I’ve been asked for years why I don’t write books, and now that I’ve dumped YouTube the question is more relevant. There are a few reasons that revolve around my personality and workflow, and a few that focus on business.
The first issue with writing a book is that you have to focus on writing a book. There’s a world of difference between writing 100 blog posts vs. writing a few hundred pages of book. In blogs you can talk about various subjects and do a good bit of rambling. Each post is a self contained story that only tangentially ties in with the larger site. Books on the other hand require you to be focused. The whole of the book has a story line, and each chapter builds upon the last to move towards the inevitable conclusion. Simply outlining the book is a job unto itself, and then filling in that out line with chapters that all feed into each other is a complicated task. Writing a book is much like earning a degree. It’s all or nothing. 19 chapters for a book that will require 20 is still not a book just as 117 credit hours in a degree program that requires 120 is still not a degree. I’ve spoken with many writers that have hundreds of pages of story just sitting on a shelf because they never figured out how to wrap it all up. With a post I just have to sit still for 30 minutes…
The next difference between blogging and books is context of the content within the wider world. If I write a book then at best the information in the book will be a few months old by the time the first person reads it. If I talk about Uber, or trade with China, or any current topic by the time you read my thoughts months will have past and the whole situation is different. It takes time to outline book, write the chapters, edit and revise the writing, package the material, and publish it to be available. eBooks may make publishing exponentially faster than it used to be, but it still takes more time than what is required for me to publish a post.
On the technical side the User Interface difference between eBooks and websites I not so significant anymore. I easily go from reading ArsTechnica on my iPhone to the Economist on my Kindle. Many people read full books on their iPads and such now. As far as the use case is concerned text is text. Does it really matter to them if it’s formatted in ePub or HTML?
Continuing on the technical arguments a blog will have SEO where the eBook will not. Client Acquisition is the life and death for any business. When you listen to professional authors you will find they spend a huge amount of time doing things other than writing. They do book readings and signings. They guest speak at lectures. Simply put they do a lot of pounding the pavement so that people know that they, and their book exist. In a blog advertising becomes so much more simple. You talk about a specific brand name and the PR for that vendor will blast out a link to your post to their entire mailing list. A witty commentary can become organically viral and cost you no time nor any money. The keywords in your title will be indexed by Google and you may become a top page for specific searches. All of this advertising is not just free, but also requires no additional work from you.
The final argument for a paid membership blog vs writing eBooks at this point is money. If I write an eBook how many do you think I’m going to sell? How much can I charge? A $.99 book that sells 10,000 copies will bring in $9990 in revenue to get chopped between me and Amazon. A $10 book that sells 1,000 copies comes to about the same amount. Then think about all the work required to convince those people to buy. Then even after they have purchased it’s a one time sale. To get any more money requires writing a whole new book, and going though the same process again. In this model I might be able to earn $10 per follower per year…
On the other hand a paid membership model at $5 per month is $60 per year. I sell the client once on signing up and then I just have to continue putting out content. I don’t have to resell to the same people every time I put out my work! I have no idea why everyone seems to ignore the pain of the sales and acquisition process. The more time I spend selling the less time I have for creating content. With the paid membership model you make more per client, and spend fewer resources to bring in that revenue.
The final note on this for me is a personal one. I just like working every day, and I like seeing something be built. By blogging I can see the reaction to the posts immediately. Within an hour I’ll start getting comments about what I said, and within a couple of days I can see the metrics to see how different content is being consumed. There is something viscerally enjoyable about blogging that goes beyond the base skill of writing.
These are my thoughts on it. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with authors and realize that you have to be careful about labeling something as being “easy”. It is true that it’s easier than ever to publish a book. The thing is now that every shoe shine kid can publish a book it means that selling enough books to pay the mortgage isn’t necessarily any easier. For my part I’d rather be pumping out posts rather than dealing with what’s required to make a book profitable.