Should I Blog My Book?

Everyone has heard of bloggers who made it big with a book deal, right? Why shouldn’t the next one be you?

I can think of a few reasons.

  1. A blog is not a book

I know, it seems obvious (but I miss the Obvious Station often enough that I try to at least check there before boarding the Train of Thought). To choose just one example of the difference: blog posts are written for online reading, and tend to be shorter, less formal, and more self-referential than a book chapter, because blog readers and book readers typically want a different experience. A writer who doesn’t grasp the unique opportunities and demands of each is unlikely to succeed in either medium (and while I’m at it, may I pet a peeve for a moment? Don’t say “blog” when you mean “blog post.” The word blog can be both a verb and a noun but a blog is the place where blog posts appear. We now return you to our previously scheduled programming).

  1. Once you blog something, it is “published”

This may not be a deal-killer for a book, but it may enter into the consideration. In a long-ago post (here) on this blog, the venerable Steve Laube pointed out:

In a book contract there is a Warranty clause that reads in part “the Work is original, has not been published before.” And if a chapter had once been an article or a blog post (yes, a blog post is “published” in that it is freely available on the Internet) your contract would have to then be adapted to read “Portions of the Work have been previously published in periodicals. The Work, in whole, has not been previously published and is not in the public domain.” This fact is then revealed on the copyright page of the final edition of the book. Many professional columnists do this when converting their work into book form.

  1. Why should readers pay for a book when they can read the same content for free on your blog?

Maybe you’ve seen the comments I and others have in online book reviews, saying, “You could just read this author’s blog and get the same information.” Comments like that may prompt me to search, find, and perhaps even subscribe to the author’s blog, but they won’t induce me to buy the book.

  1. A blog’s traffic can grow slowly, year by year; a book needs readers right out of the gate

A blog can be a great place to hone your message, build your brand, and develop a following. But if you’re blogging up a storm and only a hundred subscribers are enthusiastic about your content, well, pardner, a big fancy editor isn’t likely to be impressed. On the other hand, if you craft a sharp, unique book proposal that draws on the message you’ve honed and the knowledge and response you’ve garnered over the years as a blogger/speaker/worldwide YouTube celebrity, then you might just have something.

 In this as in many other things, there are exceptions to the rule. But the exceptions prove the rule. And there are, of course, some people who disagree (and have even written books on the subject—though I doubt that they blogged the books first).

So blog away. A blog (even a single blog post) may someday lead to a book. Your blog content may be valuable for use as the foundation for longer-form projects. A blog post may be expanded and re-written for use in a book. An anecdote that got a positive response on your blog could be re-used. But trying to convert a blog to a book is like turning speeches, sermons, or emails into a book. It is more likely a route to disaster than it is a train to glory.

 

31 Responses to Should I Blog My Book?

  1. Shirlee Abbott February 28, 2018 at 4:00 am #

    Thank you, Bob, for your clear summary. This is a problem for me. There are many parallels between my blog and my WIP book–some, I’m sure, are identical sentences. Sometimes, the thought first appeared in the blog and made its way into the book; sometimes, it’s the other way around. My passion (my brand) is so woven into both–I’m not sure where one stops and the other starts.

  2. Janine Rosche February 28, 2018 at 4:35 am #

    Every time you mention a pet peeve, i hang my head. But thank you! This is a very helpful blog 😉

  3. Tisha Martin February 28, 2018 at 5:29 am #

    Wonderful info here, Bob, thank you. This may totally be off the beaten path, but since a blog is like social media does that mean sharing pieces (screenshot) of your work is considered “published,” and particularly if shared on another social media platform?

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler February 28, 2018 at 10:20 am #

      The lines between electronic (blog, social media, website, etc.) and print are blurry these days, but if I can access it and read it somewhere, it has been published.

      • Tisha Martin February 28, 2018 at 4:02 pm #

        :/ No wonder you can’t read any screenshots/mss. that writers post on their account! *scrambles to check my own social media accounts…*

  4. Edie Melson February 28, 2018 at 5:38 am #

    Great info! I’m one of those exceptions. My first book was a blog-to-book deal. But I couldn’t take it directly from the posts. They had to first be rewritten to fit the format and expectations of readers. Also, my topic—social media—was a perfect fit to go from blog to book.

    And thank you. When I hear posts called blogs, it grates along my nerves and sends me into agony. Thank you for pointing that out!

    Finally, my blog-to-book is still in print, and yes, everything in it can be found on my blog. I point that out when I’m speaking. BUT the reader must sift through over 2500 individual posts to find the info. I agreed to the book so the info writers needed for social media would be easy to find.

    I love your posts here – such wit and wisdom is always a great way to start the day!

    • Sharon Cowen February 28, 2018 at 7:00 am #

      Thanks Edie and Bob. Edie, I follow your blog posts as well, but haven’t read your book on the subject. Now I have it on my list.

    • Carol Ashby February 28, 2018 at 9:18 am #

      I’ve learned so much from your blog, Edie. Many thanks for your efforts there.

      I can heartily recommend that anyone here who isn’t already subscribed to your blog should do so.

      • Bob Hostetler
        Bob Hostetler February 28, 2018 at 10:17 am #

        Hey, what’s the deal giving out kudos to Edie here? Oh, okay, you’re right. Her blog is amazing.

        • Carol Ashby February 28, 2018 at 10:38 am #

          OK, Bob. I’ll admit it. I think your blog posts are pretty amazing, too. That’s why I’m almost always here.

  5. Vanessa Burton February 28, 2018 at 6:43 am #

    I’ve wondered about this before! Thanks for the tips! I often miss the Obvious Station, too!

  6. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 28, 2018 at 7:18 am #

    A couple of years ago I participated in an ongoing short-story contest called #BlogBattle, with new entries written around a keyword every week.

    I wrote a series of Viet Nam vignettes, and kept them chronological because, well, that’s how they happened. There were eventually enough to be modified and put into book form, and mary Keeley, formerly of Books and Such, encouraged me to do this.

    But I didn’t things got in the way, and I got too sick (they were all written in Blogger; I didn’t cut and paste from Word, which would have been smarter).

    At least they’re out there, and Ms. Keeley said that they had way more veracity than anything else I did.

    If i can just get a remission, catch my breath, and get them collated, I’ll put them out as-is.

    But at least they have been read, and loved, and that is what they were all about, anyway.

  7. Karen Sargent February 28, 2018 at 7:32 am #

    Oh, Bob, you give me things to think about when I don’t have time to think about more things. 🙂 Actually, you may have helped me get closer to a decision. I have a mom blog that I’ve considered reworking and doing “something” with. I’ve thought about turning the most popular posts into into an ebook to use as a lead magnet to grow my email list (and include buy links to my novel). I was concerned I’d regret giving away content I might be able to publish later, but your post makes me think using it as a lead magnet might be the best way for me to reuse the content. Hhhmm…

  8. mark Alan Leslie February 28, 2018 at 8:47 am #

    Okay, Bob, so I have all this (what I think is) great info I just cut from my next novel, “The Last Aliyah,” because it was to “preachy” and would slow down the story. Part of it is a debate on Replacement Theology, part on the UN’s historical treatment of Israel, and part about the scientific contributions of Jews.
    What do you think of using these “scenes” in my blog?

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler February 28, 2018 at 10:15 am #

      Just me talking here (and the voices in my head), but some novelists do offer deleted scenes on their blogs (or as bonus content for subscribers to newsletters, etc.).

  9. Lorraine February 28, 2018 at 9:04 am #

    Bob, thanks for clearing up the question that many of us have. I’ve heard people talk about blogging your book, and it seemed odd, because then the book is published, as you pointed out. I also wanted to thank you, again, for your to die for, rip the ceiling off, awesome KEYNOTE speech at the FCWC. I spoke to you after the service. You impressed your audience greatly and rightly so. Your delivery was spot on, and I loved the way you prefaced your message with comedy. You drove many of us to tears by evoking emotions. Your message is a forever keeper, and I told my daughter that (she was one who cried). She was still soaking it all in the next day. If yours had been the only KEYNOTE, and the only teaching at the conference, the trip and the money was well worth it. Best of all, your words were lit by the fire of our creator. I cannot thank you enough for coming. Please come back and teach general classes that we can all attend. Just so you know, you are the best KEYNOTE speaker! Did I say KEYNOTE? Blessings!

  10. Kristena February 28, 2018 at 9:20 am #

    I have been thinking about this very subject.
    I have a weekly segment on my blog where I have short five to six hundred word short stories. Some of them are part of a book I’m in the process of writing, but they’re just little snippets of the whole.
    These seem to be the most popular of my blog posts. They only give a taste of the whole book, but now I’m wondering if I should post them at all.
    Can it be used to create a desire for upcoming work?

  11. Joey Rudder February 28, 2018 at 9:33 am #

    Thanks for this information, Bob. I’ve wondered how I could use my blog posts to create a devotional. It makes sense to only use a few of the published posts and extend them into something new which would be the meat of the devotional. Sort of like the blog itself is the trunk of a tree, the published posts remaining after a serious pruning are few but solid branches. And the new growth would be unpublished material, fitting in with the rest of the whole tree. Make sense? Sorry. Eating too much dark chocolate this morning.

    You’ve definitely given me a lot to think about. Ouch. 😉

    Thanks again and blessings to you.

    • Carol Ashby February 28, 2018 at 10:09 am #

      Joey, it is impossible to eat too much dark chocolate.

      Here’s an excerpt from the Nature paper by Mauro Serafini and colleagues from 2003.

      “There is some speculation that dietary flavonoids from chocolate, in particular (−)epicatechin, may promote cardiovascular health as a result of direct antioxidant effects or through antithrombotic mechanisms. Here we show that consumption of plain, dark chocolate results in an increase in both the total antioxidant capacity and the (−)epicatechin content of blood plasma, but that these effects are markedly reduced when the chocolate is consumed with milk or if milk is incorporated as milk chocolate. Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate in vivo and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate.”

      That pretty definitively answers the question as to which is better: dark (yes) or milk (no).

      • Joey Rudder February 28, 2018 at 6:16 pm #

        Thanks, Carol! So I did my heart lots of good today by going for a long walk and following it up with a dark chocolate bar. 🙂
        (And interesting about milk interfering with the absorption of the antioxidants…I’m allergic to dairy so this makes me feel even better about the amount of dark chocolate I ate today, well, yesterday too.)

  12. Carol Ashby February 28, 2018 at 9:58 am #

    Bob, if someone posts a comment on another person’s blog, who owns the copyright on that comment?

    • Bob Hostetler
      Bob Hostetler February 28, 2018 at 10:16 am #

      The author (though if it’s posted anonymously, that’s a different matter).

      • Carol Ashby February 28, 2018 at 10:31 am #

        Related question about reviews posted on line. Can an author use them if they are presented in “quotes” without getting specific permission from Amazon or wherever they might appear?

        Same question for fair use (<300 words or so) of a quote from a blog post or comment?

  13. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D February 28, 2018 at 10:33 am #

    Bob, thanks for your insight. I have been posting blog posts on my blog for almost two years, hoping to increase my platform and thereby get a book deal. Like someone said earlier, Edie as I recall, it is possible to turn a blog into a book. I have two books that I am placing a little at a time on my blog.

    • Edie Melson February 28, 2018 at 11:06 am #

      Hi Sheri, I only mentioned my experience as the EXCEPTION to the advice Bob gives. It’s rare for a blog-to-book to make the transition well, if at all.

  14. Elisabeth February 28, 2018 at 3:07 pm #

    This blog post has answered a few questions for me! I have used my blog to, in a sense, find my voice and in doing so I have acquired a few new followers. Thank you for posting this blog post on your blog 🙂

  15. Larry Ingram February 28, 2018 at 4:45 pm #

    I write a blog, but it’s about other non-fiction topics than what I am planning a book about. And I asked an agent if if I could publish the contents of the block, one chapter at a time,, on my blog. I think it would be difficult, because the publisher would lose a lot of their promotional leverage. At the same time, I have seen columns published that essentially define what a book is going to be about. I think if you have a following, it will not matter if the essence of the book is in a blog. People are still going to buy it if you have a following. Pastors often write or speak on the topic of a book before they write the book. Or a sermon series becomes a book.

  16. MoNagrom March 15, 2018 at 7:08 am #

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    […] book and it can work out quite well. Now I realize this is controversial there have been several blog posts saying that this is a bad idea. In fact that’s what gave us the idea for this episode. Jim […]

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