Write a book or build my audience—which should I do first?

Subscriber Claudio is a programmer who wants to make a name for himself by building a thriving blog and email list, and writing a book.

He's bouncing around in his own head, though, and can't get traction:

I run a personal blog since 2008. I haven't posted consistently, there were periods where I posted 2 times a month and sometimes there were gaps up to several months. I know this is a problem and I want to fix that.

How should I do it? I have the idea to specialize and write about RavenDB in the future. I currently have about 300 unique page visitors a day. Should I create a category which will be available in the top menu of the page about RavenDB? How do I start an audience? You talk much about writing all those mails, but it’s hard to collect that first 10 email addresses, you know? Just posting a form near my blog posts was not successful. 0 addresses in several weeks.

Second, I thought about attracting people by writing an ebook about how to get started on RavenDB specifically with a C# and SQL-Server background. This would support my role as a go to person in terms of RavenDB related questions. The question here is: Should I charge for an ebook, even if I only have 300 readers on my blog and 250 followers on twitter? I am not famous or in any other way recognized as an «expert». Or should I let everyone download the ebook for free and hopefully collect email addresses to sell products to them later on?

I'll tackle the blogging question first.

I wish there were an easy fix for the consistency problem. It's something I've struggled with in the past as well.

Usually what happens for me is I write a few amazing, epic-length posts…

And at first my enthusiasm carries me through.

Then it hits me how much work it is to write those massive posts. I lose steam and have a hard time forcing myself to get started on the next one.

Dead in the water.

What works for me is a regular schedule combined with external accountability. These daily emails are a great example. I've made a public commitment to email 5X per week, and I want to keep that streak going.

Now as far as niching yourself down to a specific technology like RavenDB, that's a GREAT idea.

When you're struggling to get traction, the best thing to do is look around you for a tiny little hill that no one has claimed…

Then climb on top, plant your flag and declare yourself the king.

When you do this, you DON'T have to be a true expert (yet). You just have to know a little more than all the generalists around you. (And you'll develop expertise over time as you write.)

In fact, the more specific you get, the better.

Is there some niche within RavenDB that a lot of people are curious about—but no one has claimed yet?

Start there.

You also asked about getting email signups…

Most people don't realize this, but the sidebar is just about the WORST place to put an optin form.

You need a “welcome mat” or “scroll box”—something that commands attention.

Go install SumoMe

Set up a welcome mat and scroll box, and you'll probably get 6-10 email subscribers a day from those 300 visitors.

Lastly, about the book…

The answer depends on your goals. If you want to write a book to help you boost your cred as a developer (and get a better job), then I'd say go for it. And definitely put it up for sale in that case.

If your main goal is to build a business and a side income stream, then I'd hold off on the book and put my efforts into building my audience.

Writing a book takes months of effort, and right now you don't have the resources to pull off a strong launch.

So put your shoulder into it and get your blog growing… And your email list growing…

Then come back to the book idea in 6-12 months.

You'll get a much greater return on your time investment if you do it this way.