Roll up! Roll up! Make a book from your blog today in ten minutes and sell it to naive readers!
Hmmm. [makes frowny face]
Creating a book from your blog is a fantastic idea… but I wish there weren’t so many “gurus” luring writers into creating poor-quality books that may damage their careers, on the chance of making a quick buck.
If you’d like to create a book from your blog that will:
- Boost your credibility and reputation as a writer and/or in your chosen field
- Be something you’ll be proud of for many years to come
- Actually HELP people
…then read on. 🙂
4 steps to a professional blog-book
There are various types of blog-to-book conversions. These three are the most popular ones for creating a book with enduring commercial potential:
- A serialised novel (fiction). Very difficult to write a novel “in public”, as Charles Dickens discovered back in the day. Another time, we’ll cover some tips to make it easier.
- A set of essays, similar for example to a newspaper columnist combining a series of pieces into a book, which could be themed around humour, life experience, spirituality or some other unifying idea. Each essay is complete in itself, but complementary to the other essays.
- A non-fiction topic-based book, in genres like how-to, self-help, business, history, or a particular area of your expertise. This type of book has one key message, which is explained and illustrated in various phases and aspects in a structured manner.
Today we’ll focus on that third type, the non-fiction topic-based book.
Step 1: Organise the material
Firstly, your book needs a structure. All those wonderful blog posts need to be sorted according to an organising principle.
What you choose as your guide will vary from book to book, topic to topic, author to author.
But a foolproof shape for a non-fiction information book is to establish one key idea or message, with several sub-ideas which all work towards explaining, exploring and supporting that key idea.
To help you organise that structure, here are two systems you can try, depending on what works best for your particular brain.
a. The spreadsheet
Some might find that a spreadsheet works well for them. You can create it in Microsoft Excel, or just create a table in Word. Place your key idea in the top row, then move one column across to list your sub-ideas, and below each of those list the titles of the relevant posts.
Here is a simplified version… yours will likely have more sub-ideas, and possibly another level of organisation in the column beside that before you get to the individual posts.
b. The mind map
For those who find linear thinking restrictive, free it up with a mind map. Place your key idea in the centre, then draw lines out from there containing your sub-ideas, and more little tentacles containing your posts (or another layer of sub-ideas).
Here is a simplified version of a book structure mind map…
Once you’ve created your mind map, you can then transfer the information to a list or spreadsheet, to make it easier to see what you need to assemble next.
Step 2: Self-edit
Now that you’ve organised your blog posts and got them into order, start editing them into a book.
- Correct the typos. Yes, of course there’ll be plenty, everyone’s blog has typos. I’ve thrown a few into this post to keep things lively — did you find them?
- Get rid of the garbage. Everything that doesn’t belong in a book has to go. For example, most books would not have emoticons, the little smiley faces. (If you take them out, will a reader still be able to tell what emotion is intended? If not, you might need to rewrite that section.)
- Trash the repetition. There will be things you explain again and again on your blog. For example, every time I write another beta reader article, I explain what a beta reader is. That would be explained in one chapter or section in a book.
- Fix the references and links. Will you be including images in your book? If not, make sure the captions for the images, or references within the text to the images, have not come along as stowaways. (I’ve seen this in blog-books by some of the best, so don’t think it can’t happen to you.) And remember, if you’re producing a print book, <click here> is not a very meaningful link. 😉 You can still reference web pages, but you need to provide the full text of the link.
- Set the tone. Personally, I think the conversational tone of a blog often works well in a book these days, but you might have a topic where you feel a more formal tone will work better. Convert it, if necessary.
- Unify the voice. These blog posts will have been written over a period of time during which your writer’s “voice” has been developing and changing. Edit and rewrite those earlier posts to reflect your mature voice.
- Add, deepen, broaden. Blog posts are often limited by the fact that many people won’t read a long post, but with a book you have a more committed and motivated audience. Allow your blog posts to inspire you to extend yourself, and even answer questions raised in the comments. Explore how far you can take the topic, and this will delight your readers who have already seen similar information on your blog. Go further. Add value. Let them see that what they spent on the book was worth it to get these extra treasures.
I find some people think, “Oh, but it was my blog, so I need to keep it exactly the same as it was when I hit ‘publish’ in 2011.” There might be a one-in-a-million case where that could be true. I can’t think of one right now, but there might be one. 😉
As a general rule, I’d say: edit, rewrite, repurpose and refine. Be ruthless with this thing. It was a great blog but it’s moved into a different sphere now. It’s your BOOK!
Step 3: Get feedback
I’m always raving about the value of beta readers. These are the volunteer superheroes who critique our manuscripts so we can develop and refine them.
Well, get them for your blog-book, too. They might be different beta readers than the ones you’ve used for your novel or memoir etc. Or they might be the same people. But this feedback is absolutely worth getting. Check this article for some ideas on how to find beta readers.
The whole culture of “blog-to-book lightning fast” has, I fear, created a situation where we don’t even think of getting a critique. I know this for a fact because as I started to prepare some books based on material contained in this blog, I found myself thinking, “Oh-h-h, but do I HAVE to??” [whiny voice]
Yes, Belinda, you do have to. 😉 And gentle reader, I’d recommend you do too. In ten years’ time, you’ll be so glad you did.
Step 4: Apply quality controls
Remember editing and proofreading? They weren’t just invented for the magnum opus. They can boost our blog-books into the professional league, too.
The budget might be especially tight on a book like this, because of the way you’re doing it and the risk you’re taking. If so, are there some volunteers you could recruit to fulfil the editing and proofreading roles for you? (If you’re not sure of the difference between these two roles, check out my article on the difference between editing and proofreading. And there are some more ideas in Why you shouldn’t ask beta readers to do copy editing.) When the book has earned some money, you can consider getting pros to work with you on it, and release a new edition.
Over to you. What are your experiences with books created from blogs? Are you curious? Motivated? Hatching a cunning plan?
Featured image via Bigstock/Eskay Lim