From Blog to Book

Update: Within thirty minutes of posting I was contacted by the editor of a major university press: “Let’s talk.” I take this as a positive sign. Stay tuned.

The other day I outlined the final chapter of my book on Confederate body servants and the myth of the black Confederate soldier. The chapter focuses specifically on the rise and spread of this narrative leading to and especially through the sesquicentennial years. It’s by far the most interesting chapter and will likely be a good deal of fun to write. As you might imagine the chapter borrows heavily from this blog, which over the years has offered the most sustained critique of this myth that you will find anywhere on the Internet.

As I was perusing through previous blog posts it occurred to me that a new visitor would likely have a great deal of difficulty exploring the scope of what I’ve written on this blog on this specific subject. Admittedly, I could have done a much better job with categorizing and tagging posts, but most people from what I can tell don’t spent much time in the archives of my blog beyond where a search engine happens to send them. In other cases I suspect that visitors simply do not know how to effectively navigate a blog. This exercise has reinforced for me the limits of the blogging format as narrative.

Since November 2005 I have written just over 3,300 posts, which have received over 35,000 comments. [Wow! That's close to ten years.] Civil War Memory is being archived at the Library of Congress so I don’t have to worry about the long-term preservation of this site’s content. However, in an attempt to bring some coherence to what I’ve written I’ve decided to apply the same approach to my manuscript’s final chapter to the blog as a whole. Essentially I am going to turn Civil War Memory into book form organized into individual essays.

The subject of the book will the Civil War sesquicentennial, but it will also be an opportunity to share a bit of my own journey through blogging. Some research will be necessary, but the goal is to use the blog as a foundation for the various subjects that I will tackle from monument controversies to the intersection of politics and Civil War history. I suspect the turnover will be fairly quick once I finish this project, but that will likely make it the first book on the sesquicentennial. My hope is that it will appeal to Civil War enthusiasts and academics looking for an entertaining read and a chance to bring some historical, cultural, and political context to the past few years of Civil War memory making.

When the time comes I will have to make some decisions about publishing. I can see this project going the traditional route, but there may also be opportunities in the area of self-publishing.

So, what do you think? I’ve had some pretty idiotic ideas in the past and this may certainly be one to add to that list. Am I too wrapped up in my blog or do I have something here?

23 thoughts on “From Blog to Book

  1. Virgil Funk

    About a book project from blogs, my reaction is positive. I share all the challenges of following the blog leads, but indeed I am curious of where they lead–especially the positive ones. So I think it is a great idea to put it into book format.
    My only caution: it may take more time than you think –since it probably will be a two step process, first the organizational part and then the second part: to reduce the verbage to book style format. But you might turn that second part over to an editor to save your time once you have the direction and format formula. Good luck.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Hi Virgil,

      You are probably right re: the amount of time it will take to put this together. I haven’t thought about working with an editor in this way, but it is something to think about.

      Reply
  2. James Harrigan

    great idea, Kevin. two immediate thoughts:
    1. I demand coauthorship credit in proportion to my share of blog comments.
    2. you should dedicate the book to H. K. Edgerton.

    Reply
  3. Wallace Hettle

    This will raise an interesting question: do historians “think” differently online?

    By posting to your blog, have I given permission to be quoted in your book? (I would think so.)

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Hi Wallace,

      Interesting question and one that I haven’t given much thought to.

      By posting to your blog, have I given permission to be quoted in your book? (I would think so.)

      This is something that I will need to think about. Every comment has its own unique hyperlink which can be easily referenced.

      Reply
  4. Barbara Gannon

    Why not broaden it to social media and Civil War memory at the sesquicentennial? More work, but a bigger impact.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      It absolutely will. There is no way to measure the scope of the sesquicentennial without a close examination of the influence of social media.

      Reply
  5. Jimmy Dick

    I think it sounds like a great idea! The Journal of the American Revolution pulled many of the articles from its web site into a book. Granted, that’s a different format than a blog, but it does show how content generated for an online audience has a home in multiple media venues.
    Make sure you say thanks to all the Lost Causers who continue to make historians vitally important and extremely relevant to the study of history due to the Southern heritage community’s stubborn refusal to use facts instead of fiction in their fantasies.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      As did the New York Times with its Disunion blog. This is a different type of project given that the essays will be culled, in some cases, from well over 50-100 posts.

      Reply
  6. Ray Ortensie

    Sounds like a very interesting endeavor. What about the use(s) of your blog in educational purposes? I’ve actually used your blog for my students on a number of occasions and actually have it listed in the one forum discussion on “Blogging the Civil War.”

    Ray

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Hi Ray,

      Glad to hear the blog is being used in your classroom. The role of the blog as an education tool needs its own separate essay. I’ve done workshops for teachers on blogging, but haven’t yet written anything for publication.

      Reply
  7. Maria Agui Carter

    I’m a fan of your thoughtful postings. It would be amazing to have those thoughts reworked into sustained arguments in chapters that collate and deepen the threads you’ve been weaving for years. Thank you for your many insights. I’m a fan!

    Reply
  8. Jefferson Moon

    Would make a great book.Would also like to see a book on confederate atrocities, war crimes and just bad behavior…

    Reply
  9. Parker

    A book on union atrocities, war crimes, and generally bad behavior would be better. McPherson has an account of a group of union soldiers brutally raping and mercilessly torturing a 7 year old African-American girl in “Battle Cry of Freedom”. That would be a good one to lead with.

    Reply
  10. Jefferson Moon

    Parker, the Union atocities book has been written, we need some balance, bit tired of the same hand full of regurgitated Union artocities…

    Reply
  11. Buck Buchanan

    Kevin,

    Excellent!

    I can’t wait to read the glowing reviews from Charles Goodson, Connie Chastain, Jerry Dunford, Susan Hathaway and others!

    Reply

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