Blog publishing: Matt Welch reveals

Blog publishing
: Matt Welch reveals that many months ago, he, Ken Layne, Tim Blair, and I, plus a few others, thought of bringing our weblog-inspired writing together for a book on 9.11 and its aftermath. But we were all too busy — blogging, among other more or less lucrative things — and never got around to it.

Now Welch is properly pissed that we didn’t publish our book while other, opposing fraternities of fools did publish their books. He’s urging someone to pick up the torch. I’ll cheer that on.

I’ll also admit that I had another book idea as well. I love this new genre, these weblogs, for many reasons, among them: This is a new form of storytelling in reverse, with the present on top of the past. Here, the beginning is the end of the story. Here, the reader starts off smarter than the writer, knowing how things will turn out and then reading back in time to find out how it all came to be. Every entry in these web diaries is immediate and reflects the moment in which it is written but also reflects the wisdom that came before.

I read back over my own weblog with its often achingly (and frequently embarrassingly) raw and personal recollections of September 11 and what followed and saw that progression myself; I saw the change in me, played in reverse. I saw, too, the unique flavor of the weblog. I’m not saying it was good; I’m too close to it and I admire too many other bloggers too much to think that. But still, I did wonder whether there might be a book in this. I wasn’t sure and so I contacted an agent, since agents are supposed to know such things, eh? Unfortunately, I hadn’t had an agent in years, having been too busy earning a living to write in the last decade or so. So I made contact with the first agent I could find via a friend of a friend. That was three and a half months ago. In all that time, I had one love-ya-babe conversation and just waited. I tried reminding the agency that this 9.11 thing is fairly timely and we should decide one way or the other now; the agent was too busy to deal with it. Only Friday did I get the answer: This 9.11 thing is timely, the agent opined, and now we’re late. I didn’t have the to say that if we’d done this around the New Year (when I made the first contact, damnit) we might have acted in time. But surprise of surprises, there are other 9.11 books coming out now. So it’s too late.

A good agent is as hard to find as a good contractor.

Now the truth is that there were probably many other good reasons why this would not work as a book, from the quality of my prose to the difficulties of capturing the richness of content the Web offers via simple links. And I am late to the book party. And that’s fine.

But here’s the point: I do believe that one way or another, blogs will yield books, good books. Blogs will yield new and exciting authors with new voices (start with that list at the top of this post). Blogs will yield new ways to tell stories, where today follows yesterday, where the audience is wiser than the author (an appropriate product of the first medium owned by its audience). There has been a great deal of talk lately about how blogs will or should change news and the news business. But I think an even bigger opportunity — and more needed — is for blogs to change book publishing and even writing itself. Blogs can bring new voices and immediacy and passion and wit and generosity to the stuffy, hidebound, predictable, dull medium of books.

So far, the first and only indication I’ve seen that anyone in the old medium notices the new one comes in the announcement that Bertelsmann has signed right-wing Web site Newsmax to a deal to start a publishing imprint. It’s a step — in the wrong direction, perhaps, but a step nonetheless.

If anybody wants to see a box of printouts from this blog, lemme know.

But if anybody wants to mine blogs for new authors, I’ll stand up and cheer.

I’ll buy those books.

: I’m glad Oliver Willis sent me links to his posts on this topic. I remembered his view that books will become the killer ap of bloggers but couldn’t find it last night.

: Relevant to 9.11 books (not blog books): Today’s NY Times roundup.

: One of the first blog books should be Will Warren’s collected verse and punchlines in iambic pentameter. Today: Amazonian Dowd.

: Too bad that filed Chapter 11. It’s a good site. [via Holy Weblog]

: A nice post from Eric Olsen on Sharon as Israel’s Golem, inspired by the play’s timely run in New York.