A few weeks ago I fellow blogger and book designer Joel Friedlander if I might review his new book, A Self-Publisher’s Companion, Expert Advice for Authors Who Want to Publish. I had a special interest in doing so besides simply helping him out with some promotion on both this blog and my other blog, How to Blog a Book. You see, Joel did something he calls “booking a blog,” a term I asked him if I could “steal with attribution” when I first heard him use it. I teach people how to “blog their books,” so I wanted to see his book and what he had done.
What does it mean to book a blog? Joel took his popular blog, TheBookDesigner.com, searched it for posts that would make good content for a book he had in mind on self-publishing, compiled them, edited them, and then published it. I’ve written a bit about recycling your material in this manner, mentioned his project and had guest bloggers discuss repurposing material as well. Not every blogger who books a blog bothers to do a good editing or design job, though, and many simply use blog-to-book programs without every bothering to touch the manuscript. You can use programs, like the one at Fastpencil, however, and go back and edit; this program will design your interior but not your cover.
What’s the difference between booking a blog and blogging a book? When you blog a book you plan out your content in advance, compose the book manuscript and publish it one post at a time in cyberspace. Interestingly enough, Joel doesn’t think writers should blog a book—only book a blog. He has two chapters devoted to why you shouldn’t blog a book. I on the other hand, of course, think blogging a book is the fastest way to write a book and build author platform (and promote the book) at the same time. I also think booking a blog is a great idea, especially for bloggers with lots of great content. And Joel does, indeed, have a ton of superb content.
I would like to point out that in his introduction Joel notes how similar blogging is to self-publishing; he goes so far to call it a “subset of self-publishing.” Just as I find blogging rewarding, Joel writes of blogging, “This scenario presents me with most of the results I hoped to get from self-publishing all those years ago, and in a more immediate and interactive way. Truly, it is a golden age for self-publishing of every kind.” I have also found blogging often allows me to reach more readers in a day—several hundred— than I could with a published book.
He points out that most blogs are not written like book manuscripts, though, and can’t simply be turned into a book. By booking a blog—searching out relevant posts and then editing them, he says, he has solved that problem. I’d agree that most blogs are not book material—unless well edited, which Joel has done, or written consciously as a manuscript (blogged as a book) and then also edited. Even in Joel’s case, you can still see the remnants of blog posts—chapter titles mentioning lists and many chapters broken up by lists of one sort or another, for instance. He points to the use of lists in blogging as a reason not to blog a book, but personally I find it makes even his book easy to comprehend.
Now, on to Joel’s book…and to four questions I asked him to answer for me.
First, his book: Like his blog, Joel’s book is extremely easy to read. Written in a friendly, down-to-earth tone of voice, s you turn the pages you feel like a friend is offering you personal advice on self-publishing. Joel’s blog posts tend to be on the long side, so the book has a nice flow to it, but the chapters are short and easy to digest.
He’s broken the book up into six sections: “A Self-Publishing Orientation” “Bookmaking,” “Social Media for Authors,” “The Ebook Revolution,” “The Electronic Life,” and “You are the Market.” These cover the gamut of what a successful self-publisher needs to know from the creative and business standpoint—and he does stress some of the business aspects. However, his expertise as a book designer comes through as well, which gives the book an added element missing from similar books on the market.
I loved his “Self-Publisher’s Questionnaire,” “8 Answers to Help Self-Publishers Get Up and Running,” “10 Worst self-publishing Mistakes Explained!” and “26 Ways to Win at Self-Publishing.” Additionally, the sections on “Bookmaking,” which included design tips and explained what designers do, was the most helpful for me. (Every writer needs some good advice on design, right?) Last, the sections on “Electronic Life” and “You are the Market” I found had unique information not normally found in books on this topic; they offer a peek into the reality of an author’s life today.
I highly recommend the book. I enjoyed the personal tone that carried over from Joel’s blog and the wealth of information the book offered—and the fact that I didn’t have to search it out in Joel’s blog.
As for those four questions I asked Joel to answer about booking a blog…come back on Monday. This review got way too long to include them today! Instead, if you want something else to read, purchase A Self-Publisher’s Companion.