Blogging and Bookwriting
10 Apr 2006, 8:25:07 pm
Markos Moulitsas appeared on the Colbert Report recently to promote his new book, and as always Mr. Colbert asked a good obvious question: if you're blogging for free, why would anyone buy your book? Markos' answer was actually very good:. . . . . . . . .
"The idea is blogs are not very permanent vehicles; blogging ten, twelve posts a day, is not a very good place to really create a very large cohesive, [conscient?] argument, so a book is a lot better place to do that, as opposed to spacing out posts over weeks or months or years."
Bloggers are an odd folk; being one gives me a bit of insight. Bloggers a part of the modern tendency for careers to be made of declaring yourself as something, then getting somebody to pay you for it. Artists, writers, web designers, carpenters, interior designers, even areas like realtors and architects have edges where people have no qualifications other than they've done it before and think they should be paid for it next time. Since a blogger is little more than a self-declared writer, one who needs to string together about the same number of words as the 'today's events' writer at a small newspaper, it's no wonder bloggers want a book deal. Blogging does have some money in it through advertisers, but a book still has the cash-register ring to it. A blogger can walk through Barnes and Noble and do the math in her head: a ten percent royalty on a $20 hardcover ain't bad, especially when they figure they can write 70,000 words by working only a hour or two a day. Because that's how much time the blog needs, and all they need to do is compile their blog posts into a book, right? And and those thousand individual IP addresses a day at the blog must translate into tens of thousands of bookbuyers a year. There's services out there designed to convert a blog to a book, in BlogBinders, and LuLu lets handier bloggers control the look of their cash-cow work.
Blogs, however, are not books, as Moulitsas notes. It will take a special kind of blog and writer to make the transition to book without creating something disjointed and uninteresting. The Blooker Prize hoped to weed out the best of those double-threats, and it appears that there are writers capable of succeeding in both. Simply declaring onesself doesn't make it so. Newspaper columnists have often succeeded by compiling their writing into book form, but they often have a theme or 'catch'. The funnier of them, like Dave Barry, do the best. Newspaper columnists, however, are paid for their work from the start. Jason Kottke and Nick Denton point out that blogging is more like editing, an arranged compilation as opposed to a single work.
I probably sound pretty tough on bloggers, but they do have their place: online. The reason blogging is a successful event online is because the environment is designed for it. Reading one screenfull of text on a regularly random basis is a great form of online entertainment. Unfortunately, it rarely translates into a book.
Moulitsas' point is the first step bloggers need to overcome to become published writers. Your blog is great for posting fractional thoughts throughout the day, and if you're good they'll make up a cloudy whole that equals the theme of your site and attracts readers. Your book, however, is not your blog. Come up with a firm central theme, pulled out of the thematic cloud of the blog, and write about only that. At worst, your online fans will appreciate the opportunity to read a longer piece by you, but if you succeed your book will be appreciated for the fresh, unique viewpoint that got you to write your blog in the first place.