From Blog to Book in Two Years: What I Learned

The lawn mower cake I made for my son's 2nd birthday

Happy Birthday, this November marks the 2 year anniversary of Don’t Eat the Fruit!

In November 2008, I decided to start this blog as a fun way to catalog what I was reading and learning about how technology relates to theology and culture. Since then it’s been a rather interesting ride, and I thought I’d share what’s happened and offer some thoughts about it.

What Happened in Two Years?

  1. Kids – Since November 2008, by far the greatest change in my life came from having two wonderful children, Benjamin and Rebecca with my wonderful bride, Amber. She’s my best friend, and now she’s my closest ally in one of the greatest works either of us will ever do.
  2. Speaking – During this same time period, I’ve been doing a little bit of conference speaking start with BibleTech 2009 where I presented on the technology of the Bible and showed some Bible web tools I’ve been working on. I’ve also been have a blast doing seminars for parents on technology culture with Rhett Smith.
  3. Coding – In the summer of 2009, I went up to Wheaton, IL and did some consulting work for Crossway’s new ESV website. The awesome David Eyk and his team took the prototypes that I built and made a fantastic Bible study tool that’s available at: http://www.esvonline.org/. This year, I’ve been having fun with HTML5 video and other little goodies.
  4. Writing – While this blog was getting about 1,000 RSS subscribers, the presentation I did for BibleTech showed up on Justin Taylor’s blog (if you don’t know him, he’s like the king of Reformed blogging news and one of the nicest guy you’ll ever meet). That caught the attention of Kregel Publishing who then offered me a book contract. A month ago, I turned in a first draft and now we’re editing it for a July 2011 release with a tentative title of From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology. I’ve also started writing a bit for magazines like Collide and Christianity Today.

What I’ve Learned about Blogging As Illustrated by Guns

Lots of people start blogs every day, so what made this one turn into a book?

I’d suggest that it was two main things. Instead of starting a “John’s opinions about random stuff” blog, I picked a narrow topic that very few people wrote about, and I only wrote about that. Secondly, I only posted 3-4 a month.

The reason for this was that in my experience, blogs that post more than weekly usually fall into one of three categories:

  1. Gatling guns: news blogs with a team that post all day long.
  2. Prolific snipers: the very rare blog that goes deep and does it often.
  3. Shallow shotgunners: an individual who posts their relatively shallow thoughts about all kinds of things.

News blogs can post daily or even hourly (gatling guns) because there’s always something happening (Justin Taylor on Reformed theology news, John Saddington’s 8bit Network). But if you’re not writing about current events or tech trends, then you’re usually posting about your thoughts. In rare cases, talented individuals like Tim Challies or Seth Godin, who are themselves almost full time writers, can keep this up (prolific snipers), but the rest of us don’t usually have that much good stuff to say.

Bloggers sometimes feel pressure to write daily, but when they do it’s often at a fairly shallow level shifting from topic to topic (shallow shotgunners). If instead you limit yourself blogging about a narrow topic like I did, then you’ll probably find that after 5-10 focused posts, you don’t have anything more to say about the subject.

A that point you have two options: change topics or stop and take time to dip your bucket into deeper wells (which are usually books without nice covers and magazines that aren’t at Barnes and Noble). By doing the later, you’ll be forced to post less often, but you’ll also tend to write more substantive posts. For example, some of the most heavily trafficed posts here were summaries books or journal articles I read (Four philosophies applied to twitterdefinitions of technologyBorgmann’s Device Paradigm and Roasting Coffee), and I think these were the kinds of posts that attracted a publisher. Perhaps this kind of blogging could be called:

  1. Occasional cannoneer: only a few long, form posts per month

A good example of this are Rhett Smith who writes longer posts often with hard-to-find quotes. I haven’t written as much in the past few months as I put together the book manuscript, but now that it’s finished, I’m hoping to return to more substantive cannon-like writing that’s born out of the material I’m reading. Up next: A review of Kevin Kelly‘s What Technology Wants.

Thanks for making the last two years a fun ride.

Published by

John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

6 thoughts on “From Blog to Book in Two Years: What I Learned”

    1. Lee,
      Sorry I didn’t respond earlier! I confess to having a touch time with the definition of “success.” I think the best thing is hearing someone say, “Wow, I really hadn’t thought about it like that before,” meaning that I didn’t just parrot something we all already know.

  1. I would love to be there, if only I could , but Dubai is a little far , Oh I just rebemmer on the 24 I will be in England. never mind maybe on day…I will be thinking of you all I am sure that you will have a great time,if possible share some photos , so we can see you all having fun.Hugs Laura

  2. All us bloggers who are wihsing they were closer should meet up virtually.Lots of us have gotten to know Bloggers from your side of the world from past sscs’s. It would be fun meeting together.

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