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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.