Book Recommendation For Budding Bloggers

Almost a year and a half ago, Stephane Grenier approached me about contributing a chapter to a book he was editing, at the time entitled Interview The Pros.  The general gist was collecting the thoughts of several dozen successful bloggers in interview format.  I was honored to be included (it still amazes me that I could credibly be included in a list of names including Seth Godin and Jeff Atwood), dashed out a chapter, and forgot about the project for 18 months.

Then on Tuesday the mailman stopped by my little apartment in central Japan and dropped off a package.  Five promotional copies for me — whee!  It turns out the book has been retitled Blog Blazers, an act I think Stephane owes somebody a beer for.  (The importance of titles is a major recurring theme in the book.)

I promptly updated ye olde resume to include “published author”, gave a copy to a friend of mine who was starting a business, and set about to reading it.


The basic style of each of the 40 chapters is a question/answer session with the interviewee.  The questions are identical.  Representative sample:

  • What makes a blog successful?
  • How long does it take to be a successful blogger?
  • What is your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?
  • What are your main methods of marketing your blog?
  • How do you monetize your blog?

The sheer diversity of answers to these is amazing — the book includes everyone from folks whose blogging generates a full-time income from AdSense, software consultants who are looking for professional contacts, an online weightloss diary, some guy with an interesting fascination with shoes (who wrote the funniest chapter, by far), and one computer programmer who should probably listen to his own advice more:

Speaking of timescales in blogging — recognize that you will be blogging until you stop blogging.  That sounds simple, but many peopole start out with a burst of post-every-day fever, which they cannot sustain over the long haul.  Pick a pace which is predictable and sustainable.

In my defense, it sounded a lot more credible when I wrote it.

My chapter focuses mainly on blogging as a small business and practical tips you can use to achieve success that way.  (A few of the other chapters are a bit more inspirational in nature, although most of them have some actionable advice.)

In Which I Disagree With My Marketing Idol

Example from my chapter:

I personally can’t stand the “Top Ten Ways To Write A Blog Post” type articles, as aside from being boring and aesthetically unpleasant they turn your blog into a commodity provider of lists.  Instead, absorb the lessons that style of writing provides which continuing to have unique positioning for your blog.  The important lessons are “titles which promise immediate benefits are a good idea” and “judicious use of formatting such as bullet points, bold text, and pictures can turn a scanning surfer into an engaged, active reader.”

Seth Godin’s take on the issue:

Use lists.

Write short, pithy posts.

That is one of many, many disagreements the authors have with each other, and I find them fascinating.  (A few other points of contention: the importance of monetization, the ideal post length, and the importance of SEO.  You’ll find many well-argued solutions to all of these in several chapters… and the right answer in my chapter, naturally.)

Single Best Advice From Me: 

I recommend… that you get familiar with two groups of websites in your niche: the folks who have achieved something close to what you want to achieve, and the folks who are on the path to success but just a wee bit farther than you are.  The first give you examples to emulate and objectives to strive for, and the second should become your new best friends, because a) they’re not too busy yet that they have millions of admirers and b) their support can really kick start your blog and help you both get closer to your goals.

For the other 200-odd pages of advice, you’ll have to buy the book.  At $16.95 I’d honestly say it was a steal, even if I had no connection to it whatsoever, because the value a blog can drive for a small business is immense.  (See my chapter, and several others, for elaboration.)

You’ve got two options for getting it.  One is to buy it directly from the Blog Blazers‘ site (where there is an e-book option).  I’m going to encourage you to sidestep them and purchase from Amazon instead.  My big reasoning for that is that publishing is a winners-win game, and purchases through Amazon increase the book’s Amazon rank, which results in more prominent placement on the site and also results in indirect marketing opportunities (“buy Blog Blazers, currently #1234 on Amazon”).  (At time of posting they only have two copies left.  Small order to start out with = book languishes in obscurity.  Break the cycle — buy a book today ;) )

As usual, I don’t have any monetary interest in the book or in your purchase of the book.  (i.e. those are not affiliate links)  I contributed to the book because Steph asked me to, and it was a pleasure to contribute a small bit to something which will hopefully provide value to people.  If you’re one of those uISVs scratching your head thinking “So I’ve heard them say 432 times ‘Blogging helps for marketing’ but I don’t consider myself an expert at this yet”, read the book.  I guarantee you you’ll learn something.

P.S.  Seth Godin is one of the world’s best living theorists about marketing.  I am not Seth Godin.  You are not Seth Godin.  Please, for all that is holy, don’t write list posts.

P.P.S. uISVs will recognize more than a few names: Ian Landsman, Bob Walsh, and Andy Brice all contributed chapters.

P.P.P.S Remind me to get the contact details of whomever did the cover design if I ever publish anything.


Cover of Blog Blazers book, depicting man with BB on chest standing atop world.

Cover of Blog Blazers book, depicting man with BB on chest standing atop world.

No Responses to “Book Recommendation For Budding Bloggers”

  1. Andy Brice November 15, 2008 at 4:57 pm #

    I am still trying to reconcile the apparently conflicting advice:
    1. Write original content, rather than commentary on other blog articles.
    2. Link frequently to other bloggers.

  2. Patrick November 15, 2008 at 5:15 pm #

    I suppose you could always use the academic writing cop-out — identify anyone and everyone who has ever talked about the field before you in the footnotes, while reserving your text for your own original spin on things. ;)

    Actually… that isn’t far from accurate, come to think of it. One of the easiest ways to work it in naturally into an article is to play “blog tag” and start the first intro paragraph out with several links to your favorite sources. Then, take things in your own direction. Alternatively, if you’re worried about early links siphoning off readers (a smart worry for anyone who has ever analyzed reader behavior in the context of conversion maximization), you can stud the article with links later on.

    (The conclusion is also a great place, positioning-wise, but hard to work things in naturally. So is a related reading post-script.)

  3. Andy November 16, 2008 at 4:00 pm #

    Welcome back! Is this still your main site, or are you publishing more in another venue now?

  4. Patrick November 16, 2008 at 5:43 pm #

    This site continues to get most of the English writing that I produce for public consumption. I just haven’t been writing that much recently, out of a combination of “nothing interesting to say” and “no time to say it in”.

    (I received a promotion late in the summer at work which, and this is scary to say, made me busier than my previously happy-go-lucky life as a Japanese salaryman.)

    Example: at the moment it is 2:43 AM and I am thinking “Oh yay, getting to bed early tonight”.

  5. George Foster November 17, 2008 at 7:40 pm #

    You ask how to contact the book cover designer. Well, that’s me and I am happy you like my work!

  6. Stephane Grenier November 19, 2008 at 4:44 am #

    Hi Patrick,

    I definitely recommend George. He did an amazing job creating the cover of Blog Blazers. And he was great to work with!

    If you check out his portfolio, you’ll see it’s pretty amazing. He’s really good at what he does.

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