Book Buying Decisions
The Author’s Role

Author Blogs -- Pros and Cons

Dave Taylor picks up on a posting by Steve O’Keefe regarding the pros and cons of author blogs. Steve’s original point was that author blogs aren’t worthwhile unless the maintenance expense can be spread over more than one book.

Dave notes that as long as an author is blogging about something they’re passionate about, a blog is a great addition to a book. In fact, a comment by PR Diva on Steve’s post goes on to say “If the author hosts her own blog, then she has the opportunity to interact with her fan base, share information and create more of a relationship (all words that marketers love).”

Amen! The only thing I’d add to that is that a blog is a great way for an author to extend their book with additional information, points of view, examples, etc. – all things that either (a) didn’t make it into the original book or (b) are better discussed on a dynamic forum rather than in a static book.

This is a core element for the future of book publishing: I feel it will become more important to truly augment and extend the original product with other types of content delivery including blogs, RSS feed updates, etc. OK, maybe this doesn’t add a lot of value for the novel you read on the beach but there are plenty of books where it does make sense.

The book entitled Why Not? is a great example. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this book was so-so, but the companion website is outstanding. It’s not a blog, but it’s a community site where you can contribute and comment on solutions to common problems. If it weren’t for this website, I would have put the book aside and not thought twice about it. The ideas discussed are so interesting that I find myself reading through them every couple of days – other than Google, Yahoo!, Amazon and a handful of others, there aren’t too many sites I can say that about. I don’t know how much work the authors invest in this site every week/month, but given the volume of interesting ideas and comments, I’ll bet they would say it’s been a worthwhile venture. It’s also a great way to extend their book, communicate directly with readers and promote their other products.

Comments

shel

Joe,
I really like how your blog is developing, although I'd like to see you use it more to educate your other customer--the author wannabees, like me, who through you can understand the business of publishing, the challenges of finding a publisher and the issues a publisher considers when deciding whether or not they want a proposed book.

Regarding Author blogs, you may be familiar with one I'm doing with Robert Scoble over at http://redcouch.typepad.com. Robert and I are not yet authors, but our blogging effort has been invaluable so far. Let me tell you what we've accomplished so far:

1. We are writing a book, as you may know on why businesses should blog. Visitors to our site have pointed us to more than 50 examples of business blogs, many of which will find it into the pages of our book.

2. Visitors are helping us make it a better book. We post early chapter drafts and then readers tear it a apart. They do everything from fact-check and prioofing to suggesting better structure and flow.

3. Our blog has become a word-of-mouth engine. We cannot tell you how many people know about our book so far but it is in the tens of thousands. Just because of the blog more people already know about our book-in-the-works, than know of many books already publuished, promoted and on the shelf.

4. They are our sales staff. Our book is about why business should blog. And we are hoping that bloggers who have become part of the process of writing this book will serve also as evangelist chapions, advising people in business to read this book and learn more.

5. They have made us more expert. Robert and I thought we knew a whole lot on the subject, but the comments from hundreds of people, on our blog and in links have made us infinitely more knowledgeable on the subject we are addressing than we ever dreamed we would be.

6. There are downsides as well. This blog is time-consuming and can divert us from the primary mission of actually writing the book.

7. Our Intellectual property could be stolen by someone else wanting to address the same topic. However, through the blog, we have thousands of eye witnesses that we had it first.

In any case, a blog as a publicity enhancer, we think is missing the point. The point is the conversation makes our work a better book, and a better-known book, which should be an asset to both ourselves and to John Wiley & Sons--our beloved publisher.

Naba Barkakati

Joe, I'm taking the plunge with my own blog, not so much as an "author blog" devoted to my books, but just as a forum to express my thoughts. Along the way, if it helps the books, so much the better. I am really excited about the possibility of sustaining a conversation on the general technology and book writing topics. Only time will tell if I can sustain the conversation and if any of these translate to more book sales. No matter. I'm going to give it a shot :-)

Brad Hill

I think it's important to avoid, in most cases, attempting to trace a blog's effect directly to book sales. Generally, a computer book author should maintain some sort of accessible online presence. Blogs represent the best platform yet, and are ridiculously easy and cheap to establish.

My most ambitious project keyed to a single product was an update site for a book on digital music. I knew the book, published by a trade house with slow production, would be partly out of date when it hit the shelves, and I wanted to promote the site on the cover (and, it turned out, on the footer of every page) to convince people they were getting a hybrid product that would always be current. The site contained a news blog with plenty of personality. Did it help sales? Who knows? It was a ton of speculative work, and I doubt that I'll focus so much effort again on a specific attempt to bolster a single product.

Even so, the site helped keep my name current in that topic, which is the important part of being active online. Keeping a high profile leads to more media interviews, extra-curricular writing, and general awarenes of the author's name. Further, and just as important, it helps sell books *to publishers*. I now operate five blogs in topical niches (getting a salary to do so makes it possible to devote the time) on a high-traffic platform, and I've noticed a marked increase among AEs of interest in my traffic. I recently completed discussions of a proposal with McGraw-Hill, and though the project fell apart, I was fascinated to observe the AE's requests for detailed metrics of my monthly on-site and RSS impressions ... she seemed to care more about that than my book-publishing record.

Building a profile and keeping it burnished are essential in ways that cannot easily be tracked to specific product successes. My entire book career might not have happened if it weren't for the relentless prominence I maintained in the pre-Web days of CompuServe: consulting led to articles, which led to books. I would advise any author or would-be author to cultivate an online audience. Writing a blog enables you to be your best self without editorial intervention. There's no telling where it could lead.

Alex Givant

Another good sample of blog that extends great book is www.smartmobs.com.

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