Why Would Anyone Want to Blog? Be Part of a Dream Team
Without my blog, I'd be Just another forgotten former child actor, dug up every decade or so on a "Where are they now?" program. I'd be frustrated and broke. However, by writing in my blog, I found a passion for storytelling, and maybe even a second career. I'm happy and able to support my family doing something that I love. -Wil Wheaton
My sister lives in a small house with two greyhounds, three cats, and her husband. She makes great vegan banana bread. When I visit, the dogs get nervous. They take turns staring at me. They keep watch just to make sure I don't unfurl my hidden wings and fly off with one of the cats.
During one of these occasional visits I will enjoy banana bread while chatting with Mandy (that's my sister) and Garo (that's her husband). I've already converted Garo, to the way of blogging-he keeps a blog for his band. We will start talking about how Mandy would love to one day work for herself, maybe something having to do with herbs. She loves herbal remedies and knows a lot about them. Before long, the conversation inevitably turns toward blogs. It's a sickness with me.
"Mandy, you should start a blog."
Her nose wrinkles, and she says she could never do that. She doesn't like the idea of strangers reading what she does or knowing anything about her. Never mind strangers, she adds. Even worse than that, people she knows could go on the web and read about her. This is typical of someone who "doesn't get" blogging.
Don't misunderstand me, privacy is a valid concern in the blogosphere. What my sister is missing about blogs is that they are whatever you make of them. Mandy doesn't have to put anything personal on her blog. It can be more of a professional undertaking. This doesn't win her over. Her nose is still all bunched up, and now she's got one eye half closed. Some people need a little more encouragement. Or maybe it's just been a while since I last bathed.
If Mandy started a blog about herbology, she could call it Herblog. Nice. That works on many levels. Okay, so Mandy is interested in eventually starting up a small home business somehow relating to herbs. A blog could help her in the endeavor. Let's look at how her herbal blogging initiative might play out.
She starts a blog with a simple editorial direction: surf the web for a few hours every week looking for herb websites, recipes, remedies, and products. Link to these sites and include opinions, reviews, and thoughts. If she allows commenting on her posts, her readers can help define her editorial vision with feedback.
She could kick-start her blog's traffic by telling all her friends and family about it. Or better yet, if she has some friends with blogs, she could ask them to link to it. She could also spend twenty bucks on grassroots text-based advertising, but she doesn't need to because if she keeps her editorial focus on herbology, Mandy's blog will start attracting web searchers and that's good because they're looking for information about herbs-and she's got it.
My sister could slowly hone her knowledge of herbs and homeopathy while simultaneously building a devoted readership. Let's say she keeps at this for one year. That is a year of knowledge retained in her blog, and, more important, her readership grows larger every month. With a good amount of traffic and a niche topic, Mandy could put some content-targeted advertising on her blog and make a modest amount of revenue. She's also well on her way to becoming the web guru of herbs. When people go searching for a savvy herbologist (maybe an acquiring editor?), they're going to land on Mandy's Herblog. Eventually Mandy will discover that there are several benefits of blogging. Some of these benefits are professional, others are personal.
Benefits of Blogging
It really doesn't matter if your blog is focused on a hobby, your work, politics, or lust what you do during the course of your day. Blogging is information sharing, and the more you research and share, the more you gain expertise in your area of interest, even if that area is only "things that interest me." Every post you publish is added to your life's work, and that work is a window on your mind. Even if all you do is collect and publish bookmarks, the very links you choose to publish tip your hand. Blogging is an everyday practice of searching, thinking, and writing. There are many benefits to this exercise.
Blogging Makes You Smarter
With a seemingly infinite supply of information on the Internet, a blogger is forced to choose wisely when offering up a link. Then that blogger is tasked with adding succinct commentary to explain why that link is blogworthy. This in and of itself is not so hard, but doing it every day exercises the analytical mind because it force us not only to choose what we think is interesting but also to pinpoint why we think it is. Then, we convey those thoughts in a short descriptive paragraph.
Blogging is an information-saturated lifestyle filled with contemplation and expression. It doesn't seem like this at first, because bloggers are never expected to do much more than blast out a few posts a day as the mood strikes, but the cumulative effect is smartening. Is that a word? See how I think about these things? You can tell I'm a blogger.
Blogging and the blogosphere is all about the cumulative effect. Millions of blogs are making the web smarter and thousands of posts are making you smarter. Not Just smarter either, but more successful. Let me give you an example.
Blogging Scenario: Getting a Book Deal Via Blog
I mentioned that an acquiring editor might spot Mandy's blog. This is not out of the realm of possibility.
Back in the day, book deals were few and far between. You had to be a literary genius, a member of the superelite writerly crowd, or some kind of insanely talented professional in your field. Then you needed an agent, a publicist, and a body of work to prove you had what it takes to be part of the chosen few, the noble, the proud, the published.
Now, you just need a blog and some chutzpah. Blogging is hooking people up with book deals willy-nilly. If you've always wanted to see your name on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and have an urge to tell your friends, "I can't come out tonight; my editor is breathing down my neck," then blogging is the place to start. There are bloggers out there on the web getting book deals right now. What are the secrets of blog-to-book success?
That's how I got my first deal. I became obsessed with blogging five years ago when I discovered how easy it was and realized that a revolution was at hand. I talked about blogging so much that my friends thought I was a freak, and people mostly rolled their eyes whenever I opened my mouth. But hey, I'm an author now. This obsessive fixation can work for you too. Obsessive behavior is treatable, but if left unchecked, it can land you some sweet gigs.
Julie Powell managed to swing her abnormal behavior into a book deal too. Down on her luck in Queens, New York, Julie said "Fuck this!" (I think she really did say that, she swears a lot) and decided to blog-u-ment her crazy scheme to cook her way through every single recipe in the 1961 first edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by the legendary Julia Child and Simone Beck-in one year. The Julie/Julia project was born. Five-hundred and thirty-six recipes in 365 days. "One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen. Risking her marriage, her job, and her cats' well-being." Well, this "Government drone by day, renegade foodie by night" struck a chord with a prestigious publishing house.
People who become consumed by details are natural bloggers. Not just because they are more likely to blog every day and sometimes multiple times per day but also because they like to tweak, change, edit, redesign, add, remove, and fiddle around with their archives, profile, settings, template, etc. So if you are captivated by something and you have an urge to share it with people, now's a good time to start a blog. You'll thank me later when you sign that book deal. Maybe something along the lines of: "This book is dedicated to Biz."
Be the Blog
Salam Pax blogged from Iraq with bombs exploding all around him. The whole thing with the bombing and the fighting and the explosions is not always a good way to go, but in this case it worked out for Salam. It turns out people wanted to hear what was really going on over there and not just watch television news about how great America is. Actually, Salam got a sweet deal because his book is a republished version of his blog. If you can swing that, you're golden, because you've already done most of the work. Damn. I should have thought of that.
If you find yourself in a war-torn, bombed-out locale with just the clothes on your back and you feel you must blog, fret not. You can set things up so that you can blog with just an e-mail account or a cell phone. With audioblogger, your voice is published as an MP3 file straight from a phone. But don't audioblog if you're hiding from enemy soldiers, because they may hear you and shoot you. k living blogger makes for a far better blog.
Don't think about getting a book deal, just blog. That's what Mimi Smartypants did, and she was just not punk rock enough to turn down a book deal with HarperCollins UK. "I feel very guilty about this book thing, because many incredibly worthy authors struggle and suffer to get their books published, and many more toil away at brilliant novels in obscurity. I go blah blah during my lunch hour on my happy little subdomain, writing something that is not a book, and out of the blue comes a publishing contract."
Mimi went the same route as Salam: her book is going to be her blog republished in print. People, I can't stress how sweet of a deal this is: your editor does the work and you collect the checks. But don't get all smartypants just yet, you still have to get crackin' on that blog.
Meg, Matt, and Paul are three very smart and blog-savvy individuals who work well together. The publisher who put out their book recognized that this trio had potential as a group and realized that their combined know-how would make for one highly informational tome. You know things, and your friends know things too. Combined, you know more things than any one of you alone. It only makes sense, right? A group blog is a great way to start accumulating that knowledge. All it takes is one person to start a blog and then invite others to join from within the settings interface-many bloggers make light work. Blaze Your Own Path
Wil Wheaton is an actor-turned-blogger. First with his blog, and now with his books, Wheaton has found the wealth of spirit he was chasing every time he went on an audition. Wheaton secured a three-book deal, and just like Sinatra, he did it my way. 1 mean his way. You know what 1 mean. Instead of waiting around for publishers to come to him, Wheaton self-published Dancing Barefoot,
his collection of "five short but true stories about life in the so-called space age," and used his blog to promote it. He shipped over three thousand copies out of his living room in five months to paying customers and this is no small feat. Here's an insider tip: Publishers like books that sell. Now he is a big-time writer with publicists and the whole deal. Go, Wil! You Can't Win the Lottery If You Don't Buy a Ticket
Blogging is easy, and it's not hard to incorporate it into your life. You don't have to disclose personal facts unless you want to. Go ahead and make stuff up. Embellish. Kick things up a notch. A year from now I'll be picking up your paperback best seller, A Year of Lies,
for $12.95. Good work.
Financial rewards in the form of a book deal or other freelance writing are not out of the question if you stick with your blog. You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket. Mandy can wrinkle her nose at me all she wants, but when she's signing books at a Barnes & Noble in downtown Boston because millions of people love her novels about a skeptical herbologist who solves crimes with her amazing knowledge of holistic forensics, she'll realize that I was correct. And I'll be able to borrow some money from her.
Copyright 2004 by Biz Stone