From Blog to Book, part one: Publish or Perish?

I’ve developed an arsenal of stock stories to use when I give interviews to reporters or meet Get Rich Slowly readers. One of my stock bits goes like this:

I always wanted to be a writer. That’s been my dream since the third or fourth grade. But I always thought I’d make my living writing poetry or short stories, or fantasy and science fiction novels. Serious stuff like that. I never dreamed I’d make my living writing about personal finance!

With the right delivery, the audience chuckles. More and more, though, this story isn’t funny to me. I really am a personal-finance writer — even if it’s just for the web.

But even that qualification — “just for the web” — is becoming a thing of the past. I’ve now had pieces appear in several books, most notably:

Now, it seems, I’ll be writing a book of my very own.

I can’t reveal the details yet (I don’t even know the details yet). I have a verbal agreement with a publisher and I’ve begun to work with my editor, but I haven’t seen a written contract. Once the paperwork’s behind me, I can start work.

In the meantime, I thought it would be useful to set down a record of the process. A lot of people have questions about what goes into writing and publishing a book. Maybe my experience can help answer some questions.

How Things Usually Work
The first thing to understand is that fiction books and non-fiction books are sold in completely different ways. In both cases, publishers like for an author to have a “platform”, a built in reader base. Michael Jordan has a huge platform. Barack Obama has a large platform, too. My own platform is modest — but I have one. Publishers view platform as a way to project sales. Basically, they usually — though not always — want to see a built-in audience.

With fiction books, you generally produce the entire work first and then send it out (via an agent or by yourself). The publisher wants to see the finished work.

That’s not how non-fiction works. With non-fiction, publishers want to see a book proposal before the author begins her work. The book proposal contains a general outline of the book, a sort of market analysis providing info on how many copies might sell, and perhaps a chapter or two. (I’m vastly over-simplifying this. Book proposals are an art.)

In general, the non-fiction author writes a book proposal, and then shops the proposal to various agents. Once she finds an agent that things the idea is marketable, the author then works with him to hone the book proposal to appeal to publishers. Then the process repeats itself: The proposal is shopped around to publishers. If a publisher buys the idea, it’ll then suggest changes to the book based on its knowledge of the market.

Basically, there’s a standard sequence of events that lead to publication.

If you’re fortunate — and I’ve been fortunate — you can bypass one or more steps in this sequence. In my case, I’ve had publishers and agents contacting me for the past couple of years. That is, I haven’t had to write a proposal and shop it around in the hopes that somebody might be interested. Instead, they’re already interested, and they’re coming to me in the hopes that I might go with them.

Established authors repeatedly tell me how lucky I am. And I believe them.

That’s how things usually work (for selling a book, anyhow). As I say, my path has been a little different.

Meeting a Mentor
In December 2007, I was contacted by Tim Clark. I’d never met Clark before (I hadn’t even heard of him), but he asked to meet me at a Japanese bubble tea shop along SE Woodstock in Portland. I was nervous about the meeting. Back then, this sort of thing was strange and new and gave me a severe case of nerves. It didn’t help that I had some Japanese bubble tea, which gave me a belly ache even before the meeting started. I almost ditched before Clark arrived. I’m glad I didn’t.

Clark introduced himself as the author of several books, including The Swordless Samurai. He wanted to chat with me because he’d just written a personal-finance book called The Prosperous Peasant with Mark Cunningham, a member of the writing group I belonged to. Clark wanted advice on how to market his book to bloggers.

We discussed The Prosperous Peasant, but as the conversation progressed, I realized that I was getting more out of it than he was. Clark was enthusiastic about the possibilities of a Get Rich Slowly book. “You should do this,” he said. “You should do it now.” He told me it was crazy that I wasn’t replying to agents and publishers who were contacting me. “Other writers would kill for that,” he said.

After our meeting, I thought about things for a while. Then I gave Clark a call. I asked him to describe the publishing process. He did. He also introduced me to his agent. Over the next few weeks, I talked to several other agents. I was trying to get a feel for their interest in the project. I liked all of the agents I spoke with — and they were each interested in working with me — but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I was scared.

To learn more about the process of writing a book, I spoke with some of my friends and colleagues who had written one. I talked with Matt Haughey, Ramit Sethi, Leo Babauta, and Penelope TrunkPenelope Trunk. All of them (except Leo) advised against it. “It’s not really worth it,” they told me. “It takes a lot of time and there’s not much chance of a financial payoff.”

Clark acknowledged that the chances of making any real money on a book project were slim. “But it’s not about the money,” he told me. “Like it or not, a book lends credibility to your work. You do this to open other doors.”

Still, I was hesitant. Very hesitant. I didn’t actually have an idea for a book, so I couldn’t begin to create a book proposal. And I couldn’t choose between the agents I had interviewed. They were all great. Plus, Get Rich Slowly was taking all of my time and was producing a decent income. The book seemed unnecessary.

I put the project on hold for a year.

[To be continued…]

Who Owns the Memories?

This article was originally published at Foldedspace on 11 January 2002.

Recently I’ve given a lot of thought to the responsibilities and obligations of a journalist. When I say journalist, I don’t mean a reporter; I mean a person who keeps a journal, or a weblog, or who writes a personal history.

Through my weblogs, I share many of the important events in my life (and, some would say, many of the unimportant events in my life). To what degree am I obligated to edit what I write in a public forum? To what degree am I obligated not to edit what I write here? To what degree is this obligation to the truth in blogging different than the obligation to the truth when I create a scrapbook/album that contains my personal history?

These are tough questions.

I am generally an open and honest person. I see no sense in hiding the truth. However, I recognize that in some cases the truth:

  • may not be productive,
  • may hurt somebody else, and/or
  • may not be mine to share

(There are other cases, too. Sometimes people are morally or legally bound to avoid the truth. If you cannot imagine such a case, you’re not thinking very hard.)

I have a friend who is undergoing a gender change. While this is not a huge component of my life, it is a huge component of his her life. When we spend time together, it becomes a rather large issue between us, for good or ill. This is something that I’d normally be inclined to share at my personal weblog, and certainly in my scrapbook/personal history. Is it something I’m allowed to share, though? Is it something I should share? Tough questions.

In this case, I’ve opted not to discuss the subject in my weblogs. However, I’ve asked (and been granted) permission from this person to incorporate this particular aspect of our relationship into my personal history. I have a greater degree of control over who accesses my personal history, as it’s a physical object — a scrapbook — that I alone grant permission to view. My weblogs are open for the entire world to see.

But even my personal history raises questions about honesty and truth. Where should the line be drawn regarding what I put in my scrapbook? I have another friend that is gay and semi-out. However, he’s not completely out. How much of this should I put in my personal history? It’s always there when I’m with him — it’s a huge component of who he is. It seems senseless to skirt the issue when I’m documenting my life. Yet, is it really my decision?

Another example: I have strong feelings regarding my parents, both positive and negative. Whether I place my positive feelings in my scrapbook is not an issue. Nobody minds reading positive things about themselves. But what about my negative feelings? My father is dead, so it’s less of an issue. I don’t mind putting down the things that bugged me, the things that made our relationship difficult.

Is it fair for me to write only the positive things about my mother and not mention the less flattering things (which are nevertheless a portion of her character, and a portion of my relationship with her)?

Similarly, I have a letter from a friend in which she confesses things that she might consider secret. The letter is very much meant to be communication between me and this friend. However, it is a huge component of my personal history. How can I edit it from my scrapbook? Yet, how do I handle its presence? Do I black out the most provocative lines, so that when others read the history they are left in the dark? Blacking out these lines makes the letter mundane, unworthy of inclusion in my scrapbook. Allowing the lines to remain raises issues regarding secrecy and trust and friendship.

Who owns the memories? How much honesty is too much?

Taming the Trolls: Dealing with Negative Blog Comments

The key to a great blog is a great community. Readers return to a blog if they believe their comments are valued, and if they receive value from the comments of others. This interactivity is one of the things that sets blogs apart from traditional media, one of the things that makes them more valuable.

But it’s easy to lose control of a blog. One rotten apple can spoil the bunch. One negative commenter, one jerk, one asshole can drag down the level of conversation. When this happens, readers can — and do — leave.

A Taxonomy of Trolls

I’ve been blogging for over eight years now, three of them at Get Rich Slowly. I’ve been on the Internet for 16 years, and in online discussion forums (or BBSes) for almost 25. Dealing with jerks and assholes is just part of online communication.

That said, it can be tough to take when this sort of negative vibe infiltrates a community that you run. When it’s elsewhere on the Internet, it’s fine. But in your own yard? Not so much. I’m fortunate at GRS that I rarely have Negative Nellys squawking and complaining. All the same, they do appear from time-to-time.

There’s a fellow named Dean, for example, who appears every few months to leave a new nasty comment. In March, during a discussion of “traditional skills”, Dean left a particular gem:

This site is retard. Seriously, goats? Other sites are talking about investing and new tax laws and stimulus bill and you’re talking about raising goats and eggs. Jesus fucking Christ this blog is fucking stupid.

To be honest, I usually publish Dean’s comments because I find them entertaining (and don’t feel hurt by them). But that’s not always the case. Sometimes I withhold comments because I feel they’ll cause problems.

I’m holding “tryouts” for a Staff Writer position at Get Rich Slowly right now. When I asked my readers for feedback, Ben thought it was acceptable to write, “Pick April, she’s hot.” This was the third comment I’d fielded — and nuked — about how April was “hot”. What the hell does that have to do with her ability to write about and convey personal-finance information? Why is it acceptable to write this sort of stuff about women writers and not about men? Sexism like this has no place at Get Rich Slowly.

Perhaps the most extreme example, though, came after a guest post from The Motley Fool’s Robert Brokamp. A reader named Kevin left a long rant attacking Brokamp and his advice. Kevin followed up with a rant accusing me of censorship because I refused to publish his first comment. I replied by e-mail:

A blog is not a democracy. It’s a benevolent dictatorship. I am a very benevolent dictator, but I’m still a dictator. There are certain things I don’t allow. You can criticize me and my guest posters all you want, but I’m not going to let you do it in a nasty manner, and I’m not going to let you spread misinformation and hysteria at Get Rich Slowly…Refusing to publish a comment is not censorship. I am not a government. I am not the mass media.

These trolls — and many others — are a blight. There are many earnest, intelligent bloggers contributing quality content to the Internet. It takes time and effort to create useful information. It takes almost no intelligence and no time and no effort to tear down somebody else’s work.

Taming the Trolls

Fortunately, taming the trolls is relatively easy. After years of dealing with problem commenters, I’ve developed the following series of technique for keeping the tone civil and positive on my blogs:

  • Set an example. If you want the tone to stay positive, keep your posts positive. If you want the discussion to steer clear of politics and religion (as I do at GRS), then don’t bring those subjects up in your posts. Do unto your readers as you would have them do unto you. Lead by example.
  • Nip problems in the bud. If you have a new reader that is intent on trolling or who always seems to be harping on the same subjects, take care of the problem early. Don’t let it become a site-wide issue.
  • Let your readers defend you. This one is huge, at least at GRS. I have a tendency to want to justify myself every time somebody complains. It just makes me seem whiney and defensive, though. Instead, Kris has taught me that if the complainer is out of bounds, my readers will defend me. Better to let the community swarm the problem (like white blood cells attacking an invader!) than to try to come off as self-righteous.
  • Take it to e-mail. There are times to engage commenters head-to-head on the blog, but those are few and far between. If I really want to discuss something with a complainer, I try to reply by e-mail. When I do this, the commenters are sheepish and apologetic nearly every time.
  • If you want to defeat your enemy, sing his song. Really obscure music reference there (Google is your friend), but this is a mantra of mine. When somebody complains, I try to see things from her point of view before I do anything else. I try to see her side of the argument. Then, when I respond (especially via e-mail), I lead with empathy, trying to discuss their point of view, and then describing how mine is different. This very often defuses the situation.
  • Edit ruthlessly. Chris Guillebeau taught me something recently that has become a sort of mantra for me: “A blog is not a democracy.” If somebody has infected your site with poison, cut out the wound. You’re under no legal or moral obligation to leave up crap that’s just going to weaken the site and the discussion. Here’s an example: Last week, I posted a short bit about an “accidental slumlord”. A semi-regular GRS reader came in with a snide comment about liberals, which I let stand, and a crack about “Balack Yobama”, which I removed immediately. I also e-mailed him and told him why I was making the edit, but that wasn’t a requirement. Remember: A blog is not a democracy.

One final tactic is to take the complaints and respond to them in a blog post. If you do this, it’s important not to make this a power play. Don’t use your position to denounce your critics and to build up your own position. Instead, try to spur a thoughtful discussion. Present your argument and present the other side and discuss the pros and cons of each. Then open it to the readers for discussion.

The Fruits of My Labor

I’ve received a lot of complimentary e-mail about the way I handle the GRS community, particularly negative commenters. (And The Wall Street Journal praised the level of discussion at the site.) To be honest, though, I don’t get many bad apples, primarily because I’m pro-active in plucking them from the barrel before they can spoil everything.

I like to think that my own blogging style discourages negative responses. (Don’t mean to sound arrogant here; this is just something I really work at, and I think I do a good job.) I’m proud that some of my worst critics have become my most ardent supporters through the use of these methods.

Writing for Different Crowds: Why I Chose to Combine All of My Blogs Into One

Via e-mail, Cory asks:

You consolidated a good number of sites into your personal site, Foldedspace. Why did you choose that route? Was it just easier to maintain one site than many, or did you find a lot of overlap in what you wrote? I’m just starting to blog again, but I have a good four different subjects I’d like to write about, and I’m trying to decide whether to separate them into distinct sites or keep them together, as you have.

This is a great question.

When I originally set up my blog empire, I thought it would be fun to have  several niche blogs. In a way, it was. Around various parts of the Internet, I had:

  • Animal Intelligence, a blog about animal intelligence
  • Bibliophilic, my blog about books
  • Comic Strip Library, a comic-strip blog that I never actually started
  • Four Color Comics, a blog about comics
  • Get Fit Slowly, the health and fitness blog I co-authored with my friend, Mac
  • Get Green Slowly, my blog about environmentalism (which never got beyond domain registration)
  • Get Rich Slowly, my main money blog
  • Money Hacks, my other money blog
  • Oak Grove Crossing, the group blog I was going to start with friends to write about our neighborhood.
  • Spiral Bound, my stillborn blog about paper and notebooks (yes, really)
  • Success Daily, a stillborn blog about success topics
  • Tech Lust, a gadget blog that never got going
  • Vintage Pop, my blog about U.S. popular culture from before 1950.

I’m not the only one who has this blog addiction. My friend Jim Wang (from Bargaineering) is perhaps the worst of the lot. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he has dozens of blogs. I keep finding new ones.

But with every blog, there’s a certain “overhead” of attention required, and I found that as my personal finance blog grew and grew, I had less time to devote to each of my many niche sites. They fell dormant. They stagnated.

Perhaps worse, this site (in its form), which had once boasted a small but close community, also fell into disuse. At one time, I wrote at Foldedspace nearly every day, and we had many lively conversations here on a variety of topics. As I fragmented my writing into many little niches, that went away.

Eventually I realized that I was doing myself a disservice. I wanted to write about this other stuff, about animal intelligence and comic books and fitness, but having separate blogs for each topic was just too much of a barrier, both for me and for potential readers. A couple of months ago, I came to the conclusion that it was time to reclaim the diaspora, to bring the children back to their ancestral homeland. I wanted to resurrect Foldedspace and to use it to feature all of my non-financial writing.

My big worry about re-merging everything was: Would anyone read this Frankenstein monster of a site? It occurred to me that it didn’t matter. I don’t write these other blogs for an audience, really. I write them for me. If there is no audience for a Foldedspace that explores a hodge-podge of subjects, that’s fine. I’m at least writing for myself and for a few close friends.

So I made the move. I cut back to two blogs: Get Rich Slowly and Foldedspace.

From the standpoint of maximizing audience and maximizing revenue, this probably makes little sense. But Foldedspace doesn’t need to yield either of these things for me to be happy. (In fact, I’ve removed all ads from the version of Foldedspace.) It just needs to be a spot where I can write about cats and comic books, and about blogs and bicycles.

This is a very long answer, and I don’t think it really addresses Cory’s question. For me, it made sense to combine everything into one blog. For Cory, it may not. All I know is that since I made this move a few weeks ago, I feel invigorated. I’m excited about writing again. It feels great to have Foldedspace operational once more.

On the Merits of Weblogs

This article was originally published at Foldedspace on 29 May 2003. It may be difficult to remember, but blogging was young back then, and many people disapproved. I’m not sure that all of the links in this story are still relevant (or active).

I’ve been exchanging e-mail with a close friend, whom I’ll call Pete. Pete is strongly anti-weblog. He hates them for many reasons:

  • they’re narcissistic
  • they interfere with google’s search results
  • webloggers present a biased view of their world, etc.

Pete doesn’t even like to be mentioned in weblogs, because he feels he’s always mentioned in a negative light. (For example: though I have no untoward intentions in mentioning Pete in this context, or in writing about our discussion, he would likely take offense at what I say. Thus the alias.)

As you might suspect, I believe weblogs are a fantastic new medium for self-expression and for information distribution.

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations

I read some weblogs to obtain news and information. (As I’ve mentioned before, weblogs have almost completely replaced my consumption of the mass media.) I read other weblogs to glimpse of the lives of the famous and the semi-famous.

I read some weblogs because they have interesting links, others because I love the writing. I read so-called A-list bloggers. I read the weblogs of my friends. (Guess which I prefer: A-listers or friends?)

There are weblogs that I don’t particularly like, yet I read out of habit. There are weblogs that I love but rarely read because I forget about them.

Mostly I read weblogs because I enjoy the small glimpses into other people’s lives. I understand that a person’s weblog persona is different from her in-person persona (though I maintain they’re both essential components of the individual, neither one more real than the other).

Blogging About Breakfast

Many would argue that there are limits to what one should share on the web. Some lives are too mundane, or some details of life too personal. I disagree. Within the confines of the law, and the boundaries of friendship, I think one should write about anything and everything.

Pete and I have been discussing weblogs for nearly a year now, and neither of us seems willing to budge from our position. He argues that very few people lead lives of interest, lives that are worthy of web sites. I disagree. I believe that, with few exceptions, every life is interesting, not just to the person living it, but to other people as well. Every life is instructive, is entertaining, is meaningful, though not to everyone else who might glimpse it.

If one has a complaint against weblogs, does that complaint also apply to personal web sites? Personal web sites are not new; they’ve existed since the dawn of the world wide web. Weblogging simply makes it easier to develop a rich, detailed personal site, with accessible archives and a unified structure.

Previously, most personal sites, including my own (I’ve had a personal site since 1994), were slipshod, and only those with a great deal of free time and/or technical skill had great-looking pages. It was tedious to perform frequent site updates, so daily public journals were unusual.

Ben Schumin has a personal website that I alternately love and hate, depending on my mood. He doesn’t keep a weblog [well, in 2009 it does!], but his site is guilty of most of the points about which Pete complains.

Ben records his life in meticulous detail. Want a thorough tour of his freshman dorm room? sophomore dorm room? junior dorm room? senior dorm room? They’re all there, along with an extensive tour of his college’s dining hall.

I first learned of Ben’s site from Spinnwebe, where Spinn spent a week mocking Schumin Web. I joined in the laughter at first, but with time, I came to like Ben’s site, despite (because of?) his naive goofiness, the sheer inanity of it all. Ben’s fire alarm collection is as interesting to me as a collection of snow domes, but it’s who Ben is. I like web sites that tell me: “This is who I am.” What’s the good of having a personal site if everything there is mundane, nondescript, indistinguishable from any other life on the web.

Dreams of a Bloggy Future

There are personal sites from people who might be considered strange (Dale Miller, Peter Pan), but even these are, in their way, instructive, offering a glimpse into a life that I will never live (and, in some cases, would never want to live).

Other personal web sites contain are less strange. Consider these three personal sites, each of which is one of my favorite sites on the web. I recommend each of them highly (and have linked to them in the past):

I want to see more people with personal web sites, with online journals, with weblogs. I want to see other mothers of webloggers create weblogs of their own.

Pete has some valid concerns about weblogs, and the implication of public journals. For myself, I’m glad they they exist. I only wish I wasn’t so tired so that I could write a more considered, articulate defense of their existence.

Footnote: Here’s a lovely irony. Pete, the man who used to hate weblogs, now has two of his own. Meanwhile, I’ve been pleased with the exponential growth of weblogs. Welcome to the egalitarian web…

A Look at the Digg Effect in Action

Over the past month I’ve made a few miscellaneous screenshots with the intention of writing larger articles about what they demonstrate. I haven’t found the time. Instead, I’ll post them here, for a lark.

The first three are Digg-related. I’ve been fortunate to have four posts reach the front page of Digg in the past six weeks. One of these was intentional (as in: I wrote it with the idea of making the front page of Digg) — the others were surprises.

Here’s what a Digg spike looks like in the short term:

As you can see, traffic was already high for this day. (My normal daily traffic is ~350 visits/hour.) I can’t remember which day and entry this graph is from, but I suspect the first big bump is Lifehacker-related. Then comes a late-evening Digg spike.

Digg traffic is a blessing and a curse. It’s always great to have thousands of people visit your site. But most Digg users are not in the target audience for Get Rich Slowly. They get to the site and they think it’s lame. That’s fine. But meanwhile they’re hogging up the bandwidth and, especially, the clock cycles that could be spent serving the site to somebody who cares. In fact, some Digg waves are so strong that they mess up a site something awful!

Basically, when a Dreamhost-based site is swamped by the Digg effect, the server struggles to keep up. Dreamhost may “throttle” a site, effectively limiting the number of requests it can process each second. When that happens, you can get goofy things like the image above. That’s the Technorati profile for Get Rich Slowly, which I retrieved in the middle of a Digg flood. You’ll note that GRS is now the blog called “500 Internal Server Error”. I love that.

What does a Sitemeter graph look like after a site has been dugg three times in a month?

To me, that’s jaw-dropping. Maybe Trent and Ramit have sustained traffic levels at a third of a million visitors per month, but I don’t. It’ll probably be a long time before I see trafic like that again.

There’s a lot of talk about how Digg visitors aren’t “sticky” — they don’t click ads, they don’t browse beyong the dugg page, and they don’t subscribe. The first two are true, but I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by my subscribership numbers. Readers by RSS feed jumped 50% from the beginning of March to mid-April. E-mail subscribers nearly doubled. I suspect the Digg appearances had a lot to with that.

Finally, after the MBN forums were abuzz with an upcoming Pagerank adjustment, I decided to check how my sites would fare by using a Pagerank prediction tool. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Animal Intelligence was going to rank as high as Google itself!


Now that I’ve written about these images, I can finally scrub them from my hard drive!

All You Need to Know About Blogging

I have a friend who is starting a niche personal finance blog. He’s very interested in the subject, and knowledgeable, and I think he could make it an interesting site.

When the idea first came to him a few months ago, he approached me. “How do I make this a successful blog?” he asked.

“Post lots of good content,” I told him.

“Yeah,” he said. “But what else?”

“There is no ‘what else’,” I said. Actually, I ranted and raved about how too many people focus on things that aren’t important and don’t bother to spend time on the content, but essentially it all amounted to “there is no ‘what else'”.

My friend went away for a few weeks to work on his site. When I talked to him again he told me, “I’ve switched from WordPress to Drupal. Do you think that’ll make a difference?”

“It’ll make no difference at all,” I said. “Readers don’t care what weblog tool you use. All they care about is the content.”

“Yeah, but Drupal offers so many more features,” he said. I just shook my head.

About a month ago, he launched his site. He posted an introductory article. “Looks good,” I said.

“Can you point people to the site?” he asked.

“Not yet,” I said. “You don’t have any content.”

Meanwhile he put up some Google ads and some Amazon ads. He posted a single link to another article at a big news site. I talked to him a couple weeks later. “Nobody’s coming to my site,” he told me. “Not a single person has clicked on an ad.”

“That’s because there’s nothing there,” I told him.

“What do you mean?” he said. “I spent a lot of time creating the layout and putting up the ads.”

“You need to focus on content,” I told him.

So he wrote another article. It was moderately interesting, but it was all in one h-u-g-e paragraph. That was on February 21st. There’s been nothing new posted to the site since then. The site layout has changed a half-dozen times, though, as my friend looks to make it as pretty as possible.

He IMed me last night. “Nobody’s coming to the site,” he said.

“It needs content,” I told him.

“I don’t have time,” he said. “I’m so busy.” I pointed out that he wasn’t too busy to party with friends. He wasn’t too busy to play soccer. He wasn’t too busy to tinker with the layout. These are all fine things, but none of them have anything to do with getting readers. “Can’t you point people to my site?” he asked.

“Maybe in a couple months,” I said. “Maybe once you have some content.”

This concept has been beat into the ground a thousand times before, but it’s the single most important factor in creating a successful weblog: To gain readers, you must publish quality content on a regular basis. Sure, readers like a pretty site. Sure, it would be nice if there were ads for them to click on. But all of this is secondary. All that really matters is the content.

That, my friends, is all that you ever need to know about blogging.

Writing for Money: The New Way and the Old

It was late in 2006 that I realized I could potentially make a living writing for the web. It wasn’t until a few months later that I knew that this was true. I earned a modest (but decent) income at the box factory. But starting in February 2007, my web income began to equal my income from my real job for brief periods of time. Then in April 2007, I earned more from my websites than from selling boxes. And from July 2007 on, I’ve been a professional blogger.

Although I’m making good money from my writing, there are many ups and downs. But even the lows are higher than I could have imagined. On November 25th [2006], I made $29.29 in web income. That is the last day my earnings dipped below $30. My best day was last Tuesday: I made $169.90.

Over at 2blowhards (still one of my favorite blogs), Michael writes:

Planning on getting rich writing sci-fi or fantasy novels? Think again. Tobias Buckell writes that the average advance for a first sci-fi or fantasy novel is $5000. Five years and five novels later, the average author is pulling in around $13,000 per novel.

I used to want to get rich off writing sci-fi or fantasy. Then I decided I just wanted to get rich off writing books — I didn’t care what kind. More and more, it’s clear that I may never publish a book (at least not in the traditional sense)! I’m already making twice what a sci-fi novelist makes, and I have complete control of my content. There’s little motivation for me to change directions at the moment.

Some people — and perhaps you’re one of them — look upon web income with disdain. “You’re not making money from writing,” is a common observation. “You’re making money from advertising.” I can understand this delineation, but it’s not one that I make.

I am writing, and publishing that writing, and it’s making me money. I don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t feel as if I’m compromising anything. Did I ever dream I’d make a living writing about personal finance? Nope. But now I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather be doing.

Remember: The core of this article is more than two years old. Numbers stated do not represent current earnings.