Turning a blog into a book- is it possible, or is it just a mere pipe dream?
So you’ve been maintaining a moderately successful online blog for some time now. It’s not much, but you get a good number of page views out of it every month. The Google AdSense revenue isn’t something to write home about, yet despite this, you’re still deeply in love with what you’re doing.
You like cultivating your own little space on the interwebs. Thinking about what you want to write for your blog consumes much of your free time. You even have a small band of loyal blog readers who seem to hang on to your every word.
But have you ever stopped and wondered if this little blog project of yours can be something more?
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Turning a blog into a book – is it possible?
In 2009, a guy named Mark Manson packed his bags and started wandering around the world. Like most young people, he was broke, clueless, and had no idea what to do with himself.
So he started a blog.
A few years later in 2017, his book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” shot straight to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List. It was also the number one best-selling nonfiction book from Barnes & Noble during that same year. As of this writing, this book has already sold 22 million copies.
Like it or hate it, “The Subtle Art…” has now become one of the most-read self-help books in the world. And all of this success stemmed from a dating advice blog that some guy wrote when he was broke.
If you’re thinking that maybe this is just a fluke, there are plenty of writers out there that came before and after Manson who managed to turn their blogs into successful books. Just take a look at Goodreads’ Blog Turned Book booklist. We’re pretty sure that you’ll find some familiar titles in there that you have already read or have at least heard about.
So to answer the question: YES, you can turn your existing blog into a book. Other writers have done it- you can do it too!
What you need to know before you go from blog to book
Before you start shipping your blog posts to your nearest publisher, you have to know that not all blogs are fit for publication.
For example, unless you’re a famous (or infamous) celebrity, it’s highly unlikely that people would want to read the personal online journal of a person they don’t know. Memoirs and autobiographies can sell well, but only if it’s about somebody who is already popular.
Prince Harry’s highly controversial and well-talked-about book Spare is a recent case. Most people wouldn’t be interested in reading about the exploits of some random British dude. But since he’s a famous prince, the book became an instant bestseller.
So our first rule is: if you’re not British nobility, better keep those personal online journals unpublished.
The next rule is: fiction blog posts are a harder sell than nonfiction.
With nonfiction, you can consume it in multiple different formats- videos, blog posts, social, ebooks, social media postings- and no one would bat an eye. But most fiction readers are used to getting their stories the traditional way. Like books, anthologies, serials, and so on.
There’s also the fact that fiction generally doesn’t attract as much web traffic as nonfiction.
Unless, of course, your work has managed to reach cult classic levels of popularity, then you could take a risk in publishing it. This is what happened to Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James, who first released her book as Twilight fanfiction chapters on FanFiction.net and her website.
Another rule is: you have to offer something unique to your readers.
There are tons of self-help blogs and books that cover the very same things that “The Subtle Art…” pontificates on. Some of them are arguably even better written than “The Subtle Art…” But it’s Manson’s book that’s basking in the spotlight now. Why?
Though Manson used and reused a lot of old ideas from the very self-help books that he mocks, he cleverly packaged them in a way that would make them more palatable to his target audience: the millennials. Hence the cursing and the book’s irreverent tone. For millennials who already cynical and jaded about the cloying positivity of self-help books of years past, this book is a breath of fresh air.
In short, though he used old ideas, Manson brought something new to the table with his fresh approach and intriguing writing style.
Turning a blog into a book – what it can do for you
Your blog’s already popular as it is, so why should you go through all of the trouble of turning it into a book? Who would even want to spend money on it, when the content has already been for free?
First, let’s list all of the qualities of why blogging is such a great activity for budding writers:
- It’s easy to get started. No need for editors or agents. Just create an account on Medium or WordPress and you’re good to go.
- If you have a business, it’s a great way to market your services and build a reputation with potential clients.
- Great for writing practice. Make it a habit to write a few posts in a week and soon you’ll be able to think and write faster.
- Can be a testing ground for future book ideas. You can write a few chapters as posts and see how your readers react to them.
Now we know what the advantages of blogs are, let’s go into what publishing a book can do for you:
- This is something that most writers strive to accomplish in their careers. Like an item on their bucket list, accomplishing it gives them an overwhelming sense of achievement and pride.
- Establishes your expertise in a niche. Having a published book is similar to a calling card for authors.
- A book delivers more impact than a blog in the same way that being a “book author” sounds more impressive than being a “blogger.”
- You can potentially earn a good income from books.
Writing a book for the first time is no easy feat. Compared to blogging, book writing takes more time and effort. You can spend a year or two writing 70,000 words for a book. “When will I finish writing this,” you might start to ask yourself in the middle of the book writing process. The finish line always seems so far away when it comes to writing books.
But blog posts are different. Just a few hundred words and you’re done. With blogs, the goalposts are nearer and easier to reach.
Why you can have a blog AND a book at the same time
What if you combine the two together?
Here are some positive consequences that we think will happen if you try to make your book into a blog:
You won’t need to work as hard on your book
No need to spend that much time researching, editing, and writing when most of the content has already been written. You’ve already laid down the groundwork for your book, you only need to refine and expand on them.
Your audience reach will widen
You’re not publishing content solely for your regular blog readers anymore. You’re spreading out and widening your reach. A published book can lead to exposure that wouldn’t be possible through a blog alone.
You can open up avenues for passive income
If you’re a blogger who also runs a business, you would know how hard it is to scale up your operations. You’re constantly thinking up new ways to make content, new topics to write about, etc. But by repurposing your blog content into a book, you can transform the knowledge that you have already shared through your blog into a product that can be passively sold.
Publishing methods for turning a blog into a book
Ok, you’ve decided that you want to make a book out of your blog. Where and how do you start?
First, decide on how you want to publish. There are three main methods that you can use:
Use a service that automatically puts your blog together in a book
A few examples of companies that offer this kind of service include Pixxibook, Blogbooker, and Blog2Print. These services can produce a preview of a book in just mere seconds. All you need to do is input your blog’s URL, and voila! You have a book.
These kinds of services can get expensive since the price ranges from around $30 to $50 per book. There’s also the fact that you don’t have creative control over the finished product. It’s only viable for those who want a few copies of their book, like as a giveaway for family or friends, or to sell to readers on a print-by-demand basis.
Go the DIY route and self-publish
We have already discussed the virtues and associated costs of self-publishing in our blog post “How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book?“. If you want full creative and editorial control over your book, then self-publishing is the way to go.
Market your book to a literary agent and go for traditional publishing
Most bloggers who have successfully published books have done so through traditional publishing. The process is the same as with any other kind of book. If you want higher chances of being considered for a contract, contact literary agents and publishers that have worked with bloggers before.
Some notes on traditional publishers and bloggers
Is it really okay if I use my blog content for my book? Will publishing houses give my book a chance if they know that it’s based off my blog?
Here’s what publishers like about bloggers: they like that bloggers already come with a platform and audience. It’s easy to sell books if you already have a loyal audience who is very willing to shell out money for your book. It also makes it easier to compete against authors with no platforms of their own.
But what publishers don’t like is unoriginal content. If you’re going to reuse the entirety of your blog without expanding on it, then there’s a high chance that your book proposal will get rejected.
Your book can build on your blog’s content. “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” initially started out as a blog post, which Manson has then expanded into a whole book. It’s where you can refine and flesh out the ideas that you have already shared in your blog.
Once you’ve decided on how you want to publish, it’s time to start building your book from your trove of blog posts.
Step by step guide for turning a blog into a book
Step 1: Pick a book topic and stick to it
No one wants to read a book with chapters that are not connected by a single unifying topic. Imagine reading such a book- in one chapter you’re learning about the benefits of time-boxing for productivity, and in the next chapter you’re learning about proper fly fishing techniques. Disjointed chapters make for disoriented and disappointed readers.
Why do you want to write a book in the first place? Are you using the book to build your business? Do you have a subject in mind that you want to explore? Are you setting yourself up as an expert in your niche? Answering these questions will help you determine the unifying theme in your book.
Step 2: Pick posts you can use from your blog’s archives
Once you already have a theme in mind, dive into your archives and look for posts that fit your theme or topic. You can be as selective as you want in this step. You may choose to use only the best and most organized of your posts. Or if you prefer, you can choose posts that have received the highest reader engagements and comments. Longform evergreen content is preferable. o matter how you select your posts, just make sure that it fits your theme.
Step 3: Edit your chosen blog posts
Now, it’s time to edit. Read through all of the posts you’ve chosen and evaluate them. You might find that some of them need to be reworked to make them flow better with the other chapters. You might even decide to cut some of them out entirely. Try to use your posts to flesh out your main theme and fill in all the details that need filling.
Step 4: Stitch your posts together
Organize all of your ideas into a rough outline. From here, you can take all of your chosen posts and try to fit them into the outline you’ve made. If you don’t find enough posts, don’t fret. You can always write more to fill in the gaps. Each chapter should build upon the previous one.
Step 5: Review everything
Once you have a draft manuscript in hand, review everything carefully. Check for misspellings, grammar errors, and punctuation mistakes. You can hire the services of an editor or proofreader to go over your work to make sure that you don’t miss anything.
The process of turning a blog into a book does not stop at the proofreading process. Pay close attention to the transitions between each chapter. The tone and style of your writing should be consistent throughout your book. Jarring shifts in topic and tone can confuse readers.
“Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”-Andrew Sullivan, Why I Blog
A book is an entirely different beast from a blog. There are tons of challenges to consider, such as pacing, flow, structure, and subject development. But if you’re up for the challenge, there’s no reason why you can’t turn your blog of online musings into a book worth giving a f*ck about.