Thursday, November 17, 2005

Turn your blog archives into a book (and sell it)


So, you've been writing a blog for quite some time now. You are proud of some of your work. You are particularly proud of some of your old stuff, now burried deep in the archives never to be seen again. Who reads archives, after all? You don't want to repeat yourself over and over again, and have never felt at ease with constantly linking back to your old posts (I never had such qualms). So, what can you do to make your old stuff more accessible and available?

Well, now you can turn it into a book form - yup, the real, physical book - and sell it through your blog, as well as through all the regular online booksellers (e.g., Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell's). And it is easy and fast these days to do so. Here, the guy who writes the Coyote Blog describes the entire process - it took him several hours of work and in two days he got his books in the mail.

Apparently, the best and cheapest place to go to publish a book is Lulu.com. Lulu makes it easy for you by providing a ready-made template and tips on formatting, so the whole process appears really easy.

To get the people excited about this, they have now opened a contest - the Lulu Blooker Prize - for books that originated as blog posts, or what they call 'blooks'. As the blooks come in they get listed on the sidebar of the Lulu blog, so you can go and check them out, as well as keep track of the contest on the blog.

There will be prizes for three books, one in each category - fiction, non-fiction and comic strip. The best of those three will get $2000, the other two will get $1000 each. Not shabby for a poor blogger. You can learn more about the contest and see the rules if you are interested.

The judges are not associated with Lulu, but are respected bloggers themselves: Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing, Robin Miller who writes at a lot of places including Slashdot, and Paul Jones, the director of amazing Ibiblio. If you win, they'll write you blurbs for your book!

Well, they don't do pop-up books so I have no idea how can one deal with the links. After all, the link is the currency of the blogosphere (or ATP, if you are a biologist). Coyote Blog guy just copied and pasted, after very mild editing, all his posts from the first year of his blog and - voila - here's the book. But what can you do if your blogging style is profuse linking and building a network? I guess that is just not suitable for turning into book form.

I actually have a backup MSWord file of all my original/substantial posts from this blog (in chronological order, as opposed to blog-traditional reverse chronological order). I don't bother saving one-liners, copyrighted cartoons, linkfests and carnivals. Seeing this whole book thing unveil, I looked at that file again. It is almost 800 pages long (OK, it's in New York Times 12pt, which can be and should be changed)!

All those posts, even the longest and most "mine", still contain bunches of links. Should I edit the links out, change the fonts and see if it looks like anything? I'd like to have a few hardcopies to send to people who are unable to read my blog (e.g, my mother), though I have no chance of winning a Blooker Prize when Washingtonienne and Belle du Jour have already submitted their stuff. There are so many much better writers than I am, and their blogs are so much more focused. My blog is just too ecclectic, as well as uneven over time, with ups and downs in quality - every reader would like some posts and hate, or be indifferent to, most of the others. Should I go ahead and do it? Would anyone be interested in it? After all, I am most proud of some of my oldest posts - the recent stuff is just so scattershot and scatterbrained.

Actually, what I will do, but not yet, is put together the "Clock Tutorial" posts from Circadiana and publish them as a textbook. I need to work on those much more, though. That may take another year of writing.

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