Please Don’t Blog Your Book: 4 Reasons Why

blog to book

It’s been a trend ever since I worked full-time as a book acquisitions editor: Blog-to-book deals. I acquired or oversaw the publication of more than a dozen bloggers-turned-book-authors. Sometimes it translated into book sales, sometimes not.

Point is: I know that blogs can lead to book deals.

However, I want you to think twice before you decide this is your path. Here are 4 reasons why.

1. Blog writing is not the same as book writing.

Blog posts, to live up to their form, should be optimized for online reading. That means being aware of keywords/SEO, current events/discussions, popular online bloggers in your area, plus–most importantly—including visual and interactive content (comments, images, multimedia, links).

It seems almost silly to have to state it, but blogging (as a form of writing) holds tremendous merit on its own. Writers who ask, “Can I blog to get a book deal?” probably think of the blog as a lesser form of writing, merely a vehicle to something “better.” No. A blog has its own reasons for being, and blogs do not aspire to become books if they are truly written as blogs.

Never use a blog as a dumping ground for material that’s already been written for the print medium—or for book publication—without any consideration for the art of the blog.

2. Blogs can make for very bad books.

If you dump your blog content into a book without any further development or editing, I’m willing to bet it will be a bad book (unless, of course, you wrote the book first and divided it into blog posts!).

It’s true that many bloggers offer a compendium of their best writings as an e-book, for the convenience of their readers, or repurpose their blog content in a useful or creative way. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about lack of vision for how the content ought to appear in print, or how it ought to complement, extend, or differ from the online version. How can the content benefit from a print presentation? How does it get enhanced or become more special or valuable?

To give a couple examples:

  • Kawaii Not (a book that I oversaw publication for): This is an online cartoon that was adapted into a spiral, stand-up book, with perforations at the top of every page. The book was tremendously functional: Cartoons could be easily torn off and given to someone. We also included stickers.
  • Soul Pancake: This is a colorful activity-like book, based on the many questions and discussions that happen at a site of the same name. If you were to compare the site and the book, you would definitely find the same themes, styles, and sensibilities. However, the experience of the book and the experience of the site are two very different things!

I must admit, though, much depends on the genre/category of what’s being written/published. For instance, when it comes to a book that’s illustration-driven, there may be little difference between what’s posted online and what goes into the book. But that’s a book that sells based on its visuals, not its writing!

3. It’s more difficult for narrative works to get picked up as book deals.

This is a generalization, but most authors who ask me about this blog-to-book phenomenon are either memoirists or novelists. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to score a book deal with such a work. The blogs most likely to score book deals are in the information-driven categories (e.g., business and self-help) or humor/parody category (e.g., Stuff White People Like).

Furthermore, I only know of memoirists who’ve scored blog-to-book deals, not novelists (remember, we’re talking about BLOG form, not community sites like Authonomy). A couple examples of memoirish blogs that made the leap: Julie & Julia and Waiter Rant.

4. I love books that delve deeply into a topic and make no sense as blogs.

I read hundreds of blogs each week. Much of my reading is done online, in fact. So nothing makes me more irritated than when I sit down to read a book—expecting something meaty, in-depth, and worthy of my full attention—than to find it reads more like a series of blog posts. Unfortunately, due to the blog-to-book deal (in part), this is becoming more common. (Also, some books now mimic the online world by chunking the content so the book reads “faster.”)

In my mind, a book is a great medium for delving into those topics where the simplified, keyword-driven, ADHD world of blogging has no place. If I read a book and think, “I could’ve gotten this from a series of blog posts,” then I consider it a failure.

What are some indicators that blog-to-book deal might work for you?

  • 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).

If a blog-to-book deal path is appealing to you, then I highly recommend checking out Chris Guillebeau’s 279 Days to Overnight Success. He landed a book deal in about 1 year based on his blog. But he was laser-focused in his strategy and single-minded in marketing and promoting his blog to all the right people in the blogging community (not the publishing community). In other words, he has the mind and heart of an entrepreneur. Do you?


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Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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174 Comments on "Please Don’t Blog Your Book: 4 Reasons Why"

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Theresa Milstein

I agree with you that most blogs would not make very good books.  Stuff White People Like is an exception to the rule and Julia and Julia must’ve had a pretty big transformation from its original blog form.  I’ve thought of writing a humorous book based on old posts from when I used to sub, but that would be more about borrowing material.  I’d have a lot of work ahead of me.  Right now I’m focusing on fiction, which is nothing like my blog posts.  

Dawn Groves

Smart, practical, useful, honest. As usual. 🙂  I’ll tweet it as will every other writer. 
best, dawnwww.dawngroves.com

Jan Morrill

I agree completely. I read blogs and books for completely different reasons. I like hamburgers and prime rib, too, but one certainly cannot substitute for the other. Thanks for another great post!

Danezeller

Excellent reason number one!  A book is for reading. A blog is for communicating. 

Jill Kemerer
I’m nodding my head at #4. Believe it or not, The Emperor of Maladies (the huge book about the history of cancer) is exactly the type of meaty book I love. The author took the time to delve into every aspect of cancer and I walked away with a better understanding of the disease. I can’t even imagine that book as a compilation of blog posts! Obviously, the topic warranted the material. When I’ve read informational or memoir-ish books that read like a series of blogs, I’ve been disappointed. Yes, it’s a personal preference, but I love books that explore a topic… Read more »
ClaudiaC

My serial fictions do really well in blog form. We have a large active, international audience at Denver Cereal and at the Queen of Cool. The books have done really well and have their own audience. It’s always surprising how well the story lines fit together into novels, but 5 books so far – it’s going just fine.

But true traditional serial fiction is a little different than what you’re talking about. 

Nina Amir

 I’d love to know why serial fiction is different than blogging a book. Isn’t the principle basically the same–put up pieces of your novel a bit at a time? If you were blogging a novel, you might just not put up the whole chapter at a time.

ClaudiaC
I think, like a lot of people, you’re confusing serializing a novel with true serial fiction. That’s understandable because there’s a lot of confusion out there.  Serializing is simply hacking up your novel and posting it to the Internet via blog or Kindle. Serializing a novel is a distribution trick, nothing more.  As Jane said, true serial fiction has no ending. The story lines unfold week to week. In it’s most basic form, serial fiction is published as it’s written. That sounds minor but for the author that means that each post must stand on it’s own; there’s no going… Read more »
Jonathan Pinnock
Interesting post. I did blog my first novel, Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens, in order to (a) prove that there was a market for it (there was) and (b) force myself to stick to a writing schedule (6-700 words, twice a week, and I did). I got a publishing deal about 10 months in, at which point I continued to the end and shortly afterwards took the serialisation down. It worked because the style of the book (humorous with plenty of punchlines or cliffhangers to end episodes on) suited being serialised. I agree that this approach wouldn’t work for everyone,… Read more »
Nina Amir

 Congrats on blogging a novel! I’d love to hear more about that! As Jane mentioned, below, one of the great advantages of blogging any book is the discipline and deadlines. And once you have readers you have some accountability partners to keep you going!

Jonathan Pinnock

The fact that I had readers and that they were constantly commenting on what I’d written was a massive encouragement to keep going. I probably wouldn’t have finished the book without that.

Jonathan Pinnock

Oh, and thanks, Nina!

Rachel E. Nichols (@RachelENichols1)

A good place to “blog” your novel is wattpad. Unlike blogger or wordpress, wattpad is made for fiction and draws people looking for fiction to read and share.
No, I’m not spamming–just sharing information. Wattpad doesn’t know I’m promoting them. In fact I haven’t used it yet. But if I share my novel for free online I would look into something geared for fiction in particular. That way the audience knows what they’re getting.
Does anyone know if authonomy works the same way? Any other sites?

Rob Hoover

I’m planning to do pretty much what you did and for the same reasons. I don’t think I’ll be able to finish this story any other way, A chapter a week is my target… wish me luck!.

Robert Bruce

This is great info, Jane. I’ve thought about taking this step with some of my blog posts–those more along the lines of a Stuff White People like post.

Definitely some stuff to consider here.

Shannon Steffen
Absolutely brilliant, Jane! I own/write 4 blogs and have been doing so for many years. Each has it’s own niche or topic but each has to keep in mind all that you mentioned above. I’m also in the process of writing a book on “Human SEO”. Some people have told me to just use my blog for the content and then translate it over to a book. That always made absolutely no sense to me – especially being a SEO consultant. There is a huge difference between writing a blog and writing a book. I’ve been busy learning the former… Read more »
Phil Simon

Great post. I’m not a huge fan of blog-to-book type of things. They tend to suck. I do believe, though, that conversations launched in books can be valuably extended on blogs. That’s the rationale behind The Age of the Platform and its companion site – www.theageoftheplatform.com.

Linda Horowitz

…I read your fascinating article with interest Jane, thank you. 

I’ve just launched a WordPress website with the specific purpose of attracting literary agents and publishers. My strategy is quite ‘laser-focused’, as you mention in Chris Guillebeau’s blog. Even so, my site is not a blog. At the moment wracking my brain to find the best ways of developing it further, as well as the best method to contact agents.

Any suggestions?
see: http://www.whilethesandswhisper.com

Sincerely, 
Linda Horowitz, author, photojournalist

Barbara McDowell Whitt

Jane, thank you for this. Why else do I list The Diary of Anne Frank and The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder among my favorite books on my Blogger blog’s About Me – View My Complete Profile page? (I do wish Blogger would get their profile page formatting fixed or at least notify me that the problem is due to operator error, the possibility of which I have already attempted to investigate.)   

Barbara McDowell Whitt
Barbara McDowell Whitt

Now my Gravator photo has disappeared. Operator error again I suppose….

Cynthia Morris
This is great. The distinctions you make about what makes for good blog content and what makes for a good book are very helpful, especially the point about timeliness and SEO.  I’m currently trying this (not seeking a book deal) but am blogging a unified content that could ultimately be gathered into a book. I sketched out the table of contents and have material for the blog for many months.  What I like about that is I feel my content is cohesive. I know what I’ll be writing about and don’t have to keep coming up with new ideas (this… Read more »
Nina Amir

Some of the problems you mention can be eliminate with really good blog-to-book planning before you ever start blogging your book, Cynthia.

The feedback you are getting from your blog readers can be really valuable, since these people are the same ones who might read the book. You might try putting up a survey to get more input from them or asking them pointed questions. Find out what they want to know.

Brian
I’ll toss in another that works well, a Choose Your Own Adventure style story. I’m doing one right now, and I can’t tell the story without interaction from readers. Well, I could. It just wouldn’t be as much fun. I am planning on doing a serial as well, and this is making me pause a bit. My plan was to have things written and edited ahead of time, not writing on the fly (as opposed to my CYOA) and have a set schedule to post pieces. I want to have it at a point where I could publish the story… Read more »
Anonymous

Jane,

Once again your post is full of wise advice for writers. It’s not simple or easy to make the transition from blog to book. It can be done–and I’ve seen it multiple times but you have pointed out the potential pitfalls. Everyone thinks it is simple–but it is not.

Terry
author of the Write A Book Proposal course

Mehmet Arat

I have been trying to swim in the social media alternatives for a while and I still wonder how people can find time to maintain such long blogs. What I wonder more is the ratio of read/written blogs. I am afraid the value can be smaller than one!
Anyway, thank you for the brief guide and comparison.

Kelly Louise

I started a blog to see if I could write humor. Then I decided to blog a book, posted chapter one and it’s, well, awkward.  Your blog post added clarity to my worries. Thanks Jane.

Debbie Young
All wise words but what I especially like about your post is its celebration of blogging.   Blogging, at its best, is an admirable art-form,  perfectly balanced and structured, satisfying and fulfilling for blogger and reader. It’s an ideal read for the time-strapped 21st century person, seeking inspiration and entertainment on the hoof from the mobile device of the moment.   Books are for savouring at greater leisure. Much as I love blogs, you won’t find me reading one in the bath with a glass of wine or in bed with a late-night cup of tea. Hoping to find success… Read more »
Liz Alexander

Amen to that. Listen to what Ken Brand had to say about discovering the difference between what he had posted on his blog for 2 years, and what he needed to do with that content to create a best-selling book (audio inserted into the Pllop): http://drlizalexander.com/ken-brand-less-blah-blah-more-ah-ha/

Nina Amir
While some people might think I’d totally disagree with your post, Jane, I don’t. It’s true that I encourage writers to blog their books; I did blog a book. I even blogged a book about how to blog a book, and it did land me a book deal with Writer’s Digest Books. 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, you make valid points, many of which I often stress as well. As I got going on… Read more »
Mari Collier

I’ve often wondered how writers could devote all that time to blog writing and still have time for the other writing.   Blogs seemed to be too personal for a transition.

Dave Perlmutter
Great post. I am in fact a first time writer and using my blog to write a story based on true events. I have the first chapter published on the blog and had some good comments, even though it still requires some editing. I have 9 chapters in draft and working my way to the end of the story for my editor to look at. I am only using the blog as promotion and exposure for followers etc. I hope to have it complete soon for a ebook, fingers crossed. If you wish to check out my blog and become… Read more »
BlogWorld Expo

 Is this DR. Perlmutter commenting above? if So I would love to catch up with you Dave.

Dave Perlmutter

 Nope not guilty, not the Dave Perlmutter you were looking for…sorry!

kathryn magendie

I use my blog as a “release” from my fiction writing! Something I can relax into, and form community bonds. I’m often alone (other than GMR and my dogs) here in the cove, and writing can be a lonely endeavor, so blogging gives me that sense of community, and relaxes me – there’s no pressure to “perform” or write what will “sell” – as there is with my novels. So, I’d never do a blog to book thang . . . not for me!

Jeff Emmerson

I do it right, I feel. 

http://theroadtomyselfmemoir.wordpress.com/  I’m building up to my book being published! 

Linda Horowitz

…i like the dedication Jeff, which comes through on your website. I’m actually on the same road with a new WordPress site, building up my novel…to be published. see:www.whilethesandswhisper.com

Mary Beth

I really appreciate your posts.  Everytime I get on facebook I cruise down through the home page looking for you.  I’m learning so much.   Thanks Jane. 

katie

This is an excellent and timely article. I have a series of blog posts that I would like to convert to a published book, but essentially the blog posts are only the introduction to each chapter and far from the book itself…

Nina Amir

That’s an effective approach, Katie. The you can flesh them out in your manuscript and show a publisher (or tell readers) that you have a lot of new content.

Debra Eve
I’m blogging to book, and was happy to see I fit your demographic. Short, inspirational “Chicken Soup For The Soul”-type pieces (a series that easily could have been a blog back in the day) about late bloomers. I released the first volume myself, and it’s consistently in Kindle’s top-100 for “Motivational.” I’m planning an inspirational print calendar for 2013. I have a 3-year plan. Just recently, however, it occurred to me I might never want a print deal. I’m passionate about my subject matter and it’s never-ending. It’s starting to bring in income. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.… Read more »
eddieresner

Hi…I just recently sent my manuscript to a blogger named Ray.  I’ll let you know what happens. 

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Kelly Byrne
Another great post, Jane. I shall tweet away. I’ve been blogging on and off for a while, but I still haven’t really found my groove with it yet. I don’t have any fancy hopes of turning it into a book deal, I’m just interested in putting something of value out, but because there are SOOOOOOOOO many blogs about writing, the writing life, writers, what to write, what not to write, writing on crack, wait… you get the point. So much out there, I just haven’t quite figured out what I can tell people that eleventy billion others haven’t already said.… Read more »
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Liz Allenby

Thank you for your insights. They are valuable considerations.

Tom Adair

All excellent observations Jane. You always give me something to think about. Blogging can seem so simple at times and you’re right…there’s a vast difference between blogging and writing a book. Thanks for the information

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Rhen Wilson

I’m curious for your opinion. What if you’re writing fiction for a blog? Like a serialized story posted on weekly/daily blog posts, with no intention of getting published. Just for fun. Are people willing to read blogs like books?

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23 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Blog to Book — BlogWorld & New Media Expo Blog

[…] Please Don’t Blog Your Book: 4 Reasons Why by Jane Friedman […]

BlogWorld Expo
Thank you for sharing your insight with first hand knowledge of the publishing space Jane. This is very helpful to bloggers. I want to find some way to refer blogger to it on an ongoing basis. Many of the bloggers who come to BlogWorld are looking to be published, or at least have that as a goal in their career. The same thing happens at SXSW. I would also add that Wiley and now Que publishing exhibit at our show with the express purpose of recruiting authors from our blogger and podcaster attendees. Which is something I think that gets… Read more »
Sam

Love this advice!  Especially the part on a book being meaty.  Great metaphor to aspire to in writing a book.  Thanks!

April Line

Jane, Wonderful info as usual, and thanks a bazillion for the link to 297 days to overnight success.  

Warmly,
-April Line

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Jenn Hughes
Hi Jane,  I was wondering on your thoughts about books to fiction sites (writing a book and releasing it on a fan fiction type site). I have been writing a book for the last few years and it is near completion. I really want feedback on it, but thats hard to find when 1. your friends and family won’t be honestly critical and 2. It isn’t a genre that many friends who would critic it for me would enjoy (YA fantasy).  I’ve been considering posting some chapters online to get an some feedback that I desperately need to continue with… Read more »
Peter Reusch

 I think the above is great advise. I will now publish my none-fiction project as a blog…as soon as this ancient geezer will find some techie to volunteer teaching  him. – Peter

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sean1966

Very good advice, but I have been releasing my latest novel one chapter at a time on my blog to generate interest. Is this bad thing, too?

http://sdanielshortwintercom.blogspot.com/

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