A hypothetical question

by Suw on December 3, 2006

If you were to find yourself in a lift with blogger who had, say, been writing for the last… oh, four and a half years, and that blogger said that, despite an underlying feeling that it was in some way cheating, she was considering pulling together some of her best posts and tidying them up and seeing maybe if there was some sort of, oh, I dunno, book there… What would you say?
I have to admit when the first blooks (or was it blogooks? or bloks? I dunno…) came out, I found myself looking down my nose at them a little. I means, Belle de Jour. Please. The standard of Ms de Jour's writing was only slightly above that of teenage boy from Swindon who'd read too much Jilly Cooper, seen too many bad porn films, and hadn't yet come to terms with his obsessive shopping gene.
But there are plenty of fantastic bloggers, there really is a potential I think for bloggers to write books which can stand alone as books without the context of the blog from which they were derived. Tom has proven that in spades.
I'm also getting over my feelings that somehow it's cheating to turn a blog into a book. Just because the effort's been spread out over four years doesn't mean you haven't put any thought into what you're writing. Indeed, some of my posts have been more like essays than blog entries, and I've thought them out in a lot of detail.
And finally, the whole thing about vanity publishing… well, I certainly wouldn't call The Friday Project, who published Tom, vanity publishers.
Of course, the difference between me and Tom is that Tom's blog is pretty focused. I remember a couple of years back being advised by Hugh MacLeod that if I wanted to be successful I had to focus my blog on one particular thing. Of course, that's a bit like asking a butterfly to settle down. My brain doesn't really work like that – I flit from thing to thing and the only unifying theme is the fact that it's me that's flitting. I don't really know if that's enough.
But let's say our anonymous blogger in a lift decides to do this. Which posts would you like her to pick?

Anonymous December 4, 2006 at 2:19 pm

Hey Suw, it sounds like you and I are fellow travellers in the elevator. You know, the one where we're meant to have our simple, one-minute pitch to the high-up who gets in with us? I've never been able to draft that one.
Single-minded is ok but I've never been able to do it, much as I've often wished I could. For the last year or two, I've started to enjoy the rewards of being more rambling. It's not a push-strategy but it does allow the unhurried visitor to find more than one way to form a connection with me.
I've not said this to Hugh, but I wonder if that single idea thing is a bit, well, 20th century…

Anonymous December 4, 2006 at 5:53 pm

I think only you can really choose which sorts of posts to put in, Suw. I mean, if they still feel relevant & interesting to you then there's probably a good case to be made for including them. You wouldn't be just stringing a bunch of blog posts together & calling that a chapter, I assume – there'd be some commentary in there as well, yeah? If you don't feel inspired to write about it again, then leave it out.
I agree you can't stick to a single subject, and you shouldn't try. Part of what make your blog so fun is the fact you flit about from subject to subject. You're more than clever enough to put them together in a way that would be highly readable in a bookish format, I'm sure. *cough* I mean, your hypothetical blogger is…

Anonymous December 5, 2006 at 6:25 pm

gotta have the one about your career path/being a polymath. But I notice it's linked as one of your most popular posts, so I guess you know it's great.

Anonymous December 6, 2006 at 10:29 am

Of course it is not cheating! Blog posts do not necessarily need to be an essay, and sometimes they come out that way. Turning one's blog output into a book is a possibility, you will need to do that wonderful editing work of what to pull together, but then you already have a few ideas about that.
As Hugh does not say, but implies, what works for Hugh, may not necessarily work for you. Got to do your thing.

Anonymous December 7, 2006 at 3:18 am

I've been in that same hypothetical blogevator numerous times meself. Only the other day, an online friend said: “how come you haven't written a book yet?”
See, there's the thing. I would like to write a book, at some point. But, like you, I'm not sure my writing could hold up under the required attention span.
I've thought of pulling some old favourite posts together into some kind of generally book-type item. Even consulted with a friendly literary agent at one point, to see if something like the Seven Deadly Agency Types series might be worth stretching out into a book.
In the end, though, I came back to my original original thought. That is, if I'm going to write a book, it's going to be something original. I can't get comfortable with reheating my assorted leftovers.
My areas of attention tend to leap around so much, any such effort would inevitably be the literary equivalent of bubble-and-squeak. Yummily satisfying for the hungover, perhaps, but an object of disgust to many.
Sorry – this doesn't really answer your question. If our hypothetical anonymous blogger in a lift was asking which of his/her posts would be most suitable for re-purposing in book form, I'd be inclined to side with Dan's advice.
Just supposing our suppositional blogger had at some point written a long and excellent post on the relative advantages of polymathy over specialization, I'd venture to suggest that single post alone might hold the seed for an entire book. Someone needs to write the definitive 21st Century work on the idea of “Renaissance Man (or Woman) 2.0”. Or take Van Vogt's idea of Nexialism and explore that fully. There's a book I'd buy. Screw it – there's a book I'd even love to write. Ah, looks like I just gave the idea away though. Oh well…
Tee hee – just noticed the captcha for this comment is “s7uw5”. Coincidence? I thinkee not.

Anonymous December 7, 2006 at 3:56 am

Suw, this is not a precise answer to your direct question (though really, when did you ever know me precisely to answer any direct question? It isn't an ability that resides in my genes.)
What I would tell the blogger in the lift — (assuming I knew her work and it was …. uhh … similar to the quality of what you write, let's say) — I would say, “Look, be who you are … the very writer who is attractive to your present readers.
And who you are is not only a butterfly flitting here and yon, dropping pollen from far-flung flowers. But you also have in all your cyberflittings BEEN places.
So … why not mix some of your old posts, with some of your present themes, along with some commentary and links to the places you have been and sites you have seen.
I see it as the first travelogue of the relevant blogosphere, presented with wit and charm and thematic insight that draws it all together, including the material you draw upon from other illustrative webpages.
But then, that isn't the question you asked, is it. Cheers.

Anonymous December 7, 2006 at 12:36 pm

The Friday Project might not be vanity publishers, but there's always been something a bit amateurish about their presentation and some of their choices. Hopefully the departure of Paul Carr to wave his ego around at a world that isn't listening will see Friday Books get a bit more proper. We could do with something interesting connecting the books industry to the web. Maybe now is the time?

Anonymous December 12, 2006 at 6:28 pm

TFP is only just finishing its first full year of trading and we have developed and grown the company considerably since our launch. We have a brilliant book list for 2007 and although we may have appeared amaterurish to some (ouch) we have an excellent team (including the recently joined Scott Pack) and fantastic authors. We are sold and distributed by one of the biggest publishers in the world and feel we have established a good reputation in the trade and amongst authors. The company is really making progress now so watch this space! Also, I'm happy to give anyone any further info about what we do, just email me.

Anonymous December 16, 2006 at 1:46 pm

I think anonymous blogger should collate in a book all the posts where she mentions how utterly fantastic and talented her best mate Steve Kane is.

Anonymous December 17, 2006 at 4:42 pm

I'd say, “If it works for Scaryduck, it should work for you, Suw -er- hypothetical lift-mate.
By the way, do you know which floor the pool is?”

Anonymous December 17, 2006 at 5:07 pm

Thank you, everyone, for your comments. I've had a good long think about this, and I do believe that my blogger friend, who's been trapped in her lift for a good couple of weeks now, has decided to give it a shot. In fact, she's very much looking forward to having a chat with Clare, who commented and emailed, and is starting to figure out how to winnow out four years worth of posts without going bonkers in the process. I don't know if it's pure ego, but I'm sure there must be something worth having in there, somewhere…

Anonymous December 29, 2006 at 9:04 pm

I'd buy a copy.
You don't know me and I don't know you. But I pick up your feed and read it. Why is that? I don't know, but I can tell you of the 55 million feeds (thereabouts) out there I like yours. So that means you're readable, and more than average interesting.
I friend of mine just printed one single volume of a 12 year literary project at Lulu.com. He held it in his hands. He says is was a pretty incredible moment. Say what you want about vanity publishing, its the start of a product. He is going to give it another edit, but this allows him to release that copy to editors to get feedback. The presentation should make editors take him seriously.

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