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.