Why Blogs Make Outstanding Books
Can a blog be turned into a book? Yes! But it can't be just any old blog - the writer has to have something to say and no fear of saying it... like Troy Hunt. Here's the story of how I turned his blog into a book.
Four years ago I was reading Troy Hunt's blog thinking: "this guy can write". Good writing is all about being truthful - true to yourself, the story you're writing, and most of all true to your readers. Troy's posts are a masterclass in laying it out there in the most honest, unvarnished way possible.
Anyway, the next thing that hit me was this dude should write a book. Of course I thought that, I like writing. But so must Troy because some of his posts are epic!
Some of his posts... are... epic... 🤔. I wonder if I could turn his blog into a book somehow...
I'm not the first person with this idea - in fact there are entire businesses devoted to doing just that. In fact, The Martian started out life as a series of blog posts by Andy Weir and was later turned into a book which, I hear, did pretty well.
What If We Made Something More?
For anyone but the author, the best part of a blog post is the comments section. I don't need to explain this to you - there's always drama, criticism and, occasionally, a nugget of gold.
What if we wrote a book that added the comments but scrubbed away the nonsense? I could curate that I think.
The idea took hold in me and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I started combing through Troy's blog for posts that I thought would fit an interesting story arc, which could be the rise of his career, the start of HaveIBeenPwned, and his new life to come.
Then I read his post about leaving Pfizer, to go out on his own. This is how the post ended:
I’m enormously excited by what’s happening next. The experiences at Pfizer have shaped that future and exiting in this fashion is the best result I could ever have hoped for. I’ll follow up with another post as the dust settles on this outgoing phase of my life, I’m enormously excited about what’s coming next!
People knew who Troy was in 2015 - he released HaveIBeenPwned 2 years prior. But he wasn't the Troy of today, which got me thinking...
Let's Add Some Perspectives
I picked 36 or so posts that I thought told a great story and read well, and then I proposed the idea to Troy: let's compile your posts into a book. I'll curate the comments and add them too - you write introductions and epilogues for each post, giving a "behind the scenes" feel to it.
This is Troy's response, verbatum:
You’ve done a great job with the Imposter’s Handbook and whilst this is a very different beast, I know the TLC you’ve applied to that. If it was anyone else suggesting this, I probably wouldn’t even reply to the email!
Wow. It's true - I put everything into the books and videos I create - podcasts too. I better not mess this up...
And It's Alive...
After four years, we launched the book.
Right now, as I write this, I'm a bit numb. I mean - it's not like I spent every waking moment on this thing, but it's always been there. Something I would spend an hour on here and there. Troy, Charlotte and I would get on a video call periodically to talk about this post or that, how to order things, formatting issues and so on.
I miss that. It's like watching your kid go off to college which I had to do two years ago. You're so excited for their new life - one that's going to be so much fun and open so many doors... but then... that's your baby heading out the door and into their life.
Troy's book means a lot to me and you can read why in the first few pages, where I took the liberty of explaining the intensely personal reasons as to why I put so much care into this thing. We all did, and I think this review captures it:
Love, love, LOVE the intros ... in particular Rob Conery ... fantastic and really anchor an emotional aspect to the book, that i was not expecting. Great to see a book deliver this authenticity - we're all only human after all!. I "cheated" and also skipped to read Charlotte's epilogue and again was blown away by the depth and genuine nature of the emotion on display. I honestly was not expecting there to be so much heart on display, but am very glad there is.
Troy and I faced the biggest challenges of our lives, oddly at the same time. Creating this book was a necessary thing, for both of us.
Not Just Any Old Blog
You can't run a scraper over a random blog, output as a PDF and call it a day. The person behind the blog needs to be authentic and "write true". They also should have something to say and not be afraid to say it. If I'm honest, I can't think of many blogs that fit that profile.
If you do find one, however, it's a treasure. Each post anchors a larger story that, to me, makes the blog come alive with historical meaning. This comment from Henk Brink captures that:
I haven't been able to put the book down. The added intros and epilogue on each post in particular and the retrospectives from today's perspective are particularly interesting...
If you're up for a fun read into the lively career of Troy Hunt, well here you go. We put a lot of life in there, and I do hope you enjoy it.
I do hope to do another project like this, and I have a few names in mind - but if you have a suggestion, hit me up on Twitter or, if you're a subscriber here, leave a comment below.