Books are an old-fashioned medium, much like albums. In the iTunes era, the album model has increasingly struggled, and these days each single needs to stand on its own. I imagine this will happen with books via the ebook revolution soon. Right now, if you want chapter 1 of one of my books, I can make you buy chapter 8. In the future, you’ll be able to see that while 76% of people like you enjoyed chapter 1, only 15% of people like you made it through chapter 8. So you probably won’t download that one. And eventually, authors won’t crank out the chapter 8s of the world.
But for now, some of us are still cranking out full albums. All the Money in the World is the first book I’ve written while blogging daily. I know some high-brow literary types think blogging is debasing the English language. Personally, I think the authors of old were missing out on a critical writing tool: instant, argumentative feedback. A blog is like a standing focus group, letting me workshop my writing over and over again. I think of it as a college creative writing course, only much cheaper. I test drove chunks of the material on the blog, and in columns and features. I got to see what people responded strongly to, and what just fizzled. To be sure, the tone is different in books than on blogs — the writing is slightly more formal and the author can’t assume the reader is approaching the material within a day or two of you writing it. Still, in the past with books, we had to guess what people would find appealing. Now we know.
Currently, I’m in the process of re-engineering the book back out into new blog posts, columns, features, etc. Exactly how many 800-word articles and posts can an 80,000 word book be turned into? I’m starting to think the answer is more than the 100 math would suggest. But I’m also seeing that while my book is informing my blog, the existence of the blogosphere is informing book writing as well. You don’t want to write a book that can be summed up in a single article. Because then that one article will be written, and then you’ll be done. These days, we need constant content. In the age of blogs, non-fiction books need to be shaped by the conventions of story-telling, they need a bit of a sprawling scope, and they should have some personality, so that people like living in the author’s head for a while. They should like it for 800 words, and they should like it for 80,000 words too.
What books by bloggers have you read, and what blogs kept by authors do you enjoy?
photo courtesy flickr user Lin Pernille Photography