I’ve been closely following Nina Amir’s progress writing, How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time.
Recently, I caught up with Nina and asked her to share the back-story behind How to Blog a Book and share some of the lessons she learned blogging her book.
Nina covers a lot of ground in this interview, but, if you’re considering writing a book, you’ll find her very detailed answers address every aspect of writing, publishing, and promoting a book from a blog.
What do you mean by “blogging a book?
Blogging a book means writing your book from scratch one post at a time and publishing it on your blog.
That said, let me explain a little bit more. I suggest you actually create a manuscript off line in a word processing program. Sit down several times a week or every day and write for as long as it takes you to compose a 250-500-word blog post—maybe 30-45 minutes—that actually constitutes one bit of your manuscript—one small section. Then copy and paste that post into your bogging program. Hit publish.
Then also take a few minutes to share that post with your social networks in your status update.
This is the easiest and fastest way to write a book and promote it at the same time.
What are the advantages of blogging a book?
If you do what I described, you will write your book easily and effortlessly one post at a time and promote it at the same time.
I wrote How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time, published by Writer’s Digest Books, in just five months.
I published just the first draft on the blog, but the book got written in that amount of time and I ended up with a manuscript I could edit and revise.
I’d been complaining for ages about how I didn’t have time to get my other books written. This one almost wrote itself!
Why? Because I made a commitment to blog a certain number of days per week, I didn’t have to write a lot per day, and once I had readers they served as my accountability partners, keeping me showing up to write and publish my work on line.
If, for example, you write 250 words per day four days per week, you will produce 1,000 words per week. That’s four thousand words per month. In 12 months, you’ll have a 42,000-word book. That’s not a long book, but it’s a decent length for the first draft of your book. My first draft was only 26,300 words. (It should have been longer because blogging a longer book over a longer period of time would have gained me more readers; the published book ended up more than double that length (although the publisher asked me for 45,000).
By the time you edit and revise, your book may grow. If you write more often—say, five days a week, you will produce more words in less time; the same is true if you average 350 words per post and write five to six days per week. You can determine how fast you complete your blogged book, but it doesn’t take a large time commitment time per day.
Plus, by blogging your book you will build an author’s platform for your book in the process—a fan base for the book and for yourself. And every aspiring author needs this if they want to produce a successful self-published or traditionally published book or attract a publisher. So, as they say, your will kill two birds with one stone by blogging your book.
Here’s how this works. First, when you publish your blog posts, you share them with your social networks via your status updates. If your friends and followers click through and go to your blog to read your posts—your bogged book “pages,” and then come back. In other words, you gain loyal readers.
The number of readers you attract may attract a publisher or agent to your blogged book, and you may eventually land yourself a book contract.
Or you can put those statistics in a book proposal when you approach agents and publishers, which is what I did with How to Blog a Book. If they are impressive enough, you’ll get a book deal. Why? Because you’ve basically test-marketed your book idea and proven there’s a readership for it. And you’ve created a built-in readership for the book—your blog readers.
Additionally, as you blog your book, especially a nonfiction book, you will organically drive your blog up in the search engine page rankings so it becomes discoverable. I drove the blog How to Blog a Book blog to a #1 Google search engine page rank just by blogging the book, and I never worried about keywords at all. I simply blogged about my topic day in and day out.
This organically provided Search Engine Optimization for my site, and with all the changes Google keeps making to its algorithms, quality, targeted content is what will get your site a high ranking with Google and retain it no matter what changes Google makes to its algorithms. And what you want for your blogged book, and ultimately for your blog, is for it to become imminently discoverable in the search engines. This allows readers, the media, agents, and publishers to find you.
What are the steps involved in blogging a book?
How do you choose a topic?
I always suggest you choose a topic you feel passionate about. You’ll be blogging about this subject for a long time (assuming you are blogging a nonfiction book)—long after you’ve finished blogging the book. Pick a topic you enjoy writing about and learning about, and one you might be able to expand upon into other books and products.
You might want to build a business around your book. With that last statement in mind, though, what do you want to do with this blogged book? If you are blogging fiction or a memoir, you may not have a goal other than to create a successful book.
If you are blogging nonfiction, you may want to create workshops, coaching programs, a consulting business, etc., or maybe this book is a way to actually boost your business. These are things to consider as you choose your topic.
How much work has to be done before you start?
A lot more than just starting a blog. Bloggers just start blogging. I typically have writers who want to blog a book go through what I call the “proposal process” during which you evaluate your idea for success through the eyes of an acquisitions editor.
You accumulate all the information you would put together for a book proposal (but not necessarily write the formal document), and you do this before you write a word. You do this with an eye on ebooks, printed books and blogs because you are placing a book in both the publishing sphere and the blogosphere.
I suggest when you do this preparation, you also do a competitive and comparative analysis and look at both books and blogs on similar or the same topic, since you are blogging a book. This is true when looking at the market for the book as well. You are breaking into not only the book buying market but the blogosphere.
Title, general organization, etc. Final table of contents?
From the work you do during the proposal process creating an overview—a description of the book (synopsis), a pitch, a summary of your blogged book’s benefits, and also a mission statement, you can usually find a title for the book. You may also need to look at the titles of the books in you comparative study—and also of blogs—to find a title.
I suggest you do a mind map to begin discovering what content will go into your blogged book. From that, create a table of contents. If you didn’t discover a title for the book while doing the proposal process, then you will find it here, although this content creation step is actually also part of my proposal process.
Once you have a table of contents, chunk down each chapter into blog-post-sized bits. If that feels difficult, chunk it down into questions you might want to answer for your readers. Possibly go so far as to write a chapter-by-chapter synopsis so you know what will go into each chapter, or write a note about each post you will write so you don’t have to try and remember later what content you need to create when the time comes to actually write.
Do you have to inform your publisher if you’re going to blog your book?
You likely will have blogged the book already when the publisher finds you. Or you will have done so when you contact the publisher. Just like all the bloggers who were discovered by publishers or agents, like Julie Powell (Julie & Julia) Christian Lander (Stuff White People Like), Pamela Slim (Escape from Cubicle Nation), you will be discovered because you have attracted readers. Your book will be created or in the creation process and the readers will serve as a beacon to publishers or a statistical fact to prove the marketability of your idea.
How do you approach a publisher?
If you’re interested in trade publishing, take all that information you accumulated during the proposal process and put it into an actual proposal.
Include the statistics from your blog analytics program about your blogged book’s unique readers and page views. Also include any other platform elements, like number of followers on your social networks.
Submit a query letter to an agent. Be ready to send that proposal to the agent and later to publishers. (If you didn’t do the proposal process, simply get a book on how to write a book proposal or my book, How to Evaluate Your Book for Success, and then write a book proposal.)
How long should posts be, and how frequent?
It’s best if you keep blogged book posts to 250-500 words in length. A while back Google changed its algorithms, and it now likes to catalog posts that are at least 250 words long; prior to this they could be shorter. You want your posts to be cataloged by Google and other search engines so your blogged book becomes findable, or discoverable, when someone searches for keywords related to your subject or topic.
However, you don’t want to write posts that are much longer than 500 words—at least not often.
If you do, you’ll blog your book very quickly and not develop a following of readers. The point of blogging a book is not only to get your book written but to develop a following of fans, or loyal readers, in the process. Blog your book too quickly and that won’t happen.
I recommend blogging a minimum of twice a week. More is better—three to four times a week if you can, or even every day. But you could bog your book really quickly and achieve the same promotional affect in less time.
For example, Gina Trapani didn’t blog a book, but she landed a book deal because her blog, www.lifehacker.com, became so successful—attracted so many readers—when she wrote and posted twelve times a day every weekday for nine months.
Does each blog post have to correspond to a published chapter?
If you plan on actually blogging your book every day, then, yes, every post should correspond to the chapter you are currently blogging. You can break each chapter down into subheadings, and each subheading works as the title to a post. You might have 20 subheads for each chapter in a nonfiction book, for example. That would equate to 20 posts for that chapter.
What were some of your experiences blogging your book?
The biggest problem I encountered when I completed the book and began editing it was redundancy in the manuscript. I had tended to repeat myself, or re-explain concepts rather than just linking back to the first time I mentioned them. It was very difficult for the editors and me to find all these redundancies. Lucky for me, I supposed, I ended up having several editors (long story…), and so I had about three sets of eyes on the manuscript besides mine. That helped a lot.
I found that I did a pretty good job of organizing my book from the start and as I blogged it. When the developmental editor at Writer’s Digest got her hands on the manuscript, which was after I’d done one round of editing and revising, she found one or two pieces of copy that needed to be moved. That’s it.
As I mentioned, I could have blogged a bit more of the book, though, and probably attracted a larger readership. When I edited the first three chapters I added somewhere between 3-5,000 words. In retrospect, this was because I didn’t do as much really in-depth content planning as I’ve suggested you do here (and in the book). I learned from my own experience, since I was the guinea pig. I could have written more posts with more detailed information instead of less posts with less in-depth or information. The developmental editor later pushed me to include even more than what I added on my own.
I’d definitely do the preplanning, even though it feels like a lot of work. I was often in a hurry and just trying to get the post of the day completed. I have several other bogs I write and publish, so I was juggling a lot—and trying to get the book done. If you do the content planning, it’s easy to sit down and knock out a really great post with superb content and to do it fast. You’ll end up with a better first draft.
What are some potential pitfalls to be aware of?
- You don’t attract readers. It’s possible that you don’t gain readers either because you don’t do a good job publicizing your blogged book, you don’t write often enough, or your book doesn’t have interest to readers. You won’t know this for a while. You need to blog your book for at least three to six months at a minimum and do some good promotion—as well as write enough content (2-5 times a week).
- You discover a certain topic doesn’t interest your readers. If you decide the book would be better off taking a different angle or focus after blogging for awhile, you can change direction. In fact, that’s the beauty of blogging a book. You have your analytics to show you what’s working and what isn’t. Even Google Analytics, a free program, will tell you which posts are the most well read, or on which days you had the most unique readers, and you can then adjust based on what interests your readers most. I did a poll on my blog, www.writenonfictionnow.com, and my readers said their number one issue was that they felt overwhelmed. So I wrote a series of posts on how to overcome writer’s overwhelm; readership dropped. Go figure. I wouldn’t devote a whole book to that topic for sure.
- You get bored.You will then need to decide if you want to finish the book anyway or just go on to something else. You can just hit the delete button and get rid of the whole blog. No worries, but that’s a lot of work to discard. I’d suggest turning it into a short book or booklet of some kind rather than just throwing it all away.
- A publisher says it’s previously published material. A few publishers are turned off by blogged material. But there are more blogs being picked up by publishers today and turned into books than ever before. I’d rather test market my material and prove readers love it than worry about the few publishes who might not want my blogged book.
Do you have any closing advice for Published & Profitable readers?
If you have any trepidation about blogging a full-length book, blog a short book. If you already have a blog, try blogging a short book on a topic relevant to your readers and to your existing blog. You can do this by writing a series of posts or a whole month’s worth of posts.
Last, combine your passion and your purpose so you feel inspired. That’s always my top piece of advice. When you do that you achieve more inspired results. By that I mean you are more likely to take action and actually move toward your goals. In this case, that goal is getting your book written and promoting it, too.
About the Author
Nina Amir, Inspiration-to-Creation Coach, inspires people to combine their purpose and passion so they Achieve More Inspired Results. She motivates both writers and non-writers to create publishable and published products, careers as authors and to achieve their goals and fulfill their purpose.
The author of How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time, (Writer’s Digest Books), Nina has also self-published 10 short books, including the How to Evaluate Your Book for Success and 10 Days and 10 Ways to Your Best Self. A sought after editor, proposal consultant, book and author coach, and blog-to-book coach, Nina’s clients’ books have sold upwards of 230,000 copies and landed deals with top publishers. The founder of Write Nonfiction in November, she writes four blogs, including Write Nonfiction NOW!, How to Blog a Book and As the Spirit Moves Me. She appears weekly on the Dresser After Dark radio show.