Should Book Authors Blog?
It’s not everyday I have an author who has written about blogs agree to post on the OUPblog! Today, David D. Perlmutter, a professor in the KU School of Journalism & Mass Communications, and author of Blogwars, lets us know how truly bizarre it is to transition from penning a book to penning a blog post. Be on the lookout for Blogwars which examines the rapidly burgeoning phenomenon of blogs and questions the degree to which blog influence–or fail to influence–American political life.
I begin my new OUP book Blogwars by claiming, only half facetiously, that there are good reasons not to write a book on blogs. New stuff is happening so fast, that it’s hard to keep up.
But that is the point: A blogger’s work is never done, nor, I hope, is that of a student of blogs. Bloggers cannot coast or rest on their laurels; their readers will abandon them or, worse, ask why they are failing them. Blogs are always unfinished, their work always to be continued, revised, and extended later. Books are supposed to be different. In a sense all books are orphans. Only in some screwball comedy movie is it possible for an author to change his mind and run into bookstores and add new material.
With Blogwars, however, Oxford Press’ author’s blog and the Internet allow me to “follow up” in a way that previous generations of authors could only do in second editions. In a way, it has to be so. The age of the author writing the non-fiction book and walking away from her readers is dead: long live the afterpost! I say this knowing it is against the instincts of most authors, including me: When I finish a book (this is my seventh) I want to walk away and be done with it…but that model of authorship can’t sustain itself anymore. If you want to write non-fiction nowadays you have to keep writing it long after the bookstores have your tome on the shelf.
I say “non-fiction” because I think fiction authors have higher ground to stand on when it comes to terminating a book’s paper and virtual life. Have you ever read a great novel, been very satisfied by its conclusion, and then felt betrayed when an author comes out with a sequel, which you wonder was a product more of paying a mortgage than respecting the creative muse? There is a sense of finality about literature, and there should be. I have no interest in reading “Moby-Dick: The Adventure Continues” and I certainly don’t want to see “new chapters” of an old novel added by authors or hired hacks.
But non-fiction is about uncovering truths as we know them, and every subject, whether the sex lives of the Hittites or political blogs, has new facts emerging that readers should know about. And, of course, readers have information that often can help the authors clarify their knowledge.
So, non-fiction authors have a duty to keep at it, and the blog is the most efficient vehicle for such interaction.