Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: THE BLOGGER ABIDES by Chris Higgins

the blogger abides cover

I came across The Blogger Abides entirely by chance on Twitter when Ransom Riggs tweeted about it (apparently he and Chris Higgins are friends, and Riggs wrote the intro to the book). I wasn't planning to review The Blogger Abides here, but after reading it, I realized it's a book a lot of my fellow bloggers and writers will want to read. And definitely should.

Chris Higgins is a freelance writer for Mental Floss as well as some other publications (Wired was mentioned frequently). You've probably read his posts or at least seen them posted on Twitter. In The Blogger Abides, he shares what he knows about freelance blogging: getting jobs, keeping track of payments and taxes, drinking hours, horrible grammar mistakes, dealing with editors, comments, and publicists; how to say no, trading up, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Basically, there's a shit ton of information here, and whether you're paid to blog or not, if you write you'll probably find at least some of it useful.

There was a lot I found really enlightening about The Blogger Abides, for one how a professional approaches blog posts, and writing in general. We're all familiar with posts that mine nostalgia or highlight "This day in history" topics, but I never would have come across one of them and labeled it as such before reading this book. Basically Higgins uses the same strategies most bloggers do as a far as finding topics and writing out posts, but at an increased volume and more professional level, which was something I found really interesting. After starting The Blogger Abides, I decided to challenge myself to write one post every day for the rest of the year just to see if I can meet that expectation of producing content constantly. So far it's been really fun!

Another thing that was really eye-opening for me was the concept of trading up: using blog posts as a springboard for magazine articles, books, and movie deals. Prior to reading The Blogger Abides, I knew that this happened occasionally (The Bloggess, anyone? Fed Up with Lunch?), but I only had a vague idea how. Now I'm thinking, "Hm, which of these blog posts can I turn into a book?" (Answer: probably none.)

Higgins does a great job of giving the reader a better idea of what the life of a professional freelancer entails. I can see someone thinking about going into freelancing and then deciding, after reading The Blogger Abides, that it's not for them. Not that Higgins is discouraging, but he does make it clear it's not easy (but then, is anything worth doing easy?--I felt like the woman in the Dewar's commercial for an instant, there). Do you want to have to keep track of your own taxes, your own retirement, "live small"--i.e., don't spend money on anything, because you won't have it--or worry about contracts and whether or not you get paid? If not, then you should probably just stick to writing for yourself.

As far as specific sections of The Blogger Abides are concerned, the chapter on how to get a job is probably the least helpful, since the answer is you basically have to know people. Fair enough. The chapter called "Business, Blah Blah Blah," about taxes and contracts and retirement savings and all that good stuff, was the most difficult to get through--not because it was confusing or tedious; Higgins actually breaks it down with admirable clarity and brevity--but because that's really not something I want to think about until I absolutely have to. And the part at the end about grammar was hilarious. I literally laughed until I cried over "Hard Road to Hoe." Too funny.

I've honestly only scratched the surface of the material found in The Blogger Abides. There is A LOT (plagiarism, linking, HTML, how to pitch to magazines, research--I want to write Higgins a thank-you note just for saying Wikipedia is NOT a valid source), and it's all really useful and relevant if you're interested in freelancing or just looking to improve your blog. I'm glad I took a chance on this and foresee referencing The Blogger Abides for a long time to come.


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