What goes online

The idea of blogging and books intertwining seems a bit counterintuitive. Why give away all of your ideas online, and sate the very same people that you and your publisher will want to buy your ruminations on a felled-tree product?

The idea of blogging and books intertwining seems a bit counterintuitive. Why give away all of your ideas online, and sate the very same people that you and your publisher will want to buy your ruminations on a felled-tree product?

But upon closer inspection, blogging for a book not only make sense, it makes doing it another way seem abstruse. First, the idea that different mediums are competing against each other is a somewhat old-fashioned mentality. Content is now a forceful brand and the medium(s) are the delivery agent.  This is apparent everywhere today: newspapers are podcasting and radio stations are writing blogs. A content producer who has something to say will most likely attract an audience anywhere he or she goes.

Books from bloggers also make sense when you consider that blogs are great at attracting devoted audiences. Bloggers can draw in impressive first-week sales from readers, without the need of an expensive floor display buy at Barnes & Noble. Blogs are great at organizing people with similar interests, a dream for any publisher.

An author friend of mine confirms that agents are still buzzing about books by bloggers, and recent releases have confirmed that trend. And why shouldn't they? With the amount of sunk costs going into the preparation of books, it's best to bet to work with someone who has already done the community-outreach legwork.

Just like Ana Marie Cox used Wonkette as a springboard to write a novel, Dog Days, business writers and PR consultants are using their blogs to write about - what else? -  blogs.

Perhaps the most famous example of this recently is Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson's The Long Tail, an all-consuming topic that began as a Wired article, jumped online to his own Typepad blog, and became a well-selling Hyperion book. It's true that great ideas should know no labels (mainstream, indie, online, or print), and the evidence of many memes that have jumped from medium to medium evinces that.

As Anderson and his editor Will Schwalbe told me, the book was merely "researched" on the blog, with the book featuring a narrative completely foreign to blog readers, and included new graphs, examples, and arguments.

While this may appear to be the most sensible way to handle a dual approach to a subject in the eyes of a traditional book publisher (Schwalbe admitted initial reluctance to the project when Anderson pitched the book but was appeased by the finalized research-driven blog), it is not the only way. 

Robert Scoble, former Microsoft employee and current PodTech.net executive and Shel Israel, PR consultant, authored Naked Conversations directly through their blog. Not only did they solicit feedback, they changed the tone in situations. Both authors were considerably harsh on lock company Kryptonite, but PR director Donna Tocci actively interacted with the authors and helped shape the final project.

Of course, no amount of multimedia synergy excuse poor writing. Both Naked Conversations and The Long Tail experienced robust sales because they attracted both blog readers and converts (Edelman CEO Richard Edelman famously purchased 250 copies of the book to give to his staff) with compelling narratives.

Blogs and books are a cycle. Now, someone who picks up the book on a whim can follow new developments on the blog that spawned the book… or the podcast… or the video blog… provided he or she doesn't collapse with exhaustion first.

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