Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Blogging a book

Letter from a reader:
    Hi Marshall:

    Been reading your stuff. Quite fascinating actually. Anyway I have a great idea for a book I have been pondering. Men will love it I am sure. Would it be a good idea to blog my book first to get some exposure from publicists etc, and is this way a good way to make money by blogging it? Any ideas or help would be appreciated.
There are two separate issues here:
  1. Getting exposure
  2. Making money
The good news is that one often leads to the other.

If you look at the post on the yarn harlot (here) you can see this relationship at work. She was able to get very good exposure with her blog. The exposure drove sales of her book, and she made a lot of money with it.

If you KNOW that you have a great idea for a book, with nearly 100% chance of going to the NYTimes best seller list, then obviously it makes sense to go to a big publisher and write the book. But how many of us KNOW that (besides people like Tom Clancy and J. K. Rowling, how many of us know?)?

If you are "pretty sure", here's an alternative: Write the book, publish it yourself and build a companion web site to go with it and promote it. See this for an example. By publishing it yourself, you have more control over its publicity.

If you THINK it MIGHT be a great idea (which is probably 99% of all book ideas), then I would recommend trying it out on the Web first. It takes a lot of work to write a book, and that work is wasted if no one buys it. By putting it on the Web first, you find out if anyone cares. Publish parts of the book on the web and see how resonant it is. If it is resonant, then you can write the book, plus you will have a built-in audience. Look At gladwell.com, in his New Yorker archive. Gladwell is a major author doing the same thing.

In addition, some book ideas that you put on the Web lend themselves to direct web revenue (e.g. through adsense ads). It depends on the book. The only way to find out is to try it.

Some people worry, "if I publish it on the web, won't that hurt book sales?" In my experience it works the opposite way. Publishing on the Web helps book sales. Plus, by publishing on the web you can get valuable feedback and tweak your book ideas before going to press.


At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You talk about "publishing a book yourself" like it is trivial. How do you publish a book yourself?

At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to have you back!

At 11:50 AM, Anonymous kallahar said...

Self publishing: http://www.lulu.com/

At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little concerned about writing my book through a blog, what if someone takes my work and publishes it as their own before I am able to? I'm unclear about how copyright works, could someone clearify how I could protect my work?

At 5:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before starting to write about web, I had nothing to write about. However, once started, there was nothing to stop me!


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