Editorial Alchemy: When an Article Becomes a Book and then another Article

By • Feb 12th, 2010 • Category: 26th Story, Books

Every editor who acquires a certain kind of topical nonfiction has come up against the people-will-read-the-article-and-not-buy-the-book conundrum. But what about an article that says in plain language “really, you don’t need to read this book!!”? I don’t know quite how to feel about Newsweek’s “We Read It (So You Don’t Have to)” column. On the one hand, it’s yet another indication that the world at large equates reading a book to, I don’t know, flossing your teeth. On the other, I actually READ the Lori Gottlieb book (in part because I had pursued her after reading the original article in the Atlantic on which her new book “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” is based and I wanted to see how it turned out in book form) and I’d like to have those two hours of my life back (OK, a good skim takes 20 minutes;))

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  • http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/ Dan Schawbel

    Julia, I think I agree with Seth Godin when he says that business books are souvenirs. Many authors freely give away much of their books and ideas online and the internet is the ultimate bookstore. The internet, not just topical articles, contains a lot of random information, but books have a more linear structure to them, which is another reason why they are still important.

    If I read an interesting topical article in Newsweek, and then I heard about a book by the same journalist who wrote the article, I might want to purchase it. It's a demand generator. It's also a good experiment to see if the article gets enough attention to deserve a book deal.

  • http://www.fearlessformulafeeder.blogspot.com/ FearlessFormulaFeeder

    I have a love-hate relationship with social media for this reason. It's just too easy (and trust me, I am guilty as sin on this one myself, so I'm not throwing stones) to feel like you've “read” a book after perusing all the reviews, blogs, articles, etc that accompany its release. And that's not even factoring in the author's own website, and I've noticed that with nonficton (especially my favorite kind, the pop science stuff), there's so much great information on the author's blog… why should I spend the time (or money) to read the book?

    What saves the day for me – and I hope for plenty of others – is when there is an obvious artistry to the writing of that particular title. Non-fiction can be poorly written, especially when it's just a matter of facts and figures, and in cases like this, I think it's easy to justify simply getting the soundbite version and calling it a day. But if I like the author's voice on her blog, or in interviews, I am drawn to her book, because I want to “spend more time” with her… you know? So it's not just the topic of the book, it's the person writing it that conquers the temptation of Newsweek's column and similar beasts.

  • Maggie

    You made some good points .I did a little research on the topic and found that most people agree with your blog. Thanks eventually, more will see the world this way…

    Maggie

    My blog : 
    http://www.bacheabullepiscine.com