“Blog to book?” It’s a question that’s probably crossed the mind of every serious blogger. Not only will it challenge you immensely, but it will help you grow as a writer. It’s also a fabulous feather in your cap that announces to the world that you really are an expert on the topic you blog about.
While there is no guarantee that you can turn that book into a bestseller, it is still something you should do for yourself, your readers and your business.
Turning a blog into a book can feel daunting. However, the good news is that if you have been writing a blog for a while, you’ve already done a lot of the heavy lifting. You can take the exact content from your posts, and recycle and rearrange it into a book you can sell.
With that in mind, I thought it would be a great idea to expand on this topic as more and more bloggers are hopping on the blog-to-book train.
Below, I’m going to share with you how to get started, strategies you can use for your content, what’s working now for authors, and ultimately how to go about getting your work published.
12 steps to go from blog to book
We're going to take a deep-dive into transforming related blog posts into a book, including:
- Decide on the topic of your book.
- Pull all pre-existing content related to the topic.
- Create a rough layout of the book.
- Craft new text to fill in the gaps.
- Begin organizing the content.
- Develop your outline.
- Put the book together.
- Begin promoting before publication.
- Edit, cut, re-write, add more, make it perfect.
- Research publishing options.
- Design your book for publication.
- Publish your book.
I’ve interviewed some amazing people, as well as researched several successful blog-to-book stories, and I can’t wait to share with you all the best tips on making your book a reality. So without further adieu, let’s dive right in!
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1. Decide on the topic of your book
When it comes to deciding on a book topic, this will be an incredibly easy decision for some bloggers. For example, if you have been writing about pies nonstop for the past six years — well, you already have your topic nailed down. Your book topic is easy as pie. I couldn’t help myself there.
Lifestyle bloggers and those who write about a variety of topics, on the other hand, are a different story. You might be passionate about several subjects, but will need to commit to just one for your book.
I would recommend the one you are most well versed in, or that you have written the most content on. After all, if this is your first transition from blog to book, you don’t want to make it too hard on yourself. Once you have decided on a topic, you can go to the next step.
2. Pull all pre-existing content related to the topic
What have you already written on your blog, or elsewhere about your topic? Pull all the links, or save all the text with relevant headings into a Word or Google document. This will simplify your subsequent steps.
One of my favorite stories about going from blog to book is from Pat Flynn and his website Green Exam Academy. You see, he started his first “blog” as an online space to keep track of his study notes for the LEED exam. (In case you are like me and are curious, LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and it’s an architectural exam.)
Pat says, “Apparently, I had written so much relevant content about the LEED exam (over a year’s worth of notes were available for free on the site), that Google ranked many of my posts at the top of their search results for various LEED exam-related keywords. My visitors liked what they read and shared it with others too, which helped build more traffic.”
Later, he decided to compile all of that amazing content into a study guide his readers could purchase.
Pat said that 80% to 90% of his first book was pulled directly from his blog.
From there, he drafted new text and reorganized his existing content into a format that made sense chronologically.
In October 2008, he published “The LEED AP Exam Walkthrough,” an 89-page study guide available for $19.95.
The floodgates of smart passive income officially opened for him.
“The book sold 309 copies within the first month! Combined with advertising earnings on the website, the business earned a total of $7,906.55 in October 2008, and my life was forever changed,” he said.
But, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s turn back a page, to your blog-to-book journey.
3. Create a rough layout of the book
You’ve got your topic, and you’ve got some pre-written content. Well done! Now, you need to create a rough layout of how you’ll get from blog to book.
This is where you’ll find out if you have it in you to follow through with the other steps. It’s where the rubber meets the road if you will.
Take a few hours and really dive deep into your topic. Does your niche have enough substance to make an entire book? You need to know this now before you go any further as you don’t want to waste your time.
Think about how much relevant information it would take to fully explore your topic. Is there enough to fill an entire 10,000, 20,000 or even 50,000 words of text? If not, you might need to pull the plug now and go back to step one.
4. Craft new text to fill in the gaps
You don’t need to have all of your blog to book content written ahead of time. You can fill in the gaps as needed. In fact, your blog can simply serve as inspiration, as was the case for my bloggy friends Kate Erickson and Natalie Sisson.
Natalie’s book, “The Suitcase Entrepreneur,” was also inspired by her blog of the same title. However, she only took one chapter directly from her site.
As Natalie explained: “I actually wrote everything afresh for my book, bar one chapter about outsourcing. I took that chapter from a very solid in-depth blog post I’d already written, and then updated and added to it.”
Find a balance that works for you
Many blogs that transition into books meet somewhere in the middle, with the authors pulling enough content from their existing blog and drafting new text when needed.
For example, Krayl Funch’s book, “An Appealing Plan,” used roughly 25% of existing content from her blog.
Similarly, Candace Braun Davison’s book, “Collegiate Cookbook,” featured 30% of the recipes from her blog, Collegiate Cook, at the time of its publication.
Find a happy medium by balancing original blog posts with inventive new content.
So what does all of this mean for you? If you have engaging content on your blog, then you might already have a good foundation for the makings for an awesome book.
5. Begin organizing the content
As you start going through your existing content and consider your ideas for new content, you might realize that a flow is already emerging. An introduction, main idea, headings and even much of the text might be staring you straight in the face.
If this is happening (and even if it isn’t), it’s a good idea to start organizing your content together in a cohesive fashion.
For example, let’s say you blog regularly about wedding planning and have decided your book will be about creating a dream wedding on a budget. Your organization might look like this:
- Pre-written posts about trends related to attire
- You could list all links to your blog posts on the subject
- Drafts for how to pick vendors
- Perhaps you have started some posts, but they aren’t done. Create some Google Docs for everything you’ve considered posting on your blog
- Links about the honeymoon and best destinations perfect for romance
- Even if your content is in the research phase, and not a single word is written, pool all your research in one spot
- A brainstormed list of posts you want to write for touchy subjects such as the bride having more guests, dealing with troublesome family members, flying in your crazy relatives, etc…
- Take your list or lists of ideas and put them in a file for your soon-to-be book
6. Develop your outline
It’s time to start getting serious about what will be in your final piece. Your first place to look for inspiration is feedback on things you’ve already written.
As Kate and Natalie told me, your audience might already be telling you what you need to put in your book.
Kate says she was flooded with emails from readers asking for specific information. She gave it to them on her blog and then they wanted her to make that content available as a download. She knew that meant those nuggets of wisdom belonged in her book.
Natalie had a similar experience. After years of interacting with her audience in person and online, they basically told her what they still wanted to know. Then, once she had an idea of what she should include in her book, she ran her ideas by many of her audience members to confirm she was on the right track.
But what if you don’t have a strong or active blog following?
If you're just starting out, “you should go to Google Analytics and look at your most popular content and see if there is a theme coming out of that and whether you have enough content there to make a book,” Natalie suggests. Great advice!
Pro tip: Use Google Analytics to figure out your most popular blog content — and include it in your book.
Ask yourself these questions…
- Will my audience want to know this?
- Does my audience already know this?
- Does the content fit with the theme I have decided on for this book?
- Do I know enough about this content to include it in a book?
- Am I answering everything my target audience wants to know for this book's theme?
- Can I break my theme down into smaller categories?
- Should the content be divided into more than one book? Are there multiple themes being developed that make more sense as a series of books instead of a series of chapters?
Pro tip: Don’t make the mistake of including too much content in one book. This can overwhelm your readers. Likewise, don’t include material that’s completely out of left field (i.e., interesting but unrelated to the rest of the content).
Of course, there are probably a lot more questions you could ask yourself, but these will at least help you get the process of creation going from blog to book. After you figure out what you want in the final piece, you'll need to decide how to organize it.
How to organize the content
First and foremost, keep your audience in mind as you outline your book.
As Kate says: “Remember, your number one goal with the content, and therefore how you should approach your outline, is to focus on the biggest struggle your audience is facing. Then, figure out how the material/ content you have in front of you could best serve them and help solve that struggle.”
Pro tip: Organize your content with a focus on solving a problem for readers.
Again, you want to focus on flow when you’re outlining your book’s content. We might not always think about flow when writing posts for a blog, but it is key when you’re creating a book.
Think about instructional books such as those that teach you how to speak a new language. The book doesn't begin with the text in the language you are hoping to learn and end with the “how to speak it” part.
Instead, it begins with basics like common words and slowly moves into fundamental sentences, and then into complex words and sentences. In other words, you wouldn't include a master skill at the beginning of the book that is teaching a beginner how to do something.
Pro tip: Keep a logical flow of information in mind as you construct your outline.
Natalie recommends thinking of it like a play. Acts 1, 2 and 3 are the various sections of the book, and the scenes are like the chapters. Everything flows. It makes sense. It has a structure.
How to create an outline
By now you have decided on your theme, gathered related materials and collected your blog links for content you’ve already written. To complete your blog to book outline you need to:
- Break down your theme into smaller categories. For example, an introduction to WordPress might be broken down into categories such as creating a Wordpress account, themes, basic HTML coding, etc.
- Once you have your smaller categories, take a look at the subtopics you have written down and place them in their appropriate category.
- Now that you have a rough outline, fill in the holes. What is your category missing to make it complete? This might mean you’ll need to write some new content. Or you might find you have leftover topics. Should you create a new category for them or save the extra material for another book? Choices are good.
- Take a look at your outline with your reader in mind. If you were buying this book, would the flow of the outline you just created make sense? Does something need to move? Move things around until you're happy — and then leave it alone for a little while.
- Look at the outline again after 24 to 48 hours with fresh eyes and/or run it by someone you trust for feedback.
After you have settled on an official blog-to-book outline, it's time to put the full manuscript together.
7. Put the book together
So many of your puzzle pieces are ready to go. Can you see the picture emerging? I hope so!
At this point, all your text should be written. You can now start copying the text and pasting it into your final outline where it is supposed to go. If pieces are missing, it’s time to fill them all in. Keep going until all your main points and subtopics are addressed.
While you’re writing your book, feel free to continue posting to your blog. Ask your readers questions, and use their answers to help you plug any gaps that might still exist in your manuscript.
As Kate says, your audience is an invaluable source for inspiration and guidance. They are your target market (aka ideal customer), after all. Therefore, it would be in your best interest to engage with them and find out if there is anything you have not yet considered that needs to be covered in your book.
8. Begin promoting before publication
Say what? I know — it can be kind of scary to start promoting a project before it’s finished. But, the reality is this can lead to interest for your upcoming book and, if you’re lucky, presales income.
Did you know that if you decide to sell on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform you can pre-sell your book up to 90 days in advance?
According to Amazon: “You'll list your eBook as you would any other KDP eBook. When you're setting up a new eBook, you can choose to make it available for preorder and set a date in the future. Though your eBook isn't available for download yet, we'll still publish a detail page for it. Customers can order the eBook anytime leading up to the release date you set, and it will be delivered to them on that date.
After you set up a preorder, you'll see a timer on top of your book's setup pages that keeps track of the deadline to submit the file you'd like delivered to customers. You have until this deadline to make changes to your book, but we encourage you to finish setting up your preorder early in the event that changes are needed to meet our publishing guidelines.”
Why would you do this? To further gauge desire for your book, and to start making money right away, of course!
They spoke to their audience on their blog and via their email list, and asked flat out if they were interested in a planner that would help them accomplish their No. 1 goal in 100 days. While chatting with their ideal customers, and promoting their new book/planner, with a goal of raising $25,000, they raised $453,803 from 7,063 backers.
From here on out social media is your friend.
You can use it and your blog to promote your book project like crazy. You can also offer special discounts and bonuses for anyone who preorders your book.
Before the book was even completed, she started selling it, and promoting a special Facebook group that anyone who purchased the book could join. The group would give readers/fans access to webinars that Denise was not offering anywhere else. These webinars took the teachings of the book just a little bit further.
Suitcase Entrepreneur Natalie Sisson did something similar, albeit not on Facebook, for people who purchased her new book, “The Freedom Plan.” Anyone who bought the book got special access to a free training exclusive with proof of purchase.
Lewis Howes, blogger, podcaster and author of “The School of Greatness,” also has some excellent advice about using this part of the book creation process to test your product with your target market. He says:
“The best way to sell a product online is to first test your market to see if people actually want to buy it. You do this by not creating the product first … but by selling it first. There’s no point in spending time, energy and resources on building something that might be a flop.”
I agree with Lewis!
9. Edit, cut, re-write, add more, make it perfect
Do yourself a favor here and don’t go it alone. Hire an editor, or at least let a friend re-read your final product to make sure it’s as awesome as you think it is.
When you get attached to a project, it’s hard to see any errors that might be present. I do this with my blog posts all the time. I get so excited that I misspell words all the time.
This is why it’s so critical you don’t try to edit your own book before it goes to publication. You’ve been writing your content so long you might not even catch the blunders.
10. Research publishing options
You’re almost ready to go all the way — to publication, that is.
Every blogger I've spoken to went the route self-publishing route, at least in the beginning. Why? It boils down to three basic reasons:
- Creative control
Here’s the thing though — a couple of these bloggers did land publishing deals. However, it wasn’t until they started making bank and proving their worth. Denise and Natalie are just two who leveraged their self-publishing success into book deals.
Denise self-published her first two books based on her blog, and then landed a book deal with her dream publisher Hay House for her third book. And Hay House also re-released the first two books that she had previously self-published via her blog.
Natalie self-published “The Suitcase Entrepreneur,” and then re-released it with publisher North Star Way. She later released her newest book, “The Freedom Plan,” with publisher Motivational Press Inc.
For the rest of us though…
When you go the traditional publishing route, you most likely will not be offered a boatload of cash upfront. Unless, of course, you have a blog that is so popular that your page view stats would make even Taylor Swift blush.
The truth is, the multimillion dollar book deals are reserved for the prom kings and queens of the internet (or at least the people who have already released books that were wildly popular).
Speaking of cash, you're likely only going to see 8% in royalties on sales with traditional publishers (on average), and that's only after you've met any advances already received.
For example, if you received a $1,000 advance payment for your work, you will have to sell enough books to meet that $1,000 before you ever receive additional royalties.
When you consider that self-publishing can yield as much as 70% in royalties plus the rights to all of the work in your book, it starts looking mighty sexy.
In addition, traditional publishing often means you’ll have to sign away a lot of creative control. The final product might not actually be up to you, let alone what happens to it after publication.
For instance, Tucker Max, who is famous for books like “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” said that when his book was optioned for movie rights, he didn't have much control over what they did with the story line. Other writers have said that their original stories came back from publishers bleeding with red ink or requests for changes. By the time their work was actually released, much of their voice had been lost in translation.
Finally, traditional publishing can take a long time — like a few years. Talk about anticipation!
With self-publishing you can write your content by the pool during the summer, have it edited, make final touches and then publish it before the autumn leaves wither and fall to the ground.
In my opinion, and the opinion of many authors who have gone from blog to book, self-publishing is the best route to take. So, if you opt to self-publish, how do you get this bad boy ready for its debut? Well, let's talk design.
11. Design your book for publication
There are plenty of options to choose from, so be sure to do your research to find which method best suits your style.
If you’ve got some mad design skills to go along with your writing chops, you might go with an eBook layout option like Adobe InDesign. You can make your book look however you want, and be pretty much guaranteed that your layout will be unique.
It’s more common in the blogosphere, however, to use presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides and Keynote. These programs are much easier to learn to use (you’ve probably used at least one of them already), but your layout options will be more limited.
Pro tip: HubSpot offers downloadable eBook templates for both PowerPoint and InDesign.
Specialty eBook design software
You’ve also got some really good free and paid options for specialty eBook design software — although there might be a learning curve. A few popular choices include:
- iBooks Author, a popular, free, software that offers a number of eBook design templates for Mac and iPad.
- eBook Maestro, which offers customizable templates for a variety of digital formats.
- Canva, which teaches how to design an eBook cover that stands out, but you might need to use your own word processor for the text.
Word processing software
Some self-publishers go the word processing route (hey, we use it to write, why not for layout, too?) with programs like Microsoft Word, Google Docs and Pages. It might not be the best solution, but it works.
Kate Erickson, author of “The Fire Path,” designed her book entirely in Word. She also made the decision to hire a designer to create the cover (a great choice for a unique, professional-looking cover).
These are the most common options available, but there are plenty more out there. How you choose to design your book is entirely up to you.
Popular self-publishing platforms
Like layout options, you’ve got plenty of choices (both free and paid) when it comes to where you actually publish your book. Here are a handful of the most popular platforms:
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Create Space Amazon’s KDP program combined with Create Space in 2018. This is the only option I’m aware of that has no fees associated with self-publishing outside of printing costs for physical copies.
You simply upload your book and your cover's design, and as soon as it’s approved for publication by Amazon (typically in 24 hours or less), your book is live. That means in as little as a day you can start selling and earning up to 70 percent of the retail price you set. While the KDP program is for eBooks only, they now have options for print-on-demand books that pay as much as 60% in royalties less the cost of printing.
Lulu has a DIY option and additional alternatives to pay for assistance in creating your book. Lulu also offers the option to purchase an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) that you can use worldwide. Plus, you retain all rights to your work.
Blurb offers print-on-demand options as well as bulk ordering. It is considered a fabulous choice amongst many authors (based on reviews) for printing cookbooks and children's books with a lot of graphics. Blurb also has a distribution program that allows you to sell in 39,000 online stores including Amazon. You can use your own ISBN or buy one through Blurb.
Draft2Digital doesn’t charge authors for formatting or distributing books. Where it profits is on the percentage of each of your books’ sales.
According to Draft2Digital’s website, “When you sell a book, we both make money. We keep about 10% of the retail price. We don’t try to upsell you to some expensive services package or nickel-and-dime you for making changes to your eBook.”
Candace and Natalie used CreateSpace to publish their first books, and Kate opted for the KDP software. All three have had success with their books — you just need to use a platform that is comfortable for you.
Luckily, even though CreateSpace has gone the way of the dodo, it has now integrated with KDP’s software. This means you still have the chance to offer your audience printed copies of your book should you choose to do so via Amazon’s self-publishing platform.
Before you decide to publish your book, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want this book available in print, or am I happy with just an eBook?
- Am I hoping to sell it in stores and online? CreateSpace only gives you an ISBN to sell online, so if you want to sell it in stores you might want to consider an alternative for publication.
- Should I hire a designer, editor and/or media company to handle all of this for me?
- How much can I budget for printing and publishing my book? Although the most popular self-publishing platforms do print on demand, there are fees for things such as designing, loading the book, securing the ISBN, etc.
- How fast do I want my book available for purchase?
Once you answer these questions, you’ll be well on your way to finding your self-publishing path. The good news? You’ll own the rights when you self-publish, and you can always scrap the project completely and start over, even if you already released it!
12. Publish your book, and promote like crazy
At some point, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and publish your book already. Then, it's time to take a nap — er I mean celebrate!
But the blog to book work is far from over. You have to promote your tail off now. Sell, sell, sell!
Tips for success
So you want your book to be successful. Makes sense. However, this might not be as easy as writing it.
These days you need more than just a book to be successful as a published or self-published author.
You’ll be better off packaging it with a course, an audio book, one-on-one training or some other bonus if you really want to see it take off.
Audio books are hugely popular right now, according to Natalie. And, if you record your audio book at the same time you create your digital or print copy, you could double or triple your earnings without much additional work.
Kate says don’t be afraid to update and re-publish your book as needed.
“We actually just completely reworked our eBook on podcasting, ‘Podcast Launch,’” she said. If times change, and something in your book is suddenly outdated, there is nothing wrong with taking it offline, reworking it and then re-releasing it to the world.
Add a strong call-to-action in your book
Kate says that this is one of the most important things she sees missing in most self-published books. You're missing out on a huge opportunity if you skip this step.
For example, when she and her partner John re-released the book “Podcast Launch,” its call to action was a free eCourse. This gets readers on their email list so they can be re-targeted and sold new products later.
In other words, don't think of your eBook as a single entity that stands alone. Think of it as the first step in a larger funnel that guides your ideal reader/client where you want them to go.
Are you ready to go from blog to book?
When I was writing one of my first book, I started by blogging it out on my WordPress blog. I plan on using the same method for future books I publish, too.