Blog to Book, the New Travel Writer?

From a blog a book is born and arrives on the local bookstore shelf. But is it worth the read?

The other evening I clicked ‘download’ from the BC Library online site and in a flash an ebook arrived on my hardrive and then bought a ticket to ride on my Kobo for three weeks. The entire transaction took less than a minute (after the Kobo desktop wasted a few minute doing updates) and I settled in with a book that caught my eye about two young women who drove a Tuk Tuk, one of those three-wheeled carts that clog the streets of India and most of Asia. They were doing this adventure to raise money and awareness for mental health issues and a group in the UK called MIND. A worthy cause as one of the participants suffered from depression and had long-term association with institutions and hospitals.

As I ‘tukked’ in for the evening it started to become clear that the book was based on the blog they kept during the journey. Each of them contributing the daily events. This would have been fine if the two had done some basic co-ordination of who would say what, about what and when. Each entry was echoed soon after by the other person to the point that I found myself leap-frogging through the virtual pages skipping sentences and passages with familiar theme. If one told the story of the rain and potholes for 125 miles and stopping for a beer in Laos, the next person would detail it as well. A wonderful trip log became a short read. Only on a few occasions did each divert from telling the same story of the same day. One voice please!

This is one of the dangers of the latest trends open to us all through online book publishing sites such as My Publisher and Blurb.com. Thier book was done through other means, however these sites and others offer template allowing simple transfer of your blog to book format. Now anyone can self-publish! I am a self-published author and heartily approve, but editing, proofreading and all the rest of the process must happen too. In the case of this book, worth a read but be prepared for a constant echo two people telling the same story might have been smooth if they had differing views. Chose sections of the trip to speak about or have chosen one person to do the writing. For the most part that did not happen. It was a book made up of short sound bite bursts of one paragraph post card posts on a blog. It read like a blog, sounded like a blog and essentially was only a blog. I needed more. I enjoyed the journey, but not the reading of it.

On the other side of this new way of selling your story is a book that came to my hands via a kayaker who approached me in the local coffee shop with a copy of my recent book, The Hungry Kayaker under his arm. I signed it for him and we chatted about kayaking. A half hour later on the ferry we met again, and it was then that he let slip that he too had a book out. It was available on Blurb.com and was a photo/blog of a trip he and another paddler had done around Vancouver Island. One hand shakes the other so when I got home I ordered a copy of his book. 910206-e734e2b39384ce0907ebc8a884f9f31c

On the arrival in my mailbox I sat down and browsed it. Blurb is good, I have used it too but for photos it is not so great. To get a rich colour plate from the restriction of uploading jpg quality images makes it challenging, however they kept the image size smaller and the crispness was still there. Stunning images. The text was another issue. In this book two travellers telling the same story but had the forethought to break it up between them. Each taking sections of the journey which deleted much of the perils of overlap and repetition. The information was great, the story telling clear, though neither was a writer, it didn’t dull the experience of wandering through the pages.

I don’t write my blog with book in mind. It is a place to talk about my passions for cooking and camping and kayaking, period. A place where i vent, rant and go on. In my world a blog is a blog and a book is a book. To mash one into the other can work. If you are in the process of  doing it right now, great, cool! Go For IT! Just keep the reader in mind especially if you are more than one person telling the same story.

From my own experiences using online publishing sites as with traditional self-publishing, you do get what you put into it. Take your time, polish the book and its pages. Read, edit, read and re-edit. Find form and function and make it work. Tell your story. But, with these online sites while you do have the relative ease of simple to use templates, the cost per book is slightly more than packaged deals from an outfit such as the one I use, Friesenpress in Victoria BC. Colour photos cost more to print no matter what the quality and the online bookstore pricing is tight when you are looking to make a profit. In fact, it will take a lot to make a profit. Self-publishing is tough, it is tough to sell your book without the giant engines of a so called ‘mainstream publisher’. Use your blog to sell your book, get creative, you’ll need to. However, a straight text blog to book is actually comparable to commercial pricing on these sites. If you are looking to publish your blog do some reasearch before transferring data from one place to the next.

As I said before, I doubt I will ever turn this blog into a book. But for those adventerous travellers out there updating followers daily on the trials and joys of taking a wild journey on their blogs it is a way to expand your readership by creating a book about your trip, or passions later on. The world of travel writing is changing. But after sampling two distinctly different approaches to blog to book publishing all I can ask is  that you please resist the urge to copy and paste your life to the pages of a book, unless you are willing to put in the hard work of turning that blog into a readable book.

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