Saturday, March 05, 2016

Easier authorship

kw: book reviews, authorship, blogging, publishing

When I saw the title, How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time, by Nina Amir, I thought it might refer to converting a blog to a book. That is something I've had the occasional idle thought of doing. However, Ms Amir has instead written of the reverse process: Planning a book, typically nonfiction, as one normally would for a hardbound volume, but doing the writing blog-style, in short posts. It matters which word you make into a verb:
Blogging a Book means you have a book in mind, and use blogging methods to produce the content.
Booking a Blog means you have a lot of content, perhaps on numerous subjects, and later convert some proportion of the blog's posts into a book. 
It is the latter process that I'd been considering. (I have some 1,900 posts in this blog already, and several hundred of them are not book reviews; I'd never dream of making a hardbound book out of hundreds of book reviews! But I have a few hundred thousand words of other stuff…)

Ms Amir's book is not a book about writing. If you are a writer, you already know how to write, and if you want to improve that, there are plenty of books, articles, classes, courses and coaches for that. Her book is about business. It is about the awful stuff writers hate, but have to accomplish if they expect their book to be professionally published, whether on paper or in e-book-land. Of course, you could self-publish, but it's extremely rare to self-publish a best-seller. A publishing company has all the departments already: Advertising, promotion, legal, logistics, and so forth.

The major portion of this book deals with getting together a business plan, a précis, perhaps an outline, and a few other documents that I've already forgotten, plus establishing a base, a platform, of online readership that can help convince a publisher your book is worth their while. It is a bit paradoxical: freely publishing your content in a blog seems to defeat the purpose. Why would your followers buy what you've provided for free? Fortunately, many people who like an author's work like to own it in a more tangible way than as a URL. But even more, there's content you don't put in the blog, including transition material and expanded content that is better written long-form for the publication. So once a publisher is on-board, you'll still be only about halfway there, but that's a lot farther than many authors get when faced with doing everything beforehand and then beginning the process of publication.

Nina Amir had a number of "ordinary" titles to her credit already, and she is not the first to use this process to prepare a manuscript and all the ancillary material needed to gain the attention of an agent and/or publisher. She is just the first to use the process to write about exactly that process. She published the first edition of How to Blog a Book several years ago. The volume I read is a "revised and expanded" edition. Naturally, she had more ideas later on. More particularly, aftermarket editions are one of several ways to produce more revenue from the initial book.

I have been experimenting with a vaguely allied process: Webbing a Book. I have read a couple of books that had multiple indexes, or multiple tables of contents, so the chapters or portions could be read in various orders depending on one's interest. Also, particularly for nonfiction, multiple indexes can make a book more useful as a reference volume. This is precisely the reason that the World Wide Web was created. Major online "chunks" of content can be indexed every which way, with the bits strung together as, well, a Web!

Thus, I began some months ago to write a book that could only exist as a web site. It has nine indexes. I am rather poor at planning a large project from end to end. I could never write a novel, and a full-size nonfiction book is an equally daunting prospect. I am an essayist, and do my best writing in blocks of 300 to 3,000 words. Depending on the type face and size a reader sets up, a "screen" is about 500 words. Thus the ideal length for the kind of mini-chapter I like to produce is 1,000 words or less. Going longer sometimes is probably OK. Once I get enough content that I am ready to make the site public, perhaps some folks who read it will provide feedback on that!

Here are a couple of pointers for anyone with a similar project in mind:

  • Think up as many indexes as you can to start with; adding more once a lot of content exists is tedious.
  • Pick a good template that lends itself to the form. I found one in Google Sites that has side navigation where I put the various indexes, and they are expandable.
  • As each item is written, hyperlink it back to as many indexes as are appropriate. Not every item in my site suits every index.
  • When several items form a series, link them with "next" and "back" links. But be sure that each item is linked into the hierarchy of at least one of the main indexes also.

I am a few months away from making it public. It is fun to do, and I hope people like it…at least some substantial subset of people! I don't plan to monetize it. A monetized web site needs some extra infrastructure to block non-subscribers from premium content. For many people who might like to create a reference book, a text, a memoir, or whatever as a hyperbook, the "flat" model I prefer will work the best. Besides, if your content is good and you get famous, there are other opportunities to make a bit of cash, from reworking some of it into a book-for-purchase to speakers' fees to becoming a coach or trainer in some discipline of your choice. Get famous, and more doors open.

Have fun!

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