Best medium for long-form essays?
April 9, 2011 8:06 AM   Subscribe

What are the the relative pros and cons of publishing a long-form non-fiction essay or series of essays in a blog vs. a book vs. a magazine article vs. a newspaper article vs. some other medium? Are there any good articles that explore this topic?
posted by shivohum to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
5 Reasons why you don't need to write a book (by Penelope Trunk)

The whole list is worth reading, but here's a particularly relevant point:
1. People who have a lot of ideas need a blog, not a book.

A blog is more immediate, so you’ll get better feedback. And getting feedback as you go is much more intellectually rigorous than printing a final compendium of your ideas and getting feedback from the public only when it's too late to change anything.

Many people think they have a ton of ideas and they are brimming with book possibilities when in fact, most of us have very few new ideas. If you have so many ideas, prove it to the world and start blogging.
posted by John Cohen at 11:27 AM on April 9, 2011

I think Trunk's trying to save face, as she's not likely to get another book deal. Mediabistro's forums have a number of discussions on the essay market.

It's hard to sell an essay that's appeared as a blog post.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:19 PM on April 9, 2011

It's significantly a factor of getting paid. Unless you're working for a company that pays you to blog, you're basically doing it for free. If you're working for a publisher, then whether that publisher does books, magazines, or newspapers, you're getting paid. In descending order of remuneration, I would think.

So if your goal is to achieve as wide an audience as possible, blogging may well be the way to go, though it can be really tough to get noticed unless you've got something to give you that little kick at some point. But if your goal is to make a living as a writer? Blogging may be one component of that, but you basically need to publish, i.e. trade writing for money, at some point, and that almost always means being associated with a publisher of some description.

Thing is though, that once something is published in a given format, other publishers are going to be pretty unwilling to re-publish it, even if you didn't get paid the first time around.
posted by valkyryn at 4:58 PM on April 9, 2011

I think Trunk's trying to save face, as she's not likely to get another book deal.

Penelope Trunk has been a successful book author and a successful blogger, so I think she's in a pretty good position to compare the two formats.

Her position (which is only partially explained in that post) is that neither a book nor a blog is likely to make you any money. (She makes a lot of money off her blog, but she says she's an exception to the general rule.) So you might as well work in the format that's best on its own merits, money aside.

On the other hand, you can become a millionaire by self-publishing eBooks.
posted by John Cohen at 7:45 AM on April 11, 2011

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