Should we forget our book dreams and just blog instead?

On January 21, agent Jessica Papin posted a must-read piece about rejection on the Dystel and Goderich blog

She gives a sobering reality check, reminding us how much the book business has changed in the past couple of decades

She suggests we “dispense with the illusion that books represent the optimal way to ‘share a story with the world.’” And adds “A writer’s conviction that his is a book that ‘people need to read’ is better served in the blogosphere.”

She also says the general public needs to know it’s no longer true that “being an author represents a reasonable path to fame and fortune. These days, fame and fortune are a reasonable path being an author.”
That’s the sound of a million aspiring authors weeping.

OK. Let’s pull ourselves together. Yeah, she’s saying you have to run for vice president FIRST, then you get your book deal. Sounds unfair, but really, how many people would have bought Mrs. Palin’s book when she was a small-town mayor?

I’m pretty sure Jessica is mostly talking nonfiction here—she mentions memoirs in a later paragraph—and I hope she isn’t talking to professional writers who have worked long and hard to perfect our craft.

I think she’s mainly referring to the thousands of earnest amateurs who write down their personal stories—often about surviving a life-threatening disease or terrible tragedy—and expect to get a major book deal. She’s sad to have to reject them, but she wants them to understand that treeware is no longer the optimal information delivery device for their stories.

And she’s not alone. Funds For Writers’ Hope C. Clark wrote in a similar vein in her blog “In selling a book, you touch that person once. In posting a blog, you subscribe with that person, entering a more long-term relationship. Frankly, it's more prestigious to develop a following online than selling a few thousand books.”

And: “People have misconstrued the meaning of a book in recent times. Publication doesn't make you wealthy. Those days are long gone….You find more readers online than in a bookstore… and it's way cooler to be a master blogger these days. Just ask those who've landed book contracts as a result.”

In her Funds for Writers newsletter on February 14th, Hope again tells readers to hold off trying to publish that (nonfiction) book. “Write and submit smaller pieces, blog, find a niche, become an expert, create a reason for people to want to read your work” BEFORE you submit.

I got pretty sad after reading these posts and several others like them, but after a bit of cogitation, I realized how freeing this information is: if you have something to say, you can say it—right now. Right here on the Web. No queries, no agents, no three years lead time before the book comes out.

Are you going to make a bunch of money telling your story this way? Not super-likely. But most books don’t make money anyway. We have to be writing for the love of it. And you’re more likely to be that one writer in thousands who finds a publisher if you’ve made yourself a name first.

Blogging is publishing in its most immediate form. It’s the best way to find out if you have a readership. Yes, it’s hard to explain to your less-than-computer-literate friends and families that social networking has the same—or more—value than a real, solid paper book they can show around to their friends. (And no, Grandpa, I’m NOT frittering away my life!) This is 21st century reality. We all have to get used to it.

So keep blogging already!