Do you want to turn your blog into a book?
If you're a non-fiction writer, this is a fantastic approach to writing a book.
Last year, I set out to write a book about non-fiction writing. I decided that I wanted to turn some of the blog posts from Become a Writer Today into book chapters.
So I drew together the strands of my published blog posts with the topic for my book.
In this post, I'll explain what I learned from this approach to book writing. I'll also give you some blog to book tips.
My approach was inspired by Nina Amir who specialises in going from blog to book.
But first, why should you consider turning a blog post into a book?
And how do you know if this approach to book writing is for you?
Fiction and Non-fiction Blogging
Over the past few years, I’ve learnt it's easy to turn a non-fiction blog into a book, but it's more time-consuming to turn a fiction blog into a book.
Fiction blog posts (extracts from a story) generally don't attract as much web traffic as practical blog posts.
Why? Well, fiction readers prefer getting stories in books, anthologies and so on, rather than on the web.
Non-fiction readers, on the other hand, will consume information in multiple formats: blog posts, videos, books etc.
For example, this Goodreads list contains dozens of blogs that became books – and almost all are non-fiction.
Perhaps the biggest high profile exception is Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. The author wrote extracts of the first book as fan-fiction on Twilight blogs. But she is an exception.
TL;DR Blogging is ideal for aspiring non-fiction authors.
Blog Vs. Book
- Fast and easy thanks to WordPress and Medium
- Useful for developing a consistent writing practice
- Ideal for testing ideas for a non-fiction book in advance
- A great way to start a business
- Something almost anyone can do
A book is:
- Something you can use as a professional calling card
- Ideal for finding new readers and making an impact
- More time-consuming and costly than blogging
- A bucket list item for many writers
- A creation from which you can earn a side income
Instead of debating which is best, why not attempt both?
Start a blog and then plan to write your book.
In The Lean Startup, Eric Ries wrote, “We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.”
Writing a book is no different.
Most bloggers who aspire to become authors want to turn blog followers into readers of their books, that is, customers.
You can find out what your readers like by publishing extracts of your work sooner.
Writing a book for the first time is kind of like trying to climb Everest.
Writing a blog post, on the other hand, is more like running up the mucky hill in a nearby park.
If you're a new author, you might spend a year or even two writing 50,000 words and later editing and shaping your work into something you can publish on Amazon.
It's natural to look at a book draft and wonder, “When will I ever finish this?”.
On the other hand, you can write a blog post, press publish and gauge how readers react within a few days.
Rewrite and Publish As You Go
Great writing is rewriting.
It's natural to produce a lousy first draft. It takes work to turn the vomit draft into a readable second draft and more again to turn it into a third draft that shines.
In other words, the more time you spend rewriting the better your final work will become – provided you publish it!
If you're turning a blog post into a book, you gain another opportunity to rewrite older pieces of your work while working towards a deadline.
One surefire way to grow your audience as a blogger is to publish blog posts on your site, on other people's blogs, and on Medium or Quora consistently.
(The former is a social media network for writers while the latter is a question and answer site that's ideal for research.)
However, if you're a new blogger or aspiring author, it's difficult to find time to write both a book and a blog.
Instead, if you decide to turn your blog posts into a book, you can grow your blog and work towards the milestone of becoming an author at the same time.
Turn an Intimidating Project into Manageable One
Writing a book, much like training to run a marathon, is an intimidating project.
Who has the time, patience or discipline to train to run 26.2 miles or produce 50,000 words?
Success comes from breaking down your training or writing. In other words, start by training for three or even five miles. Instead of writing 50,000 words, focus on producing just 500 or 1,000 words today.
If you're blogging as you go, you can do it (I believe in you!).
Decide if You're Going Blog to Book or Book to Blog
Each method requires a different approach.
If you've written a book, you can publish extracts as blog posts providing you:
- Break up key paragraphs for the web
- Insert relevant images, links etc.
- Give the chapter some context as a blog post by writing a short introduction or conclusion
On the other hand, if you're going from blog to book, you'll probably need to:
- Ensure the blog post works as a chapter by expanding on or cutting key sections
- Consider how the blog post, which is now a book chapter, sits alongside the other chapters in your book
- Update old information in the blog post for your book
How to Turn Your Blog Into a Book
Write a One Pager for Your Book
It's a good idea to sum up your book in one page or less before you write it. This will help you rewrite or edit a series of blog posts in a way that belongs in a single book.
In Perennial Seller, Ryan Holiday wrote,
“Grab a piece of paper or open a blank Word document. Then, with fresh eyes, attempt to write out exactly what your project is supposed to be and to do in … One sentence. One paragraph. One page.”
He offered this template:
This is a _ that does __ This helps people _.
If you write lots of blog posts without any real idea of how they tie together, you'll end up with a series of posts that don't fit in your book.
On the other hand, if you take time to figure out what your book is about and the chapters that will appear within your book before writing them, you can work on blog posts that you can use in your book.
Blog to book tip: Write a short post based on your one pager. As your book evolves, refine your one pager.
Arrange Blog Posts by Theme or Topic
I created a Google spreadsheet that included:
- post titles
- post URLs
- word counts for each post
- a short synopsis of each post
Using this spreadsheet, I could see the topics and themes I'd addressed so far about creating non-fiction books. I also tallied the word counts and reviewed the summaries. I used this information to decide what I needed to spend time on for The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book.
Using this blog to book approach, you can also review your calendar for the coming weeks or months. Then, based on what you're going to write next for your book, you can map out an editorial calendar (a staple of any productive blogger).
This will help you develop a habit of publishing on your blog consistently.
Blog to book tip: Download my free spreadsheet.
Test Your Ideas Incrementally
The blogger who spends several hours writing a blog post and publishes it to the sound of bored little crickets will feel disappointed.
Still, he or she has lost only a few hours. Bloggers can always try to capture the attention of readers with another post that varies in theme or style.
On the other hand, the author who spends a year (and money) writing a book that no one buys or that gets one-star reviews might never write a book again.
Why take that risk?
If you're unsure about an idea for your book, write a short blog post and publish it where your would-be readers congregate. Examples include Medium, Quora and other blogs.
Once live, assess how many shares, comments and views you get. If the post works, it belongs in your book. If it flops, cut it out.
Blog to book tip: Use Google Analytics, Medium post reads and your Quora stats to assess what your readers liked and disliked.
Rewrite Your Posts for Your Book
Writing for the web typically means avoiding sentences that run on for more than five lines. If you value the attention of readers, break up lengthy paragraphs with:
- bullet points
- internal and external hyperlinks
- a call to action and so on
On the other hand, if you're writing a book longer paragraphs are fine, while too many images, bullet points and hyperlinks are distracting.
Much like a seamstress pulling on a thread, tie your blog posts together and give your book a distinct shape during an edit or rewrite.
Blog to book tip: Don't endlessly rewrite the same blog post. After three or four rewrites, hire an editor.
Consider the Shelf-Life of Your Ideas
Several years ago, in an old version of The Savvy Writer's Guide to Productivity, I explained how new writers could use the social media network Vine to market their work.
Months after I published the book, Twitter discontinued this service. I sprouted a few extra grey hairs when I read the news because I knew my book was already ageing.
So, in a later draft of the book, I removed references to Vine.
It takes only a few minutes to update a blog post, and this is good practice if you want more blog traffic. While you can update a book like I did, it's more time-consuming.
If you're writing a non-fiction book, ask yourself, “Will this research hold up in a year or even three years?”.
Blog to book tip: Seek out older ideas that have withstood the passage of time. Anything newsworthy or topical today could feel dated tomorrow.
Determine the Goal of Individual Blog Posts
Several months ago, I was coaching a new author who wanted to publish almost all of his book as individual posts on his blog.
“I'll save so much time,” he said.
“You can certainly turn all of these chapters into blog posts,” I said. “But why do want to do this? What's in it for your reader?”
He didn't have an answer.
The purpose of a blog post is to entertain, inform, inspire or educate.
Now when you're considering turning a book chapter into a post ask, “Does this chapter or blog post achieve one of those four goals?”
If the blog post doesn't achieve one of these goals, your time and the attention of readers is best served by leaving this chapter in your book.
Blog to book tip: While mapping out your editorial calendar, write a one-line goal for each post.
Budget for a Professional Book
While researching this blog post, I came across various kinds of blog to book software and tools that turn web pages and blog posts into PDFs and books for free.
Please don't use these!
You're doing a disservice to your readers. Instead, treat your book like a creation you're proud of. After all, once you publish a book, you can't take it back.
Hire a professional editor. Get a proofreader. Commission a book cover designer.
In this post, I explain more about the cost of self-publishing a book.
Blog to book tip: Join the Medium Partner Program and use your earnings from publishing posts on Medium to save for your book. An average writer can earn $200-$500 a month.
Blog to Get Started on Your Book Today
If you're a blogger, you probably already have the bones of a non-fiction book on your site.
Take the time to review your old posts, decide what you want your book to be about and then commit both time and money to publishing a book that your readers love.
Then you too can make the transition from blogger to author.
Prefer to Listen?
Here's my podcast interview with Nina Amir about going from blog to book:
The Best Writing Apps (includes blogging software)
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