used  our blog to build audience for our concept, to network with other parenting bloggers who ultimately helped us with the promotion of our book when it came out, and to road-test material for the book. When we started, we knew we wanted to create a book, but we didn't know exactly how we wanted to do it so that it would be different from other gift books, different from other parenting humor books. So we experimented with concepts till we figured out what we wanted to do. 90% of our book is brand new, never been seen before material, created just for the book. But through our blog, we'd cultivated an audience for our humor and our cartoons, an audience that was ready to buy the book when it came out and promote it to their friends and leave reviews on Goodreads and Amazon too.

So, should you blog your book? If you're thinking about a Dickens-style serial, no. Something like Kindle Singles would be better for that (Julian Fellows is doing just that with his novel Belgravia.) But authors should absolutely look for ways to use blogs in the service of their books. Blogs are one more tool in the writer's tool box. 

Comment by Catherine Marshall-Smith on September 13, 2014 at 10:42pm

You post makes sense and yet I can see the temptation to blog a book. When we're nobody from nowhere, it's tempting to just throw it up there and wait for a response. Building a platform is like serving appetizers; you get people interested in more of you.  Hey I tried to sign up for your Social Media workshop in October but when I clicked your email address I got an error message. Where is it being held?

Comment by Kathy Brunner on September 11, 2012 at 9:51am

That IS the case, Meghan and thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated.

Comment by Meghan Ward on September 11, 2012 at 3:14am

Kathy, It sounds like you're using your blog to build an audience and connect with readers but that you're not actually blogging your book (posting chapters of your book on your blog). If that's the case, I think you're doing the right thing!

Comment by Kathy Brunner on September 10, 2012 at 12:11pm

Meghan,

I somewhat agree about not blogging the actual book, however, my blog generates and interest in my book, because it highlights themes in the book. I blog at FindingYourFire and my blog discusses how to take your passion and make it happen, addressing issues like procrastination, networking, personal purpose, living authentically etc. These were addressed in my book Finding Your Fire on a more personal, specific and in depth way with exercises, commentaries and suggestions. Having a blog about the book often helps readers connect and be involved and I think helps develop ideas for continued writing, but I do agree blogging the book defeats publishing. I think it depends on what you actually want your book to do. I looked to build a community around a theme rather than entice people to buy and have no follow up. Great discussion post, Meghan.

Comment by Meghan Ward on September 8, 2012 at 4:59pm

Thanks for reading, Eva!

Comment by Eva Schlesinger on September 8, 2012 at 3:55pm

You raise many excellent points.  I appreciate your post so much.

Thanks for an excellent article!

Comment by Sherrey Meyer on September 7, 2012 at 7:24pm

Meghan, appreciate the additional input.  I'm still waffling back and forth over parts of this, but for now I've made my blog "private" with no viewers unless I invite them.  For now, I feel very safe in this.  Over time that may change.

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