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.