April 2008

writer at workIn an earlier post (“Non-fiction Blook Mechanics Part 1: Blook by Design“), we discussed several ways to structure a blog to resemble the structure of a book.  For example, using category labels that could double as a table of contents.  Taking content from blog posts and turning it into a readable manuscript can be a challenging task.  Especially when you have a large inventory of blog posts from which to draw.  In this post, I want to propose two tools – the post outline and post sequencing – that can help you organize your posts into a manuscript in a logical manner, without massive rewriting.

Post Outline

First, use your manuscript outline as a tool for cataloging your posts.  An outline is good writing practice.  But it can also help you organize your blog posts.  Here’s one approach.  Use a numbering scheme for each levvel of your outline.  (Most word processor or other outlining software does this for you automatically.  The top most level correspond to chapters.  Lower levels correspond to sections of chapters and content within sections.  The outline forms the basis for a numbering schema to identify the part of the outline to which your posts will be associated. 

Let’s say you are writing a bog about raising dogs.  Part of your outline might look like:

1.  Dog breeds
1.1  Hounds
1.2  Terriers
1.3  Herding dogs

2.  Dog grooming
2.1  Coat
2.2  Teeth
2.3  Musculoskeletal

3.  Dog nutrition
3.1  Diets for puppies
3.2  Diets for adult dogs
3.3  Diets for older dogs
3.4  Organic dogfood

Post Sequencing

Next, use tags to indicate the specific intended location of a post within the manuscript outline.  One approach to doing this is to use the sequence numbers from the outline.  For example, using the outline above, if you had a post about talking about the different types of organic dogfood, it would appear in the category “Dog Nutrition” and might be tagged as “organic-dogfood-3-3-4.”  Sequence numbers would be as long as the number of levels in the outline.  Blogging platforms accomplish tagging differently, but it is a fairly universal feature.  Such sequence tagging allows you to later use the post search tools of your blog to find and organize posts corresponding to each part of your outline. 

library-catalog-cardOf course, outlines are subject to change.  Chapters can be added, inserted or deleted and this can cause problems with post sequencing based on outline numbering.  An alternative approach might be to code tags with names that correspond to the outline labels.  Then, if the outline changes, the tags are still valid.  Again, using our dog manuscript oultine above, let’s say your organic dogfood post was about feeding your hound chicken flavored tofu .  Using this scheme, you might code the post as “nutrition, organic, tofu chicken” where the tags are arranged in the descending order of the outline.  If you had multiple tags about chicken flavored tofu for your dog, you could assign a sequence number as the final tag, or find a label that distinguishes them further. 

The advantage of this approach to tagging is that should you decide to move dog nutrition to some other part of the outline, your post sequences remain valid.  If you make dog nutrition part of a chapter on dog health, you can simply add a tag “dog health” to the head of all your tag lists for dog nutrition. 

Creating an outline and using one of the post sequencing techniques above can greatly simplify the task of organizing your blog content into a manuscript.  Good organization is only the first step.  There are other editorial processes that must be applied to get a manuscript that doesn’t feel chopped up, but we shall save those for later posts. 

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book-printing-pressShould we prepare for significantly higher book prices?  The signals from the commodities markets seem to be saying an emphatic “yes!”  Commodity prices are rising to new heights driven by a number of factors, including:  increased competition from rapidly industrializing economies like India and China; soaring energy costs; and, paradoxically from dislocations caused by the boom in biofuels.

Books require a host of input commodities for their production including:  paper, inks , chemicals used for coatings.  Here are a couple of examples. 

  • As reported in PrintWeek, paper suppliers told printers earlier this year to expect price hikes of 8% or more.  In addition to increased manufacturing expenses, sky high energy costs are raising distributino costs. 
  • Another commodity used in the production of paper is sulfuric acid.  This chemical is also used in the production of fertilizers.  The boom in corn planting, driven by the biofuels boom, is causing major shortages.  The price of the compound has shot a whopping 266% over the past 5 months according to a recent article in BusinessWeek

Commodity pricesTo date, producer price increases have been running ahead of price increases at the consumer level.  But as our current unpleasant experience with retail food and energy prices demonstrates, this won’t last long.  Unless there is a major cooling of economic growth, on a global scale, this commodities price surge may be longer lasting than previous cycles.  If real incomes continue to stagnate or decline, books may become a one of those discretionary expenditures that is the first to go when belts are tightened.

peak everythingMany pundits have opined about the imminent demise of the printed book at the hands of technology – whether the Internet or e-books or books read on iPhones.  But, if, as author Richard Heinberg has suggested, we are witnessing “peak everything,” the real threat to the printed book might be ever increasing commodities prices, driven by scenarios outlined over three decades ago in Limits to Growth.

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blook logoBlooks – books based on a blog – are becoming more and more popular.  Authors, especially unpublished authors, can benefit from blogging their material first as a way to build an audience for their work.  There are enough blog to book success stories now to make this an attractive option.  Many of the early blook successes were more the result of serendippidity than plan.  In this post, I outline one approach for authors who are intentional about creating a book from a blog.

Title.  Use the same title and subtitle for your blog that you would like to use your book.  This has the advantage of allowing your blog to double as a book website after publication.  Also, it makes it easy for your blog readers to find your new book.

Table of Contents.  Layout out your blog categories to roughly corresond to the table of contents for your book.  Using exactly the same titles for categories and chapters may not always work.  Also, some standard table of content names won’t make any sense for a blog – e.g. Introduction or Epilogue.  The idea is to have a kind of one to one correspondence in mind so that when you go produce your manuscript, you’ll be able to map your blog content to the right places in your book.

Chapter content.  Your blog posts become the content for your chapters; content tagged for a particular category can go in the corresponding chapter.  If you have a post tagged for multiple categories, the flow of your content will probably dictate which chapter it lands in. 

Bibliography.  The links in your posts become your pointers to reference material that appears in a bibliography or set of end notes.

Visuals.  Pictures, illustrations and graphs may present a bit more of a challenge.  If the pictures you want to use in your book involve licensing or permissions, you may have to use substitues on your blog (or go without) while you are negotiating. 

Author bio.  Most blogs make it easy to share your bio, either as a blurb on your main blog page or as a separate page.  Include your picture, and both a short and long form bio for yourself which can be incorporated later into your book.

word countAs you start to post, you’ll want to use blog statistis to rank content and track your word count to know when you have a book equivalent.  A good rule of thumb for a book equivalent is 50,000 – 75,000 words.  You should also track the word count by category.  Remember that your categories are acting as surrogates for chapters.  You will probably to be sure your content is relatively balanced as you go so you don’t wind up with too much or too little content in each chapter.

There are several ways to rank content.  Here are a few examples.

  • Page views – the level of overall interest in a particular post.
  • Comments – feedback from your readership.  A post with a high number of comments is a good indicator of blook-worthy content. 
  • Longevity – the number of days since the original post.  This is useful to find topics that might be evergreen
  • Concentration – the number of days since the original post for which there were page views.  Some posts may see all their activity concentrated in a few days (e.g. posts related to news stories) and thus may not be as “durable” as a post that continues to receive page views day after day. 
  • Density – the number o page views for the post divided by the overall page views for the blog.  This shows the contribution of the post to overall blog activity. 

In subsequent posts, I plan to share more specifics on the blog to book process, including:

  • Ideas for editing posts into a cohesive, engaging manuscript.
  • Tools that make it easy ways to track and collect your references.
  • Using tags as a surrogate indexing schema.
  • Creating a compelling pitch card for publishers using your blog statistics.
  • Blook techniques for fiction writers.
  • Preparing a blog tour while crafting your blook.

I would welcome any thoughts or ideas that others like to share on this subject.

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book vid lit iconSheila Clover-EnglishBook Vid Lit

by Sheila Clover-English

Sheila Clover English, the CEO of Circle of Seven Productions, has been a pioneer
in book video production, marketing and distribution for authors and publishers.

According to the Pew/Internet Project findings, 3 of 4 young adults (73%) on the internet watch or download video.  Half of young internet users say they watch YouTube.  Many post videos to blogs and even more will forward on a link in email. They’re online socializing, researching (school and education), playing games or getting news.Publishers know that teens are online and most have outstanding website offerings that are fun, interesting and interactive.  A great outreach to young people was a Blogfest that Simon & Schuster did and of course other publishers have similar offerings for young people of varied ages.

young filmmakerLately, schools and libraries have looked to engage younger readers as well by using book trailers. Sara Kajder wrote in the Educational Leadership magazine for ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) an article entitled “The Book Trailer: Engaging Teens Through Technology.”  This article is amazing and outlines how using book trailers help students who are struggling readers and helps them to be more engaged in the stories they are reading.  The points the author brings up, viewed strictly from an educator’s perspective, was very enlightening.

Libraries are getting into it too!  The Tucson-Pima Library is just one of many that we discovered using book trailers.  You can see how involved they are and the wonderful outreach they extend to young people on their book trailer site.

Young ReaderBook trailers are more than just promotional tools for a book.  They have a greater outreach and greater potential to show young people that books are exciting.  The publishing industry as a whole have this incredible opportunity to build tomorrow’s readership.  Publishers should reach out to high schools and libraries and sponsor book trailer contests.  This can build the confidence level of students who are struggling.  It can create an atmosphere of acceptance where books are not just for book worms anymore.  Cool kids read and make book trailers!  Cool kids read.  Pass it on.

Reaching out to young people through a digital medium in order to encourage reading isn’t a new idea.  But, it is an ever-expanding idea with more and more opportunities to engage young people and create new readers using new media.

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