An Ode to the Bookblog
Guest Post by Alan Robbins
I love books so don’t take what I am about to suggest the wrong way. I have hundreds of them on the shelves and adore the look and feel of them. Plus, I have had 30 of my own books published throughout my career as a writer, designer, and educator.
Most of these have been through commercial presses like Simon & Schuster, Dell, Pearson, and others. Some of my books have been Indy publications through places like iUniverse. Each of those has advantages: prestige in the case of commercial presses, efficiency in Indy publishing.
But lately I have been exploring a different format that has turned out to be more rewarding than either of those approaches. In fact, it is so effective for what I do that it has almost become an addiction. I have to control myself to not put too much out there too quickly. I am referring here to the bookblog.
The bookblog is just what it sounds like; it uses the blog format to publish a book. But while blogs are forums for instant opinion and commentary about what is happening right now in the area the blog addresses, the bookblog is simply a way to get your book out there for the world of readers to find.
The first advantage of the format is how easy it is to use. Blog design can get quite complex but the basic uploading, layout, and posting of a book on sites like Blogger and WordPress is actually quite simple. You start with the classic format and, if you choose to, you can get fancier later on. It is possible to upload an entire book in one day. Compare that to the two months it takes for an Indy publisher to get your book out, or the years it might take through commercial venues.
The blog format is also very well matched to the structure of a book. A standard blog page has three parts: a banner across the top, a content section on the left, and a column of categories and links on the right. That translates into the cover at the top (title and graphic), the chapters or stories on the left (with or without links and graphics), and the table of contents, author’s bio, and other extra material on the right.
I know that this goes against the grain of the inspiring story that every writer has in mind. The one in which your friends and family urge you to get your work published and so you send it to an agent who swoons over it and presents it to editors who start a bidding war for it that leads to a huge advance, the whirlwind tour, a multi-book contract.
This is a lovely fairy tale but anyone who has been doing this for a while – a lifetime in my case – knows that this is baloney hanging in the same window as the screenwriter who gets the million dollar advance by describing her idea over lunch. It is a professional myth. Just finding an agent is a challenge that can take months; editors may want massive changes to suit the market; and unless you have a guaranteed audience for your work, finding a publisher can prove impossible.
The bookblog circumvents all of that. Think of it as a kind of cloudwriting…getting your words in the cloud, on the web, searchable and findable, right away. The same day I put up my first bookblog, I already had a dozen readers of it. I have no idea how they found it, but they did. And the numbers kept rising from there.
Of course, there are drawbacks to this approach. You do not get the services a publisher provides, like editorial help. But if you need that, you can always find freelance editors. The same is true for designers for the book cover, which in this case is in the form of a banner, if you cannot create one yourself.
You do not get the advance against royalties that is so attractive from commercial publishers; in fact, you are giving your work away for free. But in reality, advances have been steadily shrinking over the years and they are never quite up to what the fairy tale suggests. Most books do not make money beyond their advances anyway. So if you are in it for the money, this may not be for you; but if you like the idea of people actually reading your work, then it is a great way to go. Plus there are many ways to monetize the bookblog that are not available to you as an author of a book sitting on a bookstore shelf or at Amazon.
You also will not have the support of a promotion department but that too is a bit of a myth. For books that are not bestsellers, the burden of promotion falls on the author anyway and that is the same case here. If you are clever about it, you can build an audience by creating links from your website or any other presence you have online, using email blasts, and of course through any social media sites, presentations you make, and so on.
Finally, you will have to forego the bragging rights you get from being a published author at a famous press but that kind of snobbery vanishes as you watch your readership rise every day – the blogs are great at tracking hits – and know that people are actually finding and reading your work. To me, that is better than holding a nice book in my hand.
Alan Robbins is an award-winning writer, graphic artist, and educator and currently the director of the Graphic Design program at Kean University in New Jersey.
He has had 30 books published in the areas of mystery science fiction, puzzles, and humor, and has written for The New York Times, Newsweek, and other publications. His YouTube channel is about to reach 9 million hits. His most recent blogbook is
MazelTales: A Family Album, a collection of short stories based on family photos.
All of his work can be seen and accessed at alanrobbins.com