I have often felt that publishing a book is the closest I–as a male–can come to experience what it’s like to have a baby. Earlier this week, I delivered my fourth, but you would think it was my first because the experience has made me jittery to say the least.
So yesterday, when someone on Twitter pointed me to Jane Friedman’s Please Don’t Blog Your Book and I was , I was crankier in my tweet response than I should have been. I apologize for the argumentative tone I adopted, but at the core of it, I believe her advice was really bad. I think she displayed more ignorance than wisdom in her piece and I mean that in the politest of ways.
It’s a subject that I have a good deal of experience exploring and I doubt that I would be enjoying the success that I have– had it not been for how I used social media to interact with people.
My first book was Naked Conversations, co-authored with Robert Scoble. Robert had the heretical idea that we would blog our book as we wrote it. I humored him, reasonably no publisher would allow it. But some smart risk-taking people at John Wiley like Jim Minatel who was instrument in getting our publisher to allow us to publish interview notes and the first drafts of every chapter. This had never been done before, and it has never been repeated, so it may have been that Robert and I went through a brief window that slammed shut after we were done.
I don’t have the stats, but I am willing to bet that most people who followed the book online bought the final product. I know I signed hundreds of copies from people I got to know while blogging the early drafts.
Then all sorts of people from all over the world jumped in. Some corrected facts. Others pruned typos. Still others suggested stories to add and a few of them were the best in the whole book. One follower led a campaign to stop us from calling the book “Blog or Die,” which would have likely hurt us with the corporate readers we targeted.
So first off, bloggers helped us write a better book, far better than if we had worked under the cloak of silence that most traditional publishers required.
But wait, there’s more. When Naked came out, bloggers became our champions. Most of those who were consulting in the enterprise knew most of what we had written, but they loved how we said it and the brought the book into the enterprise where it did quite well. It is often called a seminal blog for business blogging and that would not have happened without the collaboration we enjoyed with hundreds of bloggers all over the world, as we wrote the book.
By the time I wrote Twitterville, social media had changed dramatically. Much of the conversation had moved from blogs onto social networks. My new publisher, Portfolio, was unwilling to let me post early chapters, but they were willing to let me maintain an ongoing conversation about the book and what I was writing about on Twitter.
The result was that over 50% of the stories I wrote about in Twitterville were delivered to me by tweeters. When the book was published, Portfolio did a remarkable job of traditional PR. I got interviewed by almost every major business publication I can think of. But I remain convinced that the word-of-mouth of people on Twitter made my book among the two-or-three most successful of the 43 books published with some derivative of Twitter in the title.
I didn’t make as much noise in social media with Stellar Presentations, which launched two days ago as a Kindle-only book. This was because, I had originally planned it as a Kindle Single, which requires nothing be published in advance. Now that I’ve changed courses, I will post selected sections in the coming weeks.
But on this the second day, the only way anyone as ever heard of Stellar is on one previous blog post and a few dozen tweets that I have posted. To my surprise and relief, the book is doing quite well, thanks to the support of social media people who are spreading the word–not to benefit me so much–as to tell their friends about something they like.
Friedman noted in our tweeted conversation that she doesn’t acquire books to publish in social media. That explains why she wasn’t a pioneer. But to advise authors of any subject not to blog all or part of their books is pretty backward thinking or so it seems to me.
She knows as does just about everyone else that traditional publishing is in deep trouble. By now she should realize that online distribution and conversations have a great deal to do with the disruption of her profession. My advice to any aspiring author is to follow your reader who now is likely to hang out in social venues, who now is likely to buy books recommended by online peers.
Five times in the last two days I have offered to send my book to people for free. Five times they have refused saying they would prefer to support me by purchasing the book on Kindle.
Has anyone ever said something like that to a publisher? I don’t think so,