I don't know too many professional writers who blog who haven't said to themselves:
"Self, I should be able to turn my blog into a book. And I could use my blog to promote, sell, or publish my work."
The reality in early 2006 is that there are not a lot of bloggers who have successfully made the commercial leap from blog to book. There are plenty of good reasons for this.
+most blogs are stream of thought pieces, reflecting a writer's mood, interests or digression into ADD at the moment the writer begins composing their blog entries. (I'm a great example of this. I jump from wireless to tech marketing, to my feelings about portable computing and organic gardening at the drop of a pin and right now there are a couple of whitish green yucca moths perched on my new broccoli seedlings.) Oh, where was I?
+Short blog entries don't really show agents or publishing house editors what you can do in the much larger context of a book. American humorist Dave Barry may be the exception to this. No matter what medium he chooses; newspaper column, book, or blog essay, he's drop dead funny. he also gets great book deals. Alas, I don't know a lot of writers who have that kind of talent. But there are some and they're getting traction as blog to book winners.
+Most blogs don't have the kind of readership that's needed to support a the giant leap from blog to book. There are some real opportunities out there but most are under served or over populated by bloggers who specializing in updating previous commercial successes. There's one on Typepad, written by a guy I respect lot who qualifies as "The King of Recycled Material." In fact, his blog has so much previously used material his icon should be the recycling logo."
+ Most blogs lack basics that readers expect in printed material-- copy editing, spelling checks and targeted direction. (Wait, is that a gopher popping up next to my new carrots?)
+Blog entries need to be long enough to keep and hold readers.
So what works for vaulting from Blog to Book?
I asked this of former fellow ex-IDG staffer and native Southern Californian, Jeff Angus.
Jeff, who now lives in Seattle is a jack of many trades. He's been a management consultant, IT expert, and is a professional writer with a blog I love. That Blog is Management by Baseball. It's a great read and a greater take on management. It's also about to be published by Harper Collins as a full length book and it's already been positively eceived by Management techniques author Tom Peters.
Jeff Angus didn't start out to turn his unusual blog into a book. It began life as a series of essays based on what he had learned as a baseball reporter. His blog steadily gained an audience among managers, business school students and management consultants. It was also being read by former coworkers and friends who were still in the publishing business. Angus dryly notes that the first of several small leaps in the blog to book chain happened as the result of a speaking engagement. He decided he wanted to give his audience a "leave behind" version of his essays, And as a result of encouragement from former InfoWorld circulation director, Steve Rees, now the president of SchoolWisePress in San Francisco, the leave behind turned into a condensed version of Management byu Baseball that Angus self published lf and marketed directly.
As momentum built for the short version of MBB, Angus found himself doing the one thing he had tried to avoid:, developing and writ\ing proposal for a full fledged version of the book. That task accomplished, he used the credentials he earned from producing the first book to get a literary agent connected to the New York publishing industry. At this point Jeff Angus got a big boost from fellow Seattle resident Stephen Manes (a computer column writer and co-host of PBS' Digital Duo show). Manes had recently read a New York Times article in which a Harper Collins editor had been quoted as dismissing the possibility of turning blogs into books.
As luck would have it the proposal for MBB landed on the desk of a Harper Collins editor who happened to be a Baltimore Orioles fan. The rest, as they say in publishing is "history" but resulted in Jeff Angus paying off some debt and buying a new car with a nice advance.
Angus has sound guidance for anyone who wants o turn their blog into a book:
+First, stay away from blurbs. I focused on writing 1,000-word essays six times a week. The regular schedule, he adds, helped to build a sustaining audience (as well as captive market for the forthcoming full-length book.
+to make the jump, your blog has to have "torque" and you create that with full-length essays, not short blurbs. For a good example of what Angus means go to: http://cmdr-scott.blogspot.com/
+ a condensed version of a project, written in advance of a big book, helps to build torque and an audience for a future project. Although this means more work for an author, it may also help to boost the size of the advance an author receives from a publishing house. (Angus says he plans to limit his work on the "pocket edition of MBB" when the full length book begins shipping in May.)
Jeff Angus doesn't think he'll be alone in making the jump from blog to book. There are other blogs out there that have the potential for good books. He sites two examples; Jeff Pollard (a former Ernst and Young Chief Technology Management guru) and a humorous blog written by Mistress Matisse http://mistressmatisse.blogspot.com/ (also syndicated as column in a Seattle alternative weekly) are two other examples.
I have my own feelings. I'd love to see some of the blogs on designing and building log cabins or open space homes turned into books and there are some hilarious deep sea fishing blogs here in the San Diego area that have a very willing-to buy the book built-in audience. There are also things I think are dead in the water topics. Foremost on this list are blogs aimed at high tech entrepreneurs but which are based on books and business conditions that defined the world pr-Internet crash. Of course there exceptions to every rule and I'd love to see an operational management book by Mobius Venture Capital's Heidi Roizen, who is an insightful and incredibly engaging writer with a wealth of success stories that should be incorporated into a textbook for entrepreneurs.
Blogs to Books? I think so. And, I hope more are coming. but here's proof that the idea works: