Nathan Bransford, Author

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Cheer: Better Than a Blog?

I am currently on blog holiday, and am re-posting some refreshing concoctions from Christmases past.

One of the other benefits of the Internet is that people without a platform and starting from scratch have a new opportunity to get up on a virtual soapbox and make themselves heard. These days publishers are all over well-trafficked bloggers like stink on a monkey (stole that one from Seinfeld).

I receive a lot of questions from bloggers about how much blog traffic counts for a platform, and how they can translate their blog into a book deal (this mainly applies to nonfiction -- the rules of fiction are mostly the same). To me, even apart from the audience a blog reaches, I ask one main question about a potential blog book: would the book be better than the blog?

Think about the appealing characteristics of blogs: they're instantaneous, they're free, they can respond to current events, they can be linked to, they're free, you can leave comments, and they're free. As much as your blog audience loves you (really, they told me you're awesome), do they love your blog enough to plop down $24.95 for a book that doesn't even have a comments section that they can curse you out on? Or more to the point: does your book idea contain enough unique material and is it on a meaty-enough topic that it can transcend the year it takes to get a book from writing to published?

So yes -- there are certain blogs that can benefit from the length and scope of a book, and there's a reason publishers have been snapping up blog books. But for others, especially blogs that are current-event driven, it's tough to beat the timely material you're already dispensing for free. So if you're hoping to transubstantiate your blog into a book deal, make sure you have a clear idea why a book based on your awesome blog would be even awesomer.



Lady Glamis said...

It would take a pretty interesting subject to jump from a blog to a book and be successful, I think.

Nathan, are you a Seinfeld fan? I'll take it that you are. I am, too. :)

Furious D said...

I have a small but loyal audience for my little blog about the business of pop-culture, and several of my regulars have been pushing me to write a book about the subject, and I decided to go for it. And I'm almost 50,000 words into it.

I know I don't have the visit numbers for a major book deal, but I do have a different take on an interesting subject that more people should know about and people telling me they're willing to buy it even if I self-publish it.

BTW- Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and any other good tidings of the season to you and yours.

clindsay said...

I would also suggest not even considering it unless you have about 50,000 unique users a week.

Book sales for most blog-to-books end up being only about 1% of your online audience.

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

two words: DIABLO CODY

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

Furious D, good luck. I am almost reaching toward 50,000 words for my book, too!

A Paperback Writer said...

I've seen very, very few blogs that could be transformed into books. In fact, the only one I can think of off-hand is (which is now somewhere else).
Well, best of luck to those who can do it.

Kathleen Peacock said...

I had a similar experience to Furious D. I started a LiveJournal account to blog about a certain topic and I kept getting asked what else I had written.

Though my intent with that blog was never to turn it into a book deal, it has been a great testing ground for getting feedback from people within the demographic my book targets.

Likewise, I've started a WordPress blog under my own name not as a platform but as a support structure.

Anonymous said...

Blogs are dumb. Connecting all our brains together so we can see the drivel bouncing between other people's frayed neurons... Who needs it? I don't wanna hear what's going on (or not) in your stupid head!

Write a book ad get it published if you have something worthwhile to tell. Otherwise, keep your brain to yourself, please.

Anonymous said...

Anon -

Then what are you doing here in the blogosphere?

Just curious...

Marilyn Peake said...

On a related note, I love Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog":
Brilliant film, great music.

Sarah Laurenson said...

A blog to books success story - Yarn Harlot.

Anonymous said...


This blog is a professional business platform, not the random ramblings of rank-amateur ranconteurs.

I don't care what you're doing right now, what movie you saw last night, what you ate for breakfast, how far along into your "WIP" you may or may not be, what your rejection stats are, or whos's visiting you for the hollidays.

Keep a lid on it please!

Anonymous said...

I second the first anon. Just like I wouldn't want to see (most of) you naked, physically, I don't want to see you mentally naked either.

Anonymous said...

"I know I don't have the visit numbers for a major book deal..."

Here's a suggestion:

Instead of worrying about "visit numbers" (LOL), why don't you worry about writing a good book? Then the web traffic will come to you all on its own.

You're putting the cart before the horse. Get the deal, then set up your promotional platforms, not the other way around! Obviosuly, if you haven't secured a deal yet, your energy needs to go into the product (the book).

sylvia said...

This is a great subject. ;)

I think there are some anon's who have decided that to redefine "blog" as "a boring blog" which isn't particularly helpful. There are blogs which ended up as books. There are witty and informative blogs (including this one). There are blog writers who spend a lot of time and effort on every blog post.

Of course, there are also people who blog about what Mom made for dinner. But berating a medium (like blogs or books or newspapers) as stupid is really missing the point. It says nothing about what you don't like other than the paper (or blogging software) it's printed on.

Anonymous said...

"There are blogs which ended up as books. "

There are screenplays which ended up as movies, too, but that doesn't mean it will happen to you!

There are 2 classes of blogs:
1. professional platform blogs whihc are really no different than web sites
2. amateur blogs which are just like diaries

It's the latter category I prefer not to see. As for the former, if I want to be advertised to, I'll seek the service out myself. So I really have no need for blogs. I think 5 years from now, people will look back and laugh, saying, "remember BLOGS?! So 2007!"

Sandra said...

To annon #1 (11:09 am) - if you think blogs are 'dumb' don't read them.

There is a big difference between blogging and writing a book, a fact painfully obvious when you've tried your hand at both.

And even though a blog might be some sort of platform, it does not guarantee that what you have to say is enough to put in book form. To those who are able to make it work - kudos!

BarbS. said...

My blogs ARE books--for my betas. We all have different platforms. Stowing content in one place eliminates the nuisance (and frustration) of not being able to open attachments.

Erg...Wordver is OVING. Hmmm...I wonder which letter is missing...

Erik said...

I would guess that my blog contains a LOT of stuff that could be fodder for a book. What kind of book? Is "Schizophrenic" a genre?

Seriously, I rarely spend more than 20 minutes on a post (30 if I count fishing out a pic, when I do) but it's still far better than 99% or more of the blogs out there. If you think I'm bragging, please visit and tell me what a jerk I am.

So if you want your blog to lead you to something, my guess is that it has to be better than 99.9% of all blogs out there before you can think about it.

Anonymous said...

get a book nathan!

Kristan said...

Nathan, I know you're doing "lite" blogging this week, so maybe it's a good time to include this link to Ediorial Ass:

My fave line: "Got an anniversary? Skip chocolates; fiction is sexy."

I think it's a pretty good post.

MzMannerz said...

My blog's "audience" consists of a smattering of friends who call me to discuss posts. And vice versa. I never even think of it as a vehicle - it's just the diary of a person too lazy to change the privacy settings.

Likewise, I can't think of a blog I'd want to buy as a book - then again most of the blogs I read are fairly personal in nature. I still prefer the "liberal media" for my news. :P

anonnumber three said...

I can relate to the "blogs are dumb, I don't care what you ate for dinner last night" poster.

I don't blog and find them annoying for the most part. (This blog is different because it is a professional, industry blog.)

The thing about writer's blogs, though, is that they are ego-centric to the point of nausea. Everything is Me, Me, Me... I'm sorry, but even if you have every right to be proud of yourself for getting published (and you do) it IS only a book. You didn't solve world hunger or cure cancer. Most books are mid-list, but for the ones that are more successful, it's worse. Everything is, I won this award, or I made this list, or here's me signing autographs. Ugh. In reality, the person has one book which lucked out by being picked as a lead title and because of that hype, sold. One book doesn't make you a sudden entity of All Knowledge about the industry. But you wouldn't know it by their blogs.

There are several bloggers in the kidlit world who are so annoying that, for me, it kills the joy of their books. It's too much work to have to overcome the fact that I think the author is a pompus ass just to enjoy their books, so while I've stopped reading their blog long ago, I've also stopped reading their books.

Scott said...

Is there an anon anti-blog agenda that I don't know about? The posts are sillier than the worst blogs I've ever been to and left, never to return nor launch a counter-offensive against (on a blog, no less).

That said, I've used mine as a helpful writing platform to keep me on schedule and get a little feedback. I visit others that share my interests and that have inspired me. And not all of them are professional.

Writing's taught me a lot. For instance, seems if you can talk passionately about something, there's something to it whether you like it or not.

prespier n. 1. a small, elongated dish most often used to rest silverware while eating. The soup was so delicious, I rarely had to empty my prespier as the spoon spent most of its time in my mouth.

clindsay said...

Possibly the most useful thing a blog can be is a community builder, as this one is (for the most part - pissing contests about whether your blog is better than 99% of the ones out there or whether all blogs suck sort of belie that).

A person who keeps a blog about knitting will probably build a helpful virtual knotting community just like a blog that focuses on writing will appeal to and build a community of other writers.

And contrary what Anon 11:09 thinks, not all blogs are dumb, even personal blogs. They may just not appeal to everyone. I find most personal blogs fairly dull unless I know the individual in question. Doesn't mean it's a bad blog; just that it doesn't appeal to me in particular.

Originally I started a blog ten years ago to just let friends and family know what was going on in my life because I was really bad at email and phone-calling. And pretty much the only ones who cared were the fourteen or so people I expected to read it: My friends and family. Anyone else who would have wandered by would have been bored out of his or her mind.

I would also venture to say that in the many proposals that I've received for blog-to-books, in every case, the writing has simply not been strong enough for a book.

So I would say to first focus on the writing if you really want to be a published writer.

(Word verification = efulick, which sounds vaguely dirty...)

Anonymous said...

clindsay -

Thank you. Well put. If you don't like blogging, fine. But stop complaining about it on here, please. Geesh!

I have a blog to stay connected to those I care about and love, but aren't close. That doesn't make blogging dumb.

Enough said. said...

I would pay $24.95 for YOUR blog! (And, yes, I will be soliciting you in the near future.)
Seriously, thanks for all of the good advice--your time and talent is appreciated in LA--that's Lower Alabama to you Yankees...!

MzMannerz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MzMannerz said...

Within the consumer reviews for the book "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert are many, many comments on how self centered (on Gilbert) the book is. I found that an... odd reaction. It's a story about Elizabeth Gilbert - why wouldn't it focus on her every whim?

Same for blogs. It's rather silly to think of a blog as as ego-centric. Really, who has the bigger ego: the person who blogs about himself, or the person who reads that blog and considers it ego-centric? Why wouldn't it be about the blogger's every whim? It's a BLOG.

There are certainly plenty of blogs with an industry platform (like this one) and plenty of dirty little secrets like Perez Hilton which no one admits reading, but to expect a blog to cater to your own entertainment and needs is just as ego-centric as a body blogging about what they had for dinner, if not more.

BarbS. said...

I've seen authors' blogs that are fine PR tools. The best authors are indeed the ones who aren't full of themselves and who thoughtfully nurture an online community that can contribute to the quality of their work. I'm sure we've all seen those!

LOL, wordver is SPOLDME.

(Erg...the turkey is going to spold me. WHYYYYY must these critters take so long to roast????)

Marjorie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marjorie said...

My blog is hilarious, if I do say so myself. The photos are funny and the so are the entries. It is a little of "51 Birch Street," "A Jew Grows in Brooklyn," and "Running With Scissors." It's "marjorie-pentimentos" and it is my memoir. I was a teacher in NYC from 1968-2002 and now I am retired living "the null set."
(I removed the above comment because it needed a few corrections)

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