This advice can cripple authors. They fear that once they blog something, it can never be in their book. This pushes them into boring, off-topic blog posts that don’t resonate and hurt their marketing.
If that is you, I have good news.
(TL;DR) Blogging Your Book Lets You:
- Test Your Ideas
Build Your Audience
Make Your Book Better
You can blog your book ahead of time. You just need to do it the right way.
Quick note: I am writing specifically about blogging non-fiction. Fiction is a different animal. I am not a huge fan of blogging fiction but it can work. Rachelle Gardner has a good post about The Pros and Cons of Blogging your Novel that I encourage you to check out if you write fiction.
I know a little about this.
I wrote a blog post, Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed, which went viral (over 1 million views) and turned into a Kickstarter Campaign that raised over $11,000 and ultimately became a book, ebook, and audiobook (affiliate links).
Not only did the book kick off as a single blog post, drafts of some chapters still exist as blog posts today.
Your reach with a blog is wide. Your reach with a book is deep.
Far more people read my blog than buy my books. That is ok with me. My ultimate goal is to get the message out as widely as possible. And while the reach of the blog is vast, five minutes with a blog post is not going to have the same impact as two hours with a book.
Blog reading and book reading are fundamentally different experiences. Someone can read your content in one medium and then have an entirely different experience with the same content in another medium.
“Saying nonfiction readers won’t read your book after they read your blog is like saying that fiction readers won’t watch a movie after reading the book the movie is based on.” Click to Tweet
The movie is the same story as the book, and yet the change in medium makes it entirely different.
“Fans of a book are the first in line for the movie and fans of the blog are the first ones in line for the book.” Click to Tweet
And some movies (like Julie & Julia) are based on books that are based on blogs.
Takeaway: People who read your blog will also want to read your book. Don’t listen to people who tell you otherwise.
Blogging your book makes your book better.
Blogging is a two-way dialogue between you and your readers. It allows you to hone your ideas as you get reader feedback.
While the “first drafts” of some chapters appear on my blog, the edited final versions in the book take into account the comments and criticism I received on the blog.
A few of the things I wanted to say were being misunderstood and I was able to make corrections before my book came out. I also was able to cut whole sections that were not connecting with readers. Other sections I thought would be boring turned out to be incredibly popular, like the chapter on Courtship’s history.
If a post did not get enough traffic in Google Analytics, it did not make it into the book. My book is a curated collection of only the very best blog posts. It also has content exclusive to the book.
I was writing a controversial book and I wanted to be as clear and convincing as possible. Blogging the most controversial elements ahead of time, helped me do that.
Takeaway: Use your blog to get feedback from your readers. Incorporate that feedback into the book. This makes your blog and book different while making the book better.
A blog is not a book.
Good blog posts use photos and videos, which don’t work in books. My blog content is shorter, rougher, and has hyperlinks instead of footnotes. Each post links to several other posts, so where to go next is not very clear.
You have passed nearly a dozen links in this post already, some of which you might have clicked on, some of which you probably skipped. This is a non-linear reading experience which is very different from a book where chapter 2 always comes after chapter 1.
While it is hard to binge my blog, people binge my book all the time.
Jane Friedman says, “Never use a blog as a dumping ground for material that’s already been written” and I agree with that to a point. The final versions should be different from each other.
Takeaway: “If you copy and paste from blog to book or vice versa you are making a mistake. You need to adapt your message to the medium.” Click to Tweet
Blog posts are advertisements for your book.
The parts of my book that live online as blog posts can go viral and promote the book all over again.
From time to time, blog posts like this one will flare up on Facebook. Suddenly, thousands of new people are reading it and I did nothing to make that happen. This leads to a whole new round of attention on my book.
Why wouldn’t I want that free attention for my book? What would I gain by taking those posts down?
Takeaway: Add an advertisement for your book in the blog posts that wound up in your book as chapters.
But what about the contract?
The critics of blogging books are correct when they say that publishing chapters on your blog ahead of time forces you to use different language in the contract. But this is a small price to pay for all the attention you can get for free from great content spreading around the web.
The challenge is, the editor negotiating the contract is not typically involved in marketing the book. This is not her area of expertise and she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. She often doesn’t appreciate how valuable popular blog posts are in terms of Google rankings and sales.
Takeaway: If you decide to go traditional, make sure you pick an agent who “gets it” and is willing to negotiate for your blog posts to stay up.
Why would someone pay to read your book when they won’t read your blog for free?
One big challenge in publishing is that it is hard to predict when a book will succeed. Some books that are “sure-fire winners” flop while others come out of nowhere to become runaway bestsellers.
If only there were a way to test a book ahead of time to see if it resonates with the market.
Oh wait, there is. It’s called a blog.
“If a topic or writer is failing to find resonance with free readers, the writer will struggle to find paid readers.” Click to Tweet
The solution is not to stop blogging and hope your publisher can find an audience where you can’t. I think the answer is that you need to either invest in your craft as a blogger and get better or pivot your topic to one that has better resonance with your readers.
Takeaway: Use your blog to test your ideas to see if they have resonance with an audience. Typically, if it won’t work as a blog post, it won’t work as a chapter.
Case Study: Stuff Christians Like
In the popular book Stuff Christians Like, you will notice there is a picture of a side hug on the front cover.
There are over 100 different things from the book Jonathan Acuff could have featured on the cover.
Why feature the side hug?
Because it was one of the most popular blog posts from his popular blog Stuff Christians Like. His publisher, HarperCollins, was smart enough to see the value of those blog posts as advertisements help sell his book.
He knew the cover would resonate with his audience because the side hugs blog post was already resonating. Not every blog post made it into the book. Many of his posts flopped and did not make the cut to get into the book.
Acuff wisely put his most popular posts in his book along with completely new content exclusive to the book. This gave both his true fans and people new to his writing something to love and talk about.
I think Acuff’s approach is the best approach. It makes sense to save some content exclusively for the book.
For my book, I had about a 60/40 mix. The only way to get 100% of the content was to buy the book.
Takeaway: Make sure your book has some unique content not found on your blog. But don’t go crazy. Put as much of it on your blog as you are comfortable with.
As an author, your primary challenge is obscurity. Blogging can be one of the best solutions to the obscurity problem for both you and your book.
- is a great way to test your ideas, find your audience, and find your resonance.
- is not for everyone and you don’t need to blog your book first for it to succeed.
- can make you a better writer.
- helps sell more copies of your book.
[00:00:01] This is novel marketing, the show for novelists who aren’t necessarily fond of marketing but still want to become best selling authors. Episode 132. I’m James L. Rubart, but you can call me Jim.
[00:00:14] I’m Thomas Umstattd Jr. And in this episode we’re going to talk to you guys about how to blog your book and if you should blog your book. But first, there is some news on the personal front we need to talk about. I’m talking this is big multiple drumroll announcement, so Thomas, do you wanna take it away?
[00:00:34] Yes, you know that old child sings song first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby and the baby carriage. Well, I have now completed the entire sing-song.
[00:00:44] So the trifecta is done. That’s right.
[00:00:47] My wife and I are expecting a new little one to join our family here in October and we’re very excited about that.
[00:00:54] Ok. Let’s get details. What is the due date?
[00:00:57] It’s October 7th so we may have some missed episodes about that time and finding a quiet place to record is going to become a little bit more of a challenge. I’m looking forward to it.
[00:01:10] Well congratulations that is just so awesome. You guys are going to be phenomenal parents. No doubt about that. So congrats. That’s cool.
[00:01:18] Thank you. Thank you. And to commemorate the new baby we’re going to do something we have never done in five years of the novel Marketing Podcast. So until today we’ve been focused primarily on fiction authors and for those of you who are novelists don’t worry our focus is still going to be for you. But we thought once every 132 episodes would probably be a good idea to give an episode specifically for nonfiction writers. What? What?
[00:01:46] So we were surprised how many nonfiction writers listen to this show and they kind of have to eat the crumbs from the table sometimes when we focus on novelists so now we’re going to make you your very own meal. And specifically we’re going to talk about how to blog your book ahead of time.
[00:02:03] Right. So we’re talking about while we’re talking about in the intro you heard us say that we are going to talk to you guys about how to blog your book. We are talking about nonfiction books we’re not talking about fiction. We’ll touch on that just real quickly later on. But we’re talking specifically if you’re a nonfiction writer.
[00:02:20] That’s right. If you’re writing fiction blogging your book ahead of time is hard and not recommended. And the reason why it’s hard is that fiction has to be read linearly. So for Chapter 2 to make sense, people have to have already read chapter one. And when you first start blogging, no one’s reading your blog. And so it makes it really hard to enter your story. It can work. I know authors who’ve pulled it off but it’s very tricky and very challenging. And that’s not what we’re gonna talk about in this episode. If you have successfully blogged your novel or you used a service like wattpad and you want to tell us about it, shoot us an e-mail. Maybe we’ll have you on the show. We’ll talk about blogging your novel, but specifically I want to talk about blogging your nonfiction book since nonfiction books aren’t necessarily linear. Right. The order of the chapters often — you know when I was writing my nonfiction book the order of the chapters changed every month while I was working on it and for the people who backed the kickstarter, what they got in the final book ended up being very different because as I worked on I realized the order needed to change. It makes it much more open for blogging.
[00:03:22] New blog material that ends up in your book and it can work out quite well. Now I realize this is controversial there have been several blog posts saying that this is a bad idea. In fact that’s what gave us the idea for this episode. Jim came across a blog post written by a very reputable agency and they were saying oh it’s a real hassle if you blog your book ahead of time publishers won’t want to touch it or you have to add extra language to the contract and that post really scared me, since I was afraid that if people read that post, they would be scared away from blogging or they’d be scared away from blogging anything that’s relevant, because if it might end up in their book, they don’t want to blog about it which forces them to blog about boring irrelevant topics which is not not a great strategy. You need to blog on your area of expertise and at the same level of quality of what’s going to be in your book.
[00:04:14] The best material. That’s right.
[00:04:16] So let’s talk a little bit about why I’m so passionate about this. I actually did this.
[00:04:22] So for those of you who’ve been listening to the episode for the for those of you been listening to the show for a long time you know that I wrote a blog post a few years back that went viral. It was a single post and it got over a million page views and the people who read the post wanted me to write a book about it and they raised eleven thousand dollars on Kickstarter to make it a reality.
[00:04:47] And so then I was stuck writing a book which I’d never done before. So historically I’ve been the consultant for authors who build their websites to help them with their marketing. I haven’t written books. You know I do lots of blogging but not a lot of book writing and I found that I was really struggling to write chapters for the book. I was working with a manuscript developer and we were going round and round and I wasn’t happy with what was being developed and it was I was really struggling. And at the same time I was writing blog posts as I was interacting with my readers on the topic of dating and relationships, and courtship and I was finding that those blog posts I was wanting to turn into chapters and so I did. I turned them in chapters of the book and after a while I finally started just writing starting the chapters off as a blog post because I found that psychologically that was a lot easier for me as a blogger. I knew who my audience was and I knew that I didn’t have to have all the answers right away. And what ended up happening was that the feedback I got from my readers of the blog informed the book and I could tell if something was making sense and I could tell something was being controversial in the right ways and it ended up making the book a lot better.
[00:06:02] This is a really important point. What Thomas is saying and this is why it doesn’t work with fiction but with nonfiction you’re getting input. You’re getting beta readers all the time. And so you can emphasize the things that they’re like, Oh my gosh we’re really passionate about this and the things that’s just crickets you can easily leave out so it’s like I don’t know it’s free editing it’s free.
[00:06:27] Crowd — what’s the word. Crowd sourcing — it’s free crowdsourcing.
[00:06:34] Yeah not only was my book crowdfunded but my book has crowdsourced in the sense that a lot of the feedback that I got was from readers of the blog. Now they weren’t saying oh you missed a comma in the third paragraph that’s not the feedback they were giving. They were responding to the ideas and they were helping to edit the ideas. And that’s often what you don’t get very good editing of your ideas from your editor. Your editor may not be passionate about your topic of your book. They may not be educated or aware of the topic of your book and they’re not able to really help you hone the ideas in especially hone the ideas in a way where they resonate with a particular audience that you’re trying to reach. Especially if you’re traditional published you don’t have a lot of choice and editor an editor may or may not be able to help you. So they may be able to help you put together a good paragraph or a good sentence but they may not be able to help you make your ideas really work.
[00:07:24] And that’s where putting your material on a blog first can just be invaluable so useful to see oh everyone misunderstood the point I was making and they’re all angry over the wrong things. Man it’s so good to know about that while it’s just a blog post.
[00:07:40] So when I put it in my book I am able to make sure they’re not getting angry over a misunderstanding. The other thing you point out is that your blog is not a book so your reach with your blog is going to be much wider than your reach with your book. So people may spend five or 10 minutes on my blog but they’ll spend an hour or two hours on my book. So it’s a very very different kind of encounter it’s very different kind of experience and it’s a fundamentally different medium. It’s as different reading a blog or reading a book as watching a movie and reading a novel it’s just very very different experience.
[00:08:17] Yeah same story. Right. If you’re if you’re talking about film if you’re talking about a fiction movie same story and yet it is it’s a radically different experience and we’re going to talk about a few examples of that later on. But right now I want to read this quote from you Thomas because I think this nails that saying nonfiction readers won’t read your book after they read your blog is like saying that fiction readers won’t watch a movie after reading the book the movie is based on. So think of yourself. Are there books that you’ve read. Let’s use Hunger Games because that’s one that became wildly popular. Did you read the book go. All right. I’ve got it. I’m not going to go see the movie or did you say I cannot wait for the movie to come out. I’m guessing for most of you it was the latter.
[00:08:59] That’s right. And the movie followed the book beat for beat so it wasn’t one of these movies so it was like inspired by the novel and it’s nothing like the novel. The plot of The Hunger Games the book was exactly the plot of Hunger Games the movie. There was very minor things changed but they were very minor. And yet I read Hunger Games and I was the first in line to watch the movie.
[00:09:22] Well I loved it. I thought it was well done. And I yeah me too Thomas I’m with you.
[00:09:26] Exactly. In some movies like Julie and Julia are based off of books that are themselves based off of blogs. So you can actually take this the whole way. So don’t believe anyone who tells you Oh if you blog the book first you won’t be able to turn it into a book publishers won’t publish it.
[00:09:44] That’s just not true. The savvy publishers the publishers to understand marketing realize the value of a popular blog and they’re not going to want you to take those posts down. And they’re not going to be afraid that there are blog posts with the same material up because they realize that that is building your platform and helping your ideas.
[00:10:00] Better and more resonant which will ultimately give you a better book that will sell more copies. Oh and by the way you have all these passionate fans that are ready to buy your book.
[00:10:08] Yeah exactly. Exactly.
[00:10:10] So another way that I like blogging is that it makes your book better. We’ve already talked about this about finding out when your ideas are bad or they’re not making sense. But it also helps you know when your ideas are good. So for example I went round and round about whether or not I should include a chapter about the history of dating and relationships. I didn’t think that most people would care about that.
[00:10:37] And so what I did was I wrote it as a blog post because I did all the research for the book and I wanted to release it out into the world and it turned out that people loved that blog post and the young 20 somethings I was targeting with my book actually were indeed interested in history and the history of courtship and it ended up being the second chapter of my book and it ended up being the most convincing chapter of my book. So when I’m making my argument that the history chapter is the one that I get almost no pushback on and what I’ve seen really changing the debate is the history chapter more than all of my beautiful reasoning and eloquence in the arguments that I make it’s the history chapter that made the difference and that chapter almost didn’t make it into my book. If I hadn’t have blogged it first I wouldn’t have had the confidence to put it into my book. And you can get that feedback not just from the number of comments but also the number of shares on Facebook and Twitter and ultimately Google Analytics. So what won me over as I looked at Google analytics on that post and saw that people were spending 5 6 7 minutes reading that posting like wow these people aren’t skimming it. They are like sitting down with a cup of coffee and really reading this blog post. There must be something here that should end up in the book.
[00:11:48] And don’t let the technology intimidate you because technology these days even the simplest like Thomas just mentioned Google Analytics even the simplest analytics and you can learn this stuff if you don’t know it already can tell you so much valuable information.
[00:12:03] For example I am a columnist on novel rocket and will be a columnist on learn how to write a novel.
[00:12:10] And I’ve written some columns I thought to myself oh my gosh this is killer. People are going to love this and people are like yeah whatever. And then other columns all right and I’ll go I was kind of struggling with it. I’m not sure if that really is going to impact people. And you get this massive readership. So really the survey of one being yourself. You’re not the you’re not the best research subject to find out. Nowadays with the technology you can find out that information really literally at the click of buttons.
[00:12:40] This is an example from music but Lindsey Stirling almost did not publish her song Crystalize. She wasn’t convinced it was a good song and that’s to this day her most popular song so often you do not have good perspective on your own art. Whether it’s good or bad sometimes you’re in love with it and it’s terrible and sometimes you hate it and it’s amazing. And the only way to get that feedback in a true way is to put it out into the world. Having one editor or one or two beta readers look at it is not enough feedback for you to really know and have that confidence because they could be wrong too. They may be telling you it’s terrible and they’re wrong or maybe you’re paying them and they want to tell you that it’s good because they want you to keep paying them. It’s that bigger audience. It’s that analytics that really gives you the feedback.
[00:13:25] I’m not sure of that. I’m not sure the statistics on this Thomas so correct me but I believe once you hit 400 people responding to a survey you start getting into the plus or minus 5 percent accuracy. Well until you get to that point you’re not sure. In other words a survey of 30 people is not necessarily going to be that accurate. And so the more people you get with feedback on your idea on your blog post the better.
[00:13:49] I have a rule that I don’t listen to anyone’s medical study if it doesn’t have at least triple digit participants somebody will do some medical study on some like health impact and they took a test on 20 people and I’m like —
[00:14:02] I realize that scientists may think that that’s valid but I don’t think that that’s valid. I don’t think that’s a big enough sample group to be valid. So just my own personal rule. Now I should point out here that a blog is not a book. And the best example of this is the first book I ever saw that started off as a blog. I was actually a fan of the blog and the blog was Presentation Zen and it was all about how to make better presentations how to use Powerpoint or keynote in a way that’s not death by bullet point. And I was a passionate reader of this blog. I read every post when it came out and the posts were filled with images and they were filled with video examples of people’s presentations and if you’ve ever seen me give a presentation live. I’m very much inspired by their presentations and approach this book and this blog changed my life.
[00:14:51] And when the book came out I was preordering it you know. I ordered it. I ordered the special edition I ordered every version of this book I could get my hands on and publisher was not a famous publisher that published this book.
[00:15:03] But what they found was that this blog had lightning in a bottle and the book has now been translated into dozens of languages. And second edition it’s sold like crazy. And here’s the interesting point.
[00:15:15] Those blog posts that turned into chapters of the book still exist online and in some ways the blog posts are better. So while they may not be edited as well because they are revised honed versions ended up in the book. The version on the blog has videos. The book doesn’t have the books Scott photos it’s a full color beautiful book but it doesn’t have the video. So at one point he compares Steve Jobs’ presentation style. And Bill Gates’ presentation he has embedded YouTube videos of Steve Jobs presenting and Bill Gates presenting and there’s Ted talks all over this blog that are not in the book and the book is a fundamentally different experience. The book is really good.
[00:15:58] The book is a more concise you know give a version I recommend the book all the time somebody who’s having trouble with their presentations being boring in fact I tried to get I came across a blog all still in college. So this has been around for a while. I remember trying to get all of my professors to buy the book in a like friendly way without telling them your presentations are boring. This is death by bullet point.
[00:16:20] You’re killing your students. It’s like you can do it better.
[00:16:25] But you know when you read a blog the other big difference is that the blog is nonlinear.
[00:16:30] So a good blog post may have a dozen hyperlinks sometimes dozens of hyperlinks each that go to other pages. This is one of the ways you can tell somebody who is an experienced blogger from somebody who’s kind of an inexperienced blogger. Inexperienced bloggers don’t put a lot of links in their posts. Experience bloggers will have a link in almost every paragraph both to their own related posts and to other people’s posts and the result of that is that when someone reads a blog posts you don’t know what they’re going to read next.
[00:17:00] You know they’re discovering your blog like they’re reading Wikipedia.
[00:17:03] There’s kind of it’s choose your own adventure. Whereas a book it’s Chapter 1 Chapter 2 and in chapter 3 you can build your case in a more cogent way and you don’t have to — and you can assume in chapter 3 that people have read Chapter 1 whereas in a blog, you have to assume that people are reading this post without having read any of your other posts so you have to repeat yourself a little bit more. So while you’re copying it you’re not copying and pasting from your blog to your book. I think this is a really important point. You are using your blog as a rough draft for a chapter of your book or for a section of your book that you are then honing and focusing into the book.
[00:17:39] It’s not exactly the same. Ideally it’s been tweaked and adapted for its environment.
[00:17:46] Real quick I’d like to mention the featured patron for this episode. It’s the Time Drifter series by Lauren Lynch explore ancient civilizations from a Christian world view in a historical fantasy time drifter series appropriate for all ages. Lauren Lynch writes faith based infused historical fantasies created to challenge readers of all ages.
[00:18:07] After many years of focusing on the visual arts she found she could also paint with words and now enjoys dreaming up stories where the real world collides with the fantastic. To learn more about Lauren and her books visit LaurenLynch.com and of course we will have a link to Lauren’s website and her book in the show notes. Thank you so much Lauren for being a patron of the novel Marketing Podcast.
[00:18:31] The other thing a blog is is it is a massive advertisement for your book because you are continually putting your blog out there it’s continually being seen by Google it’s continually being seen by other people. It’s I guess one way to say that it is a massive prelaunch campaign for your book.
[00:18:53] That’s right. And what’s wonderful is that it can rank on google for years for certain search topics and people will find that post they’re searching for something on Google and they’ve read your blog post and then they buy your book or a post will flare up from time to time on Facebook.
[00:19:10] So my original blog post which I thought would always be the most popular blog post the one on why courtship is fundamentally flawed is now not my most popular blog post my most popular blog post is actually one on confidence. That one I wrote is for one of the later chapters in the book. It’s called the confidence crisis.
[00:19:28] You know why women feel undatable and men feel undatable and why both of them feel like all the good ones are taken in that post. Frequently flares up on social media somebody will find it and share it in a bunch of other people will share it. And I suddenly get this whole new wave of traffic to my blog and new wave of attention to my book that I did not work for and I did not pay for. And if I’m not paying attention to my Google Analytics I may not even know happened because I’ve turned off comments now on my blog.
[00:19:57] I got tired of dealing with all of that hassle.
[00:20:02] But it’s been very very useful in promoting the book in a very inexpensive and long term way.
[00:20:10] So don’t listen to your publisher if they say oh we’ll blog your. It’s OK if you have this material from your blog but you have to take it down from your blog. That is very bad thinking that’s like a Hollywood studio saying We’ll make a movie out of your book.
[00:20:23] But you have to stop publishing your book like why would you do that? They don’t compete. They help each other. It’s like what happens instead is typically the publishing company will say hey we want to be able to license the movie characters.
[00:20:37] So Lord of the Rings for a few years has a character from the movie on the cover of the book. And then you’ll notice that they stopped doing next that’s expensive for them. The movie company actually gets a piece of the action. I mean they have Viggo Morgensteen on The cover of the book.
[00:20:51] Now some people say well the contract that I have with my publisher forbids me — Thomas.
[00:20:59] Thomas I just realized I just realized some some of our listeners out there are going to be offended that you called him Viggo Mortenseen.
[00:21:06] What’s his name? Mortensen. I’m terrible with Hollywood actors. You should be happy I got just got the first name. I know you did, it’s an unusual name so nicely done. It’s one of the only movies I actually know the names the actors. Or pseudo-know the names. There you go.
[00:21:26] Anyway so some people say well the contract I have from my publisher says that this material can’t be published anywhere else and I think this is a really important point to underline if you’re traditionally published and I realize most of you don’t have to worry about this you’re going indie is that that contract is not from God. It’s not even from the government. That contract is negotiable. There’s nothing in that contract that cannot be negotiated. And all the time savvy agents will negotiate away that clause or they’ll adapt it to exclude the blog. And that’s perfectly fine. You should never approach a traditional publisher as if they are God and you’re a humble supplicant. You are partners at best — you’re partners at worst and at best they’re your employee. They work for you. Your agent works for you. Your editor works for you and you need to be willing to push back and negotiate.
[00:22:20] And if you have an agent who’s not willing to negotiate on your behalf if your agent is acting like they’re on the side of the publisher rather than on your side get a different agent. There are a lot of great agents out there and you if you’re a good author and especially if you have a popular blog you have choices. My blog post that I published and I did it independent. I had agents who were very happy with my choice of agents who were very happy to publish it. They saw the traffic that it was getting in they’re ready to represent it when agents say I can get you a contract in 30 days on this blog post and you know I chose not to because wanted to move faster and independently publish it and because I’m an Indie at heart I guess. But the reality is is that — the secret is out.
[00:23:05] I think people have been suspicious for a while. I’m now out of the closet and they know.
[00:23:11] Wow, Thomas we announced that there’s a baby coming and we announced that you’re an Indie.
[00:23:15] I don’t have anything against people who want to traditionally publish and I’m not saying I won’t ever traditionally publish in the future. Some of my best friends are traditionally published like James L. Rubart. So I’m not I’m not racist against traditional published authors.
[00:23:29] But anyway the point I’m trying to make is that you can renegotiate your contract and make sure you pick an agent who gets it.
[00:23:37] The next question Thomas. This is a big one. This is a big one we kind of touched on it already talking about comparing a book a blog post and book to a movie. Right. But the question is why would someone pay to read your book when they won’t read your blog for free. I mean the information’s already there why can’t I just read the blog and I want to give an example of something that’s a little bit different than we’ve been talking about. And what this is is it’s a book called Hyperbole and a Half. Now this came from a blog post and our mutual friend Suzy Warren said Oh my gosh Jim you have to read this particular post from Hyperbole and a Half. And so I read it and I’m just in stitches right. This gal she tells a story but she also draws these cartoons these very simple cartoons of herself. And I was rolling. I was laughing so hard. Well it turns out very shortly after that the book comes out and the book is simply a collection of the best posts the best little stories that she’s told. So she’s gotten that feedback. She knows exactly the most popular posts or her publisher and she know that. They put in a book. Well I bought that book for Darcy for Christmas. Now I could have said Honey you know just get on your computer and go read the blog post. But like you said it’s a very different experience. Having that book and reading it that then it is on the blog. And so I bought it and Darcy liked it so much it’s like oh my gosh I have to buy this for our son Micah. So that’s one example of why should they. Why would somebody pay to read your book when they won’t read your blogs for free.
[00:25:14] That’s exactly why. And that’s a really great point. Part of the value of the book is that it filters the very best blog posts which can be hard to do on a blog. And since as the blogger you have access you know which posts are popular you have a guaranteed hit on your hands.
[00:25:31] You’ve already tested this on the crowd. You know what resonates. And this is really important now I will say it also works the other way. If no one is reading your blog for free you’re not going to be able to get people to pay to read your book. And one of the big frustrations in publishing is that traditional publishers often don’t know which books are going to be successes and which ones are going to be flops. If only there was a way to test it to see if there’s a market for the book is like oh wait there is. It’s called a blog. So for nonfiction, you can really reduce the risk you can blog very inexpensively and see if there’s an audience for your book or not. And if there isn’t an audience for your book you don’t have to spend all that time and money publishing a book when there’s no audience to buy it and you are blogging on some obscure topic that you don’t think anyone is interested in and you blog on it and the blog goes crazy you’re like huh. Maybe there is an audience of people who want to hear about the history of courtship. So you put it in your book.
[00:26:27] Yeah that’s a good question. That’s a good question for you. Thomas when you wrote that blog post did you have any expectation it was going to go absolutely explode as big as it did.
[00:26:36] The history post I was not expecting to be popular I was expecting my 5 nerd friends to like it and to nitpick it like crazy and be like I disagree with your historical interpretation and I was expecting it to be very controversial but it turns out no one knows anything about history and I guess my historical analysis was pretty sound. I’ve not gotten any pushback on the history chapter and I’m summarizing 4000 years of history and I’m not a historian so I was like like this high risk chapter to write. But the reality was that people like this make sense you know because no one’s really explained how we went from paying bride prices where the man buys the woman from her father to paying a dowry where the father pays the woman to get married. That’s a huge shift. How did that happen where did that happen. And and I didn’t know when I start writing the book. I did do the research when I found the answer I was like Wow that’s fascinating. And if you’re curious you can read it in that chapter and if you’re interested you can buy the book or you can just read the chapter and that’s okay. I’m okay with you just reading that one chapter on my blog and not buying the book because my goal ultimately is to spread the word and to fight obscurity because once people know who you are the money becomes easy to find. We have a real quick case study on this.
[00:27:48] Jim tell us about the book Stuff Christians Like. Stuff Christians Like this is by a guy named John Acuff who has moved into other types of books and business leadership and 30 day hustle and challenges and things like that but Stuff Christians Like is really what put him on the map but it didn’t start off as a book. It started off as a blog and it’s one of those blogs again Thomas where I’m reading this thing is just cracking me up it’s so insightful it’s written in such a humorous manner. And you’ll notice on the cover of this book again the name of it is Stuff Christians Like. You’ll notice there’s this picture of a side hug on the front cover.
[00:28:24] Now John writes about all these different subjects right. Like guitar guy you know there’s always guitar guy in your youth group and everybody wants to be the guitar guy or hang out with the guitar guy so he could have chosen a lot of different images to put on the cover of the book. But which one did he choose? He chose to feature the side hug right. And that’s the reason he did that is because it was one of the most popular posts from his blog Stuff Christians Like and so his publisher Harper Collins was smart enough to go ha. Let’s take that recognition. Let’s take people’s knowledge of that let’s take the truth that people will resonate with that who haven’t seen it before. And we’re going to put that on the cover so people will take a look inside the book.
[00:29:10] And an important thing to note here is that he wrote hundreds of posts about Stuff Christians Like I think he was blogging almost daily for a while. So he has you know 3 4 5 700 posts in some of those posts flopped and they weren’t funny they didn’t resonate. People are like oh that you know maybe it was about some obscure aspect of Christian culture that making fun of it didn’t resonate. Most people didn’t get that joke. And you know what.
[00:29:34] Those posts weren’t in the book. He only featured the most popular posts. And the other thing I think it’s important to point out is that he did put things in the book that were exclusive to the book.
[00:29:44] So I did this too. So you can’t get my entire book reading the blogs some of the material is exclusive to the book. So I’m not saying necessarily that 100 percent of the content has to be vetted through your blog. I think that you can have a mix. I think that John, he had about a 60 40 mix I think that that’s a good mix but it may be different for you. I don’t think there’s a clear answer to what the best mix is. Jim I think for the cartoon book a lot of cartoonists do have a 100 percent mix where every single cartoon that’s in their book was first on their website.
[00:30:20] And I’ve seen that done quite a bit. So I don’t know if there’s a clear answer to this but feel free to have something exclusive just to your book. You don’t have to put it all on your blog.
[00:30:28] Yeah that’s a smart idea because then they feel like oh nowhere else to get it. I’ve got to have the book.
[00:30:33] That’s right. So bottom line as an author your primary challenge is not piracy it’s obscurity. We say this quite a bit on this show and blogging can be one of the best solutions to the obscurity problem both for you and for your book. So it’s a great way to test your ideas and find your audience and find your resonance to find which ideas resonate with your audience. It’s not for everyone. You don’t have to blog your book first to succeed but I find it special for nonfiction to be incredibly helpful. And it also helps make you a better writer. We talked a couple of episodes about writing short stories as a novelist.
[00:31:08] Well writing a blog post is the nonfiction equivalent of writing short stories. It is very very similar.
[00:31:13] It’s like a whole book but in only a thousand pages there are only 2000 pages and ultimately I’ve been convinced that blogging your book ahead of time can help you sell more copies of your book not less.
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[00:32:59] I’m Thomas Umstattd Jr. and with me as always is best selling author James L. Rubart. Thank you for listening.Patron Sponsored Links