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Guest Post: How to write a book or blog (Part 1)

Have you ever read through various books or viewed different blogs thinking to yourself, heck, I could do that or perhaps even better?

Ok, what is preventing you from writing a book or blog?

If you have started and have not yet published your blog or book, what is the hold up? 

Why do you want to write a book or blog?

Over the years, I have written three formally published books (i.e. via a traditional publisher with and ISBN and a Library of Congress registration), and collaborated on several book projects with others. Additionally, I create content through blogging, podcasts, webinars, videos and interviews, so people often ask me what is involved in writing a book, blog or article. 

My usual response is a question as to why you want to write that book, blog or article?

Do you want to share ideas?

Is your objective to capture and retain what you have learned?

Perhaps it is to seek fame and fortune?

Maybe it is to be able to call yourself a blogger or book author?

Promote your latest creation or company’s technology or service?

Gain recognition amongst your peers or line up that next job or consulting assignment?

Or perhaps it is some combination of the above!

The reason I ask about your motivation is to help formulate my response as to what routes or paths to suggest for your book project. For example I write books to tie different research and experiences together so I can preserve and share them. My books also tie into other activities that I’m involved with, ranging from custom advisory and consulting projects, content generation, speaking at events and seminars—all of which allow me to make a living. 

Similarities to books and blog projects

There are some common things between writing a blog and a book, yet there are also some subtle differences. It makes a difference whether you are going to self publish a book, or if you are going to write a mini-eBook for an aggregator on behalf of someone else, or sign up with one of the many publishers. Likewise for blogging, the differences can include the frequency and scope along with tone of the content being covered.

At the same time, there will be similarities across all your content as to the topics are you discussing, your voice, and the approach to your audience.

Have you noticed that I have not yet said a single thing about actually doing any writing or illustrating? That’s because while production, such as copy edits, layout, graphics and other things are important, similar to programming or systems development, having a good plan up front will streamline things down the line.

In the case of a blog, plan out several posts so that you can do a series, or have things available to post when you can’t think of what to cover. Over the past few years, I have accumulated a long list that keeps growing of things to blog about as well as ideas for possible future books.

Given that a book project from the first draft to being formally published will take about a year, things need to be thought out a bit more as opposed to deciding to blog about something at a given moment. However the two can be tied together, e.g. using a blog to test out ideas and themes, soliciting feedback, and testing ideas in order to refine what will go into your book. Likewise, content on your blog or website can become companion material for your book.

Publishing your book or blog

There are many options for getting your book or blog published: do it yourself, leverage a service, or sign on with a publisher or venue. For example you can use one of the many different blog tools such as WordPress (e.g. wordpress.com and wordpress.org), which can be hosted on WordPress.com or published via a third party venue like mine, or you can host it yourself. There are plenty of other sites and tools for hosting blogs such as Google BlogSpot (e.g.  http://googleblog.blogspot.com/ ), Amazon Author pages (http://www.amazon.com/Greg-Schulz/e/B001K8S4DQ ) and many others.

The tools and venues vary in features and functionality along with support for various plug-ins, add-ons, templates, and other tools, which is why I like WordPress. Some of the plug-ins include statistics, email or print a blog post, mobile device support, interaction with other social media tools including Google+, Facebook, Twitter, in addition to backup and security tools.

Another option instead of setting up and maintaining your own blog is to write and post on behalf of one of the many different venues out there. Some sites even allow you to post your material on both theirs as well as your own site with minimal to no restrictions while others want exclusive or unique content or first right to post. In my case, most of my blog posts will appear on my blog storageioblog.com and then picked up via different syndicators via my full RSS feed (http://storageioblog.com/RSSfull.xml) or via the RSS full archive feed (http://storageioblog.com/RSSfullArchive.xml), with other posts then submitted manually to venues such as VMTN after some period of time. I also have some content that will first appear elsewhere than my main blog that I will then do a wrapper post around.

With books there are similar options in that you can write and produce it yourself including self publishing via different services, sign up with a formal publisher that offloads you from production activities so that you can focus on writing, work with a publishing service in conjunction with a publisher or self publishing service along with other combinations. How do you get a publisher? Simple, go their sites, send them an email, contact their acquisitions editor, get on the reviewer list to get some name recognition, endorsements and recommendations from others.

I almost forgot to mention that since you are reading this in a VMware related venue, you should get in touch with the folks over at VMware Press, which is a partnership between VMware and Pearson. I had a chance to meet with their representatives during the recent VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas and they have some interesting ideas and are looking for new authors as well as reviewers.

Being a reviewer is a great way to get copies of new books and learn more about the process of putting a book together, plus if you have your blog up and running, you will often have new content to discuss.

Now does that mean a publisher will sign you up right away? Probably not. Even if they do want to sign you, there is a long list of questions that I would pose to them that should end up in your contract should you sign with them. It’s a two-way process, so you want to talk with a few different publishers and check them out for fit while they are learning about you. It is kind of like looking for a job. For example what are the terms and conditions, timelines, who is expected to do what and when vs. assumptions of what is covered. Who will own the copyrights, who does the work involved with and covers costs of indexing, page composition, proofing and layouts.

[To be continued.]


About the author

Greg Schulz is founder of Server and StorageIO, an IT industry advisory consultancy firm, and author of the books Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press, 2011), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press, 2009), and Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier, 2004). Learn more at www.storageio.com, www.storageioblog.com or on twitter @storageio

 

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