Thursday, June 12, 2014

How Much Information Should I Give Away for Free on My Blog?

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

These days we all know that writers need blogs. But blogs need content, and therein lies our dilemma. How much information should we give away for free on a blog?

This is less of an issue for the fiction writers out there—it’s common knowledge that publishers frown on authors sharing large chunks of a fiction manuscript in advance of publication. There are exceptions to this, but they're just that, exceptions.

The gray area comes with those of us who write non-fiction. We usually build our sites around the topics of our books. How much valuable—publishable—information can we really afford to give away? The answer may surprise you. 

We need to give away pretty much all of it.

Yep, you read that right, and here’s why: 
  • Nonfiction writers need credibility to find success.
  • The easiest way to build that credibility is to blog about it.
  • Having an authoritative blog will build your audience.
  • Building your audience proves there's an audience and makes you more attractive to potential publishers. 

Now the next question is obvious. 

If you give all the information away on your blog, who will buy your book? 

It may surprise you to learn that the people who read your blog—the ones with ready access to all that free information—will be your most loyal customers. That little bit of truth caught me off guard when I first heard it. But it happened to me, and it happens all the time. 

My Story
As you may have gathered, I’m somewhat of a social media expert. I built that expertise, and more importantly the delivery of that expertise on my blog. When I first started sharing what I knew about social networking I had no plans to write a book.

Then a publisher read my blog and asked if I would be interested in writing a social media book. I was in the middle of several deadlines and the thought of coming up with enough new material to fill a book frankly gave me hives. I emailed the publisher back with my concerns and asked for a time-frame, hoping it would include the breathing space I needed to get everything done. His answer floored me. He wanted to publish the material I’d already put on my site. Turns out the popularity of my blog proved there was a market for what I’d written.

That little ebook, Social Media Marketing for Writers (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), shot to the number one spot on Amazon in its category in less than a month, and it stayed in the top five for over a year and a half. No one cared that they could find the information for free on my site. Now that ebook (no longer available) has been updated, expanded upon, and rereleased as Connections: Social Media& Networking Techniques for Writers and is available in print as well as e-version.

But back to the question, if you consider the issue logically you’ll see why giving it all away works. 
  • The people who follow your blog regularly want the information you're presenting. 
  • They have committed to you through your blog, so they’re the most likely to help you promote the book.

In the parlance of Seth Godin, they are your tribe. And this tribe will be loyal. You’ve developed a strong relationship with them because you gave them something of value, without asking or expecting anything in return. Unfortunately that’s becoming more and more rare these days.

But if they already know where to find the information why would they buy the book? The truth is, we’ve become a society of convenience. 

We want what we want—and we want it now. 

No one has time to search through archived blog posts when they can have a book with all the information instantly available.

The bottom line is this. 
  • Use your blog to write about the topics that fire your passion. 
  • Let your blog to prove there’s an audience for your ideas. 
  • Then grow that audience into a loyal tribe who will support you after publication. 

Because when you get right down to it, is there anything a publisher loves more than a ready-made audience? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject? Leave your comments in the section below.

Don't forget to join the conversation!


NOTE: A version of this article was originally publishing in Southern Writer's Magazine (Novemember 2013) 


  1. Very good, thank you, Edie. This is good information. Yes, It would be much handier to be able to look through a book for information than continually fight through stuff on a computer.

  2. That is information I never thought about but it makes sense in our fast-paced society. We want to have everything at the click of a button.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story, Edie!

  4. Thank you for sharing this information. I have always written primarily fiction, but recently began developing an idea for a non-fiction book. I've blogged about it some, and spoken about it some, but I've been wrestling with the question of how much is too much to share. I'll run out of words eventually (though my family may disagree!). Thank you!