Top 5 Reasons Authors Shouldn’t Blog Their Books

by Joel Friedlander on July 9, 2010 · 29 comments

Post image for Top 5 Reasons Authors Shouldn’t Blog Their Books

Do you think authors should blog their works in progress? I think, in a lot of cases, it’s a really bad idea.

Sure, you can write a book from a blog, and there are kinds of books that lend themselves to being assembled in pieces from blog writing. Books you could write with outlining software, like instructional manuals, might be good candidates for blogging as you write them, because you could get feedback from your readers to help improve the book.

And yes, I know authors who blogged the material for their books and later assembled the manuscript. It seems to work best for journals, episodic memoirs, cookbooks, books that are essentially in “chunks” already due to their nature.

But there’s a lot of reasons to think twice about blogging your book.

Author blogs are receiving a huge amount of attention at the moment, and why not? With the incessant calls for authors to get involved online, to ramp up their author platform building, a blog is central.

Blogs give authors a way to attract readers. A way to connect with those readers. And a way to interact with readers more directly than anything except meeting them face to face, like at a bookstore event.

But there’s another side to blogging that authors have to consider as well:

Writing a blog is not like writing a book.

Let me cut right to the chase:

Top 5 Reasons Authors Shouldn’t Blog Their Books

  1. Blogging is specialized writing—Blogs are almost all written to attract readers who scan headlines looking for a quick read. The headline is, arguably, the most important part of a blog article, and there are numerous online courses, tutorials and how-to’s devoted to learning the art of headline writing. But when was the last time you read a book full of headlines? There seem to be three possibilities for writers here: Write what you like and, if you’re truly exceptional you may grow a following. If you’re just good, you’re likely to have very few people reading. Or write articles intended to draw people to your site. But then you’re running a small-business blog as an author.
  2. Blogging needs lots of formatting—Every writer on blogging and blog style urges writers to break up long copy, to use frequent subheads, to insert bullet lists. And (as this article demonstrates) the numbered list format is ubiquitous in blogging. But really, this can be quite fatiguing to the reader of a book. Would you want to read a book that was full of lists, bullets and highlighted text? I’ve seen books assembled this way from blog posts, and it’s a real challenge to make them readable. “Chunking” text may be good for blogging, but I don’t see how it can help your developing book.
  3. Blogs are mostly written in either a commercial or a journalistic style—The vast majority of bloggers are writing lifestyle blogs, criticism, current affairs, product reviews, making money, diet or fashion blogs or personal reflections. The short, punchy personal essay has had a remarkable resurgence in the blog world. A 500-word article with one main point, a few bullets and an intriguing headline will work well on a blog. But where exactly does this kind of writing fit into the book you are working on?
  4. Blogs are about communication—A blog is the most common form of social media. You write, and invite others to participate in the conversation you start. But when you’re deep in trying to find the flow to your book, or following a meandering narrative path, you may not want any input from anyone else. The conversation you have with your deep nature is far more important during the formative stages. Later, once your work is getting to a final stage, you might get a lot more from sharing with your readers.
  5. Blogs need a schedule—Most successful blogs (that is, blogs with more than a handful of readers) post articles on a schedule. It’s a publication schedule, and regular readers come to expect a blog post at the chosen time. But creative work often doesn’t cooperate with weekly or monthly schedules. You might write in circles before coming to the core of what you want to say. The pressure to post could lead you to commit to material before it’s ready.

So by all means have a blog, it’s almost essential now, especially if your primary method of selling your books is online or through social media. Use the blog to attract potential readers and also to have fun. And give it time to grow, your blog will repay you with its real worth, as both community and as part of your marketing plan.

So here’s my question:
Have you blogged a book? How did it work out for you?

Resources

Here are a few resources you might enjoy:

Joanna Penn‘s How to Blog for Authors and Writers (affiliate)
Ziggy Kinsella‘s How to win friends and influence people – 10 tips for online authors
Internet Writing Journal‘s List of Best Author Blogs and Blogging Resources

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/redmum/

Be Sociable, Share!

    { 24 comments… read them below or add one }

    Shona Patel April 24, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I don’t blog about my book but I blog about the subject/setting of my novel (fiction) which is TEA. I occasionally blog about the writing process and publishing as well. I try and make my weekly posts educational and entertaining (it’s a LOT of work!!). I have a small blurb at the bottom of each post with a link to my novel and my agent. This has worked very well for me. I attract readers who are googling about Tea – then they get curious about my book! I check my blog stats regularly and see which posts are getting the most hits and what are people putting down in their searches to get to my blog – then I do another post on a related subject. My blog is gaining some nice momentum. It is very hard work, but very rewarding. Happy blogging to all

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander April 24, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Shona, that’s terrific and you will have more success as you continue. Well done.

    You might also be interested in this ongoing series:

    Author Blogging 101

    Reply

    Nina Amir September 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    George,
    I’ll step in for Joel…if I may! I landed a book deal for my blog, How to Blog a book (http://www.howtoblogabook.com), with Writer’s Digest Books. They seem to think its a great idea to blog a book — create a draft manuscript on line and promote yourself and your work that way so you build platform — so you can attract both an agent and a publisher. I landed an agent and a publisher that way. Many other bloggers have done the same. In fact, the act of blogging your book, when done well, creates author platform, which makes it possible for you to attract an agent and then a publisher. That’s the point.

    Reply

    George Angus September 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Joel,

    The one question I have is how blogging your WIP may affect your ability to publish with a traditional publisher in the future. For that matter, would it affect the ability to get an agent.

    Or is this a non-issue?

    George

    Reply

    C. Janelle September 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    I know for fiction, publishers won’t really touch anything that’s been posted online, as that’s considered publication. So that’s something that authors need to consider before putting anything online.

    Reply

    Nina Amir July 27, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Hi Joel, despite the fact that I encourage people to blog books in my blog, Howtoblogabook.com, I agree with many of your points. I do encourage writers/bloggers to go through what I call the nonfiction “book proposal process” prior to blogging a book, and I would tell them to take their blogged book and have it professionally edited prior to producing it as an actual printed book for many of the reasons you mentioned above. However, if you blog a book with a printed end product in mind, you can avoid some of the pitfalls you discussed. Great posts. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 27, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    That’s a really good point, Nina. There are good ways to go about blogging your book, and you can avoid a lot of the pitfalls mentioned here with planning and forethought. Thanks so much for your input.

    Reply

    Mary July 13, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Since I started writing my blog about my “forthcoming book”, I haven’t been writing my book, mostly my blog. There are drawbacks to blogging about unfinished books.

    Reply

    C. Janelle July 13, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Agreed. My mom always called that putting the cart before the horse. I have the same problem. I start a new WIP, and I write a few pages and get down the plot and then I get distracted looking for progress bars for the side bar of my blog, or telling all my friends about it, etc, and then I don’t get any work done.

    As a general rule, I don’t blog much about my WIPs, and if I do, it’s just small references, updates as to how it’s coming along, and occasionally a tiny snippet of dialogue or description that I really enjoyed. But other than that, my WIPs stay off my blog. If I ever sell a novel, then I will begin to publicize it and promote it. But until that point, I’m trying to do as this article says and keep blogging and novel writing completely separate.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 13, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    @Mary, that’s interesting. Maybe another reason to not blog a work in progress, because it’s no longer in progress? I find blogging has also affected my reading, since I read fewer books now.

    @C. Janelle, you’ve obviously learned from experience that the WIP is a fragile thing in some instances, and needs to handled with care to keep going. Keeping them separate makes good sense.

    I also have the “distraction” problem which I’ve solved a bit by moving my writing away from the big screen with the blog right there in the background, the email pinging ever few minutes, Tweets coming in, it was just too much. Now I go type where there’s nothing else to do and it works much better.

    Thanks for visiting!

    Reply

    PJ Kaiser July 11, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Joel – this is a very thought-provoking post. I agree that a blog written in blogging format would not make a very interesting book. I am actually in the process of reading Victoria’s book and it’s terrific. She’s right – her posts were written more as individual essays and as such translate quite well into a nonfiction book.

    Victoria makes a good point about not putting fiction drafts – either short form or long form – on your blog, but the writer needs to carefully consider the reasons for putting any type of fiction on their blogs.

    I participate in both #fridayflash and #tuesdayserial twitter events which involve posting either flash fiction or serial fiction on blogs. Most of the participating writers don’t simply write something up and post it an hour later. Most of us spend long hours drafting, rewriting, editing these pieces. Most pieces, i would venture to say, have not been reviewed by professional editors (except for those participants who are editors ;-), but are certainly further along in the process beyond rough drafts.

    Other writers have proven this model to be successful in building an audience for their fiction and gaining valuable feedback from readers along the way. Writers like Seth Harwood and Scott Sigler used their blogs and concurrent podcasting to launch their literary careers.

    So, I just wanted to point out some of the positive aspects of the blog to novel path in addition to the risks including posting work that potentially has to be reworked after posting.

    Reply

    Victoria Mixon July 12, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Thank you, P.J.! I’m guessing you had a double latte at hand as you typed this. :)

    Reply

    PJ Kaiser July 12, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Of course – you know me too well ;-)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 12, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    PJ, that’s really helpful, and helps to expand the conversation. I think the intentionality with which you and others on #fridayflash and #tuesdayserial approach the process of posting your material pretty much eliminates the concerns I raised in my post.

    I definitely had in mind authors who might not yet be at the point where they fully understand both the risks and rewards of this kind of public posting of works in progress.

    In fact I really enjoy the #fridayflash and have become interested in many of the “short form” fiction models that are becoming more common in response to the technology we’re all working with. Maybe you saw the post I did last week about the micro-fiction writers who only use the Twitter format for posting their stories.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, PJ, they are much appreciated.

    Reply

    PJ Kaiser July 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Joel – That was a very helpful response. I’m sorry that I missed your post last week. I’ll go back and check it now :-)

    Reply

    Cynthia Haven July 9, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Thanks, Joel! You’ve provided not only a useful article but, since I’ve heard a lot more about blog-to-book than I’ve actually seen, I’ll check out some of the blogs provided by the list of those commenting.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 10, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks, Cynthia. Quite a few people seem to be interested in going blog-to-book but I’m not sure how many readable books will be produced this way. At the least, many bloggers will be introduced to editors, and that can’t be a bad thing.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 9, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    @Mayowa, thanks. The “blog-to-book” can work, but it seems best for certain kinds of books, as I said in the article. But who knows, maybe you should try it? Rants can be pretty popular!

    @Judith, sorry you’re missing that hour of sleep but I think you’re right—resist the urge to overlap, both sets of readers should thank you.

    @Sue, thanks for that idea, that’s a great way to go “book-to-blog” and could help develop material for a new edition down the line. Great!

    @Victoria, you’re very experienced at this problem and you can see how the material for one form just doesn’t work that well in the other. I do think many blogs are best seen as “business adjuncts” or marketing devices, although that sounds a bit cool for a pretty hot medium. And a big YES to your advice: don’t publish those first drafts!

    @LM It certainly seems possible, as I mentioned, once you’re in the final stages of manuscript preparation to use some of the material to interest readers, give a preview, or show the kind of style in the book, like the ubiquitous “samples” you can download from author blogs and website. It’s just important to keep each part of your writing where it can be used the best.

    Thanks to all for your thoughtful comments.

    Reply

    LM Preston July 9, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I only post teasers of my novels on my blogs and usually after its been vetted through pre-liminary editing process. Blogging is a fun useful tool. Now blogging a novel, I’ve seen it done and if the portion that put out there is edited and ready, I think it’s helpful.

    Reply

    Victoria Mixon July 9, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Oh, yes, I’ve turned my blog into a book. My blog is an instruction and inspiration manual on my business, independent editing. My blog posts last year were long, in-depth, and written as essays rather than bulleted lists. Instructions and inspiration. Not sound-bites. They got read, but not commented on much because, you know, you don’t really comment when you’re reading a book.

    Now I’m doing bulleted lists on my blog. They also get read, and they get commented on more than the others. It’s easier to comment on bullets. But they would be a whole lot harder to turn into a book.

    My blog is my portal to my business, and my book is just another part of that. I know the differences between the different types of writing and what they accomplish because I’ve done them all professionally for a lot of years. As Joel said, it’s a job.

    But don’t blog your novel, folks. That’s a good way to make friends, I know, and to commune with other writers writing the same genre with the same values and approach. But remember Anne Lamott? Those first drafts. . .are shitty first drafts. You have no idea (I’m telling you: NO IDEA) how many drafts they’re going to have to go through before they’re publishable. It was hard enough to let go of early fiction drafts back in the old days, when we were all hunched alone at our desks over typewriters. It’s a thousand times harder to let go nowadays when those drafts, in your mind and in the minds of your friends, are already “published.”

    Seriously. Listen to Joel. Don’t do that to yourself.

    Reply

    Luke March 27, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    As I joined the drama club when I was at seonir high, I loved drama very much. After graduating, I heard of there is a drama competition in our department. I was excited and happy. In freshman year and sophomore year, I held a leading post on drama competiotion. Though I knew that it’s not easy to lead the whole class, I believed myself I could do it. I considered it as a challenge. I even told myself I could not give up despite I suffered frustrated. Anything had a relationship with drama, I would try my best. In the process of rehearsing, it can make different memories and bring interesting stories. In fact, I love this feeling, teamwork. No matter how difficult it is or how tired I am, only the outcome is worthy, I will be satisfied. The most important thing is I am doing what I like to do,

    Reply

    Sue Collier July 9, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Really good points, Joel. My blogging writing style is a lot different than my book writing style–as it should be. Plus, I am kind of a back-and-forth kind of writer–and rewriter and rewriter. Chances are, if I tried to blog a book as I was writing it, it would be rather disjointed.

    Something that I have done, though, is taken completed sections from my book and featured their points as a blog post. It gives me a chance to expound a bit more on things ;-) whereas I would be more succinct in an acutal book.

    As always, a thoughtful, interesting post!

    Reply

    Judith July 9, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Writing the novel and the blog simultaneously is a balancing act in time management. It is sometimes tempting to let them overlap, but you’re right. They really shouldn’t, which means I’ll just have to keep sleeping an hour less.

    Reply

    Mayowa July 9, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Great post Joel,

    It’s definitely not a good idea to confuse writing a novel or serious work of non fiction with writing a blog. I do kinda like the idea of compiling blog posts into a book though, assuming the content lends itself.

    Who knows? Maybe someones wants to read my posts (read rants).

    Reply

    Leave a Comment


    three + = 6

    { 5 trackbacks }