Why authors shouldn’t be so quick to blog their books

Blog Business Summit speaker and A-list business blogger Debbie Weil has an interesting article on her site today wherein she states that Blogging your Book is a Must. After thinking about her thesis, here’s my response….

Debbie, I don’t agree. First off, an important distinction: there’s overt book blogging and there are blogs that are, shall we say, harmonious in topic with upcoming books. While I am certainly quite interested in the evolution of book writing and production, I’m also of the belief that having everything available online and digital can have an adverse impact on the eventual sales of the book.

In particular, if I’ve already read just about all of your book in the last six months on your weblog, why would I be incentivized to spend $20-$40 to get the same thing perfect-bound just so I can place it on my shelf?

On the other hand, blogging about your topic is an excellent way to establish and cement your expert status in your market segment: I read your blog, Debbie, because you are an expert on business blogging. In that sense, if you tell me ‘I’ve taken all my disparete thoughts and pulled them into a coherent 250 page treatise” then I would buy it, just to see what conclusions you’ve drawn.

I look at Scoble and Israel’s book project, for example, and am constantly reminded of why Victoria’s Secret is such a profitable business: sometimes seeing just a little bit is a lot more enticing than seeing everything at once.

Have a look at my Ask Dave Taylor site, as another example. Mixed in with all the different tech and business Q&A topics are entries that are either from one of my books, are going to move into a book, or are in direct response to a reader query about one of my books.

Go to my main Intuitive Life Business Blog and you’ll see that I frequently write about business blogging and the future of corporate communications. Surprise, I’m working on a book that’ll address those topics, but I really can’t see blogging every chapter as I write it, nor would I encourage anyone else to do that either.

I read the NYT piece that you reference, and have, of course, spoken with many, many authors and publishers and I would say that my view is in the majority. Some material should be online, and with many books, supplemental information and additional information that doesn’t fit into the print edition should be online (it’s also a good teaser for the book), but the entire thing, word for word? Not for me.

Which isn’t to say that you can’t have significant chunks online, however!

Have a quick peek at Wicked Cool Shell Scripts as an example of a (non-blog) site that exists purely to promote a book, includes sample materials, lists every single shell script shown in the book, but excludes the explanations of how they work. For that, you need to actually buy the book. And people do.

Perhaps this boils down to the pragmatic question of why you’re writing a book in the first place. If it’s to disseminate your views and opinion, then having a free version, whether a downloadable PDF or fragmented weblog, can work just fine. If, like me, you also hope to pay your mortgage so as not to end up on the street, then giving away some in order to sell the remainder is a much smarter strategy.

This article was originally published on the Blog Business Summit site.

4 comments on “Why authors shouldn’t be so quick to blog their books

  1. I agree, Dave. Thanks for continuing the discourse about this. It’s all very intriguing to me since I’m also an author.
    I’m just not sure — even if I’d had the time — that I would have wanted the world to have an in-progress look at the book I was researching and writing.
    However, now the blog offers an avenue to point people to new research, related news articles, and more.

  2. While I agree with most of what you say in this post, Dave, there is something missing that, for me at least, is an important aspect of why I write.
    For the first time since it has been doing its nationwide employee satisfaction survey, in late 2003 the Conference Board found that more than half of those responding wanted new work. I don’t know off-hand how long they have been doing this survey — but it is a long time.
    I wrote Is Your Genius At Work?, post at my blog, speak, and lead workshops because I think that the methodolgy I have developed is crucial to those unhappy people. Sure…I want to sell books and otherwise pay the mortgage. But that isn’t the only reason I do all of those things.
    Also, a guru of mine once told me that if I treat my ideas as if they were precious and to be held close to the vest, then I’d probably have fewer of them.
    Thanks for what you do here!

  3. Your blog post titles are improving, I haven’t visited your blog in a little while, sorry pal, but now that I’m here, in response to an email, see how email and blogs work cohesively?, I see lots and lots of posts I need to read, and probly post comments on.
    I totally agree with your balanced and insightful statements here.
    The Red Couch is an example of how not to blog a book, but is a great experiment all the same, and one of my favorite blogs ever.
    I have mentioned somewhere in the midst of my millions of comments over there, that posting entire roughs of chapters, and entire interviews is a really bad idea.
    Almost seems like a lack of confidence.
    Why pay #25 to $50 USD for a book you already have read in blog form? Unless it is radically different, better, or more inclusive, more conveniently formatted, or whatever?
    Makes no sense at all.
    But you totally get it: it’s the posting of material SIMILAR to what will be in the book, and also posting teasers, or promotional copy, in your blog…this is what I believe will work better for a book author.
    SIMILAR material will whet the appetite, while still providing good, practical, insightful value to the users.
    I hate hate hate vending machine blogs that will not give me any valuable information, or just the first few sentence of a Paid Content article.
    I am totally opposed to all forms of Paid Content online. There may be some valid exceptions, perhaps in scientific circles, or somewhere, but I have not seen any examples of Paid Content online that I approve of or find worth paying for.
    Why pay to read anything?
    Everything is provided free…somewhere on the web.
    So you are foolish to pay for it online, or in a print version.
    The print version has to include valuable, unique, rare, relevant, useful, astonishing material of some sort, if you want to sell the print version.
    And the added value must be heavily promoted to differentiate it from the online version.

  4. I think blogging your book is not a must, you should post it in the right time on the related circumstance and many more thing to consider. I agree that authors shouldn’t be so quick to blog their books.

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