A reverend and a rabbi start a blog…stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Actually, Baptist minister Michael Smith and Jewish rabbi Rami M. Shapiro actually did start a blog called Mount and Mountain. The blog recorded a long-running dialogue between Mike and Rami in which the pair interpreted, argued about, and interrogated two key texts drawn from the canons of their respective religions: the Ten Commandments from the Torah and the Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of St. Matthew. However, they intended to one day turn their blog conversation into a book—and told their readers it was a book in the making.
As you can see in the screenshot below, readers were encouraged to comment but informed that by doing so they were giving permission to the bloggers/authors to incorporate those comments into the forthcoming book.
The resulting book, Mount and Mountain, Volume One: A Reverend and a Rabbi Talk about the Ten Commandments, was published by Smyth & Helwys Publishing March 2012.
In this interview, Rabbi Rami Shapiro talks about the co-blogging process and blogging a book.
What process did you use to find or choose the blog posts that went into your book, and how many of the posts on the blog got “booked”?
This book was written as a blog, so all posts were included. The book is essentially a conversation between myself and my friend Rev. Dr. Mike Smith on the Ten Commandments. A second volume on the Sermon on the Mount is also in the works. The conversation lasted a couple of years, so there we many posts.
How did you then organize them, or did you keep the flow that you originally constructed?
We went back and forth on each Commandment until we ran out of interesting things to say. We then moved on to the next.
What percentage of your book ended up repurposed posts as opposed to new content?
The blogs were edited, but the book is 100 percent blog posts.
What kind of editing did you need to do to make the blog posts work in a book? Did you need to add transitions, revise for flow from one post to the next, rewrite because of the different timeline, etc.?
Yes, to each of these questions. We hired an editor to do this for us. We needed a fresh pair of eyes to see where the holes were.
How much new content did you later add to your book? Did you plan for this content in advance or was it simply added during the editing process?
We added only slightly to the blogged portions to make the flow more natural. The additions came through the editing process.
How much editing was necessary to complete your blogged book and make it flow? Did you run into any problems particular to blogging a book?
No problems, but we did serious editing. As I said, we hired an editor so we could get a fresh perspective as to the logic of our conversation.
Did you take your readers input (comments) into account before the manuscript went to press. How did comments affect the final version of the book?
We chose to blog the book because we wanted input. We got some, but no where near as much as expected.
What advice would you offer to aspiring writers who might want to blog a book?
If you are turning posts into a book make sure you know what kind of book you want to produce. I blog about many things and doubt there is a theme that would tie my blogs together in some cohesive whole. It might be easiest to just publish a collection of essays without a common theme if you subject matter is all over the place.
Do you have any tips you can offer on blogging books or booking blogs?
I write for a living, and I don’t see much different between blogging and other writing I do. Good writing is good writing and that is what I strive to produce.
What one thing did you do that increased your traffic or brought in more unique visitors?
I wasn’t concerned with readers as much as the quality of what we were writing. We didn’t do anything special.
If you are traditionally published, how did your blog-to-book deal come about?
This was Dr. Mike’s doing. The blog seemed to be of interest to Baptists, and his contacts at a Baptist press brought the book into being.
About the Authors
Rami Shapiro is a rabbi, author, and adjunct professor of religious studies at Middle Tennessee State University. Mike is an author and pastor of First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, TN. Mike Smith and Rami co-authored Let Us Break Bread Together from Paraclete Press.
Rabbi Rami is widely recognized as one of the most creative figures in contemporary American Judaism. A graduate of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, he also holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Union Graduate School. An award-winning poet, liturgist, and essayist, his prayers are included in worship services across the denominational spectrum of American congregations. He also writes a column and blog, “Roadside Assistance for Your Spiritual Journey,” in Spirituality & Health magazine.
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