There’s been a lot of talk in recent months about the demise of blogging (and, oddly, the demise of commenting, although they couldn’t prove that by you guys), which was brought home to me recently by a friend who said, “Just when I decided to start a blog I was told blogging is over!” At the same time we hear more and more in the self-publishing arena about How to Turn Your Blog into a Book. So it would appear, on the surface, that the whole blogging movement is segueing into a whole book-authoring movement.
But is it?
Well. . .
Here’s the thing: it’s true that blogging is writing. It’s fabulous practice at developing confidence in your voice and ease with words, as well as focus, dedication, and a solid understanding of the importance of getting to the point (not to mention the inevitable epiphany that writing enough words to fill an entire book is a whole darn lot of writing).
But blogging is a very specific form of writing. It has very specific purposes. And it has very specific readers.
These are not necessarily the same readers a writer needs in order to succeed with a book.
Blogging is conversation
Blogs are about the writers, not the readers.
They have to be.
Free, largely invisible, and sometimes—when visible—lifted without permission by less-visible bloggers who don’t know about the DMCA of 1998, (most) blog posts give their owners none of the usual rewards of massive publication:
Yes, some bloggers are famous. As Andy Warhol said in the 1960s (and without benefit of ESP regarding the Internet), “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.”
However, most of us are not.
And yes, some bloggers make money by monetizing their blogs. But unless you’re using your blog as the portal to a service or product others find both intensely helpful and worth a considerable amount of their hard-earned money. . .
most of us don’t do that, either.
And because of this—the basic lack of tangible rewards—blogging can really only be worth the blogger’s time if it provides intangible rewards. For most bloggers, these are the same rewards as those of unpublished writing: the thrill of self-expression.
Oh, blogging is great fun. Whee, doggies! It was plenty of fun even when no one but my husband and one friend were reading.
But then you folks started reading, and it turned into an extraordinary, unexpected party. All of you friendly and amazing people who love this craft I love, coming here to talk with me about it and saying kind things, all you people I never would have known otherwise!
Suddenly I understand why people get up on soapboxes under Marble Arch in Hyde Park and wave their arms and pontificate to the crowds.
Talking about what’s important to us is utterly invigorating.
A book is a monologue that costs money
Because books cost money, they are about the readers, not the writers.
A little over a year ago, a guy named Paul Ford wrote a fascinating post about blogging: The Web is a Customer Service Medium. Boy, do I love Ford’s theory that blogging is all about addressing the question: “Why wasn’t I consulted?” But even more than that, I love the old James Thurber bio that describes him as someone always thinking about what he’s going to say when the other person stops talking.
This is a typical blogger.
This is, coincidentally, also a great blog reader.
“Nice blog post,” the blogger hears (if they’re lucky). “You know what I think. . .”
And thus begins the conversation between a blogger, a commenter, and all the other readers of that particular blog post.
But this has nothing to do with reading books, where the reader is alone with the words and their own imagination, absorbing in utter privacy something for which they have paid hard cash. They don’t really care about the writer, beyond imagining that writer would, if they only knew, like to be their best friend.
The writer doesn’t fit into the book equation. It’s entirely between the reader and the book.
All of which is what we’re missing when we talk about the popularity or demise of blogging and How to Turn Your Blog into a Book:
the difference in purpose between:
- tangible rewards
- intangible rewards
the great, yawning abyss between the needs of:
- the person who writes
- the person who reads
So when you’re wondering:
Is blogging over? or,
Should I turn my blog into a book?
Try shifting that to:
How am I thinking about blogging and books in terms of my own needs?
How am I thinking about blogging and books in terms of the needs of others?
If blogging is quote unquote ‘over,’ does that mean it’s automatically not worth it to me?
Or. . .?
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